Roman Abramovich’s $1bn five-yacht fleet revealed
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Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich owns or is linked to a collection of five yachts estimated to be worth almost $1bn, including several vessels whose ownership remained secret until this week.
A Financial Times investigation into the billionaire’s assets has lifted the veil of secrecy he maintains over his wealth, even after the UK and EU imposed sanctions on him following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine for his allegedly close relationship with President Vladimir Putin.
Authorities in the UK and EU are attempting to identify all of the assets owned by sanctioned oligarchs. Abramovich was already widely reported to be the owner of Solaris and Eclipse — worth $474mn and $437mn, respectively, according to yacht data service VesselsValue. But the FT revealed this week that he also owns Halo and Garçon, which are both moored in Antigua.
The Antiguan government was unaware of the ownership of the boats docked on the island before inquiries from the FT, highlighting the scale of the challenge UK and EU authorities face in enforcing sanctions.
Tom Keatinge, director of the Centre for Financial Crime and Security Studies at the Royal United Services Institute think-tank said governments, banks and other institutions trying to enforce sanctions had to navigate a world where “ownership trails run cold and morph into a haze of front companies, nominees and cut-outs”.
Halo and Garçon are valued at $38mn and $20mn, respectively, and are now at risk of being seized.
In a letter to the British high commissioner to Barbados regarding the yachts, Antiguan minister of foreign affairs Paul Chet Greene said the island would “provide full assistance to the government of the United Kingdom” if it receives a request under the two nations’ Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty.
The letter noted that Antigua had requested information on the company that owns the two boats — British Virgin Islands-registered Wenham Overseas Limited — after “persistent allegations by the Financial Times that the vessels could be owned by Mr Roman Abramovich”.
In response, the British high commission provided Antiguan authorities with a letter, seen by the FT, “from the Financial Investigation Agency of the British Virgin Islands which states the beneficial owner of Wenham Overseas Ltd is Roman Abramovich”.
The letter also shows the billionaire’s address in Switzerland is listed simply as “Immeuble, Gatzby Le Magnifique”, which translates as “The Great Gatsby Building”.
Keatinge described the UK’s ability to demand full ownership information of companies registered in any of its overseas territories or crown dependencies as its “most powerful global weapon” in combating financial secrecy.
However, he asked: “How much is that weapon being used?”
A person with knowledge of Abramovich’s boat collection and documents seen by the FT indicate that the oligarch may also still be the owner of Sussurro, the first yacht he bought in 1998, despite reports he had given it to an ex-wife in a divorce.
The person who correctly identified the two yachts in Antigua as belonging to Abramovich told the FT the oligarch still owned Sussurro.
The vessel’s owner is listed in maritime registers as Vesuvius International Limited in the British Virgin Islands. BVI documents show this company was deregistered there in 2017. Another Vesuvius International was registered in Jersey the same year.
The owner of Jersey-based Vesuvius International is listed as Wotton Overseas Holdings Limited. This entity — which shifted from the BVI to Jersey in 2017 — is also the owner through a subsidiary of a helicopter that has been photographed landing on Abramovich’s Solaris several times.
Maritime tracking services show Sussurro, which means “whisper” in Italian and is valued at $11mn, is moored in La Ciotat in the south of France — the same port where the French government last month seized a $116mn superyacht belonging to a company tied to Igor Sechin, head of Russian oil group Rosneft.
Sussurro’s management company is Blue Ocean Management, a Cyprus-based company that also manages Le Grand Bleu, a 113-metre superyacht that Abramovich reportedly gave to his business associate Eugene Shvidler.
The UK placed Shvidler under sanctions last week.
The letter from the BVI’s financial investigation agency to its British counterparts also reveals that the owner of Le Grand Blue — Ashchurch Holdings Limited — is owned by “Zarui Shvidler”. Shvidler’s wife is commonly known as Zara Shvidler.
VesselsValue pegged Le Grand Bleu’s market value in a range of $110mn-$130mn, noting that the boat had last been tracked this week in the Caribbean Sea off the coast of Puerto Rico.
Representatives for Abramovich and Shvidler did not respond to requests for comment.