Italy seizes sailing yacht A owned by Russian billionaire Melnichenko

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Italian police have seized a superyacht owned by Russian billionaire Andrey Igorevich Melnichenko, the prime minister’s office said on Saturday, days after the businessman was placed on an EU sanctions list following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The 143-meter (470-foot) sailing yacht A, which has a price tag of 530 million euros ($578 million), has been seized in Trieste’s northern port, the government said.

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Designed by Philippe Starck and built by Nobiskrug in Germany, the ship is the world’s largest sailing yacht, the government said.

Melnichenko owned major fertilizer maker EuroChem Group and coal company SUEK. The companies said in statements Thursday that he had resigned as a board member at both companies and resigned as their beneficiary, effective Wednesday.

The luxury yacht ‘Sailing Yacht A’ with its unique shape, built for Russian billionaire Andrey Melnichenko, sails past the Italian island of Isola del Giglio July 10, 2018, near the ‘Scole’ rocks where the cruise ship Costa Concordia crashed ((Photo by VINCENZO PINTO/AFP via Getty Images) / Getty Images)

A spokesman for Melnichenko, Alex Andreev, said the businessman had “no relation to the tragic events in Ukraine. He has no political connections”.

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“There is no justification for putting him on the EU sanctions list,” Andreev said. “We will challenge these unfounded and unjustified sanctions and believe the rule of law and common sense will prevail.

Since last week, Italian police have seized more than 700 million euros ($763.63 million) worth of villas and yachts from high-profile Russians who have been put on the EU sanctions list, Economy Minister Daniele Franco said on Saturday.

Photo taken on March 10, 2022 shows a sailing yacht A owned by Russian oligarch Andrey Melnichenko in Trieste, Italy. – Sailing yacht A is the largest privately owned sail-assisted motor yacht in the world. (Photo by Jure Makovec / AFP) (Photo ((Photo by JURE MAKOVEC/AFP via Getty Images)/Getty Images)

“So far we’ve hit what was visible, now we have to hit the rest like equity. We’re doing a great job of bringing out what’s shielded by trusts and aliases,” Giuseppe Zafarana, head of Italy’s tax police, told journalists on Saturday in Bergamo.

The police operations were part of a coordinated action by Western states to punish wealthy Russians they say are linked to President Vladimir Putin.

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Separately, a superyacht said to be owned by Russian businessman Roman Abramovich arrived in Montenegro’s territorial waters on Saturday morning, according to a Reuters photographer.

A Financial Police officer enters Russian billionaire Andrey Igorevich Melnichenko’s superyacht which was impounded in the northern port of Trieste, Italy March 12, 2022 in this screenshot from video Financial Police/Handout via R (Financial Police/Handout via REUTERS / Reuters Photos)

The Solaris is one of a number of yachts owned by Chelsea Football Club owner Abramovich, according to reports in luxury goods publications SuperYachtFan, SuperYacht Times and Forbes.

The 140-meter-long ship is moored in front of the luxury resort of Porto Montenegro in the town of Tivat. The boat left Barcelona on Tuesday.

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Britain on Thursday imposed sanctions on Abramovich, freezing his assets and citing his close relationship with Putin. Abramovich has denied having any such connections.

($1 = 0.9167 euros)

(Reporting by Emilio Parodi in Bergamo and Stevo Vasiljevic in Tivat, writing by Giselda Vagnoni, editing by Frances Kerry)

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