ROME – For the past two weeks, Russian oligarchs have been keeping an eye on the Scheherazade mega-yacht moored in the upscale Marina di Carrara in northern Tuscany. There is a growing suspicion that the $ 700 million, six-deck super-luxurious vessel – with its two helicopter pads, various swimming pools, his and her beauty salons and gold fixtures that would make Donald Trump jealous – belongs to Vladimir Putin.
Until two days ago, its Russian crew was led by British Captain Guy Bennett Pearce, whose mother told Daily Telegraph her son would “never work for a killer,” did not leave the ship. But The Daily Beast has learned that all that changed this week as the Russian crew disappeared overnight, replaced by an all-British set who, despite Brexit restrictions that would require work visas, appear to have arrived down from nothing.
The crew change caught the attention of the Italian General Confederation of Labor, which confirmed to The Daily Beast that the Russians are gone. “Yes, they were all Russians until a few days ago,” Paolo Gozzani, secretary of the Confederacy, told The Daily Beast. “Today, the crew consists exclusively of English. We are monitoring the situation inside the shipyards, but not because I do not care if it is Putin or not: I am concerned about the consequences that a seizure or freezing of assets could have on the shipyard workers. “
Italian fiscal police, which have already confiscated millions of dollars worth of yachts, villas and bank accounts linked to sanctions against Russia, are working to unravel piles of documents that may or may not connect the ship with Putin. Marianna Ferrante, spokeswoman for the Italian sea group that manages the port, says the ship arrived about a year ago to be rebuilt. She says it does not belong to Putin – at least not directly.
But Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny says it does. His research team released a video which they say proves the yacht belongs to Vladimir Putin, a sentiment which was shared by US intelligence officials after New York Times reported alleged ties to the Russian president.
The area where Scheherazade – named after a female key figure in Middle Eastern narrative A thousand and one nights-is as close to Little Russia as anywhere in Italy. The port is lined with designer shops and a magnet for Russian tourists flocking to the resort of Forte dei Marmi, which houses about 500 Russian “regulars” each summer, according to the local tourist council, which says most have canceled for the upcoming season. In 2010, residents asked to stop the Russians from pushing the locals out, but in the end won the Russian ruble, and most of the dock workers speak enough Russian to accommodate the numerous Russian yachts moored there most of the long Italian summers. The port authority said all Russian yachts disappeared months before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. All except the Scheherazade, which is currently the only vessel in Italian waters without a separate owner, according to Italian financial police.
Francesco De Pasquale, the mayor of Carrara, has grown tired of the interest in the mega ship. He and the leaders of the Italian maritime group have issued a joint statement denying Putin is the owner. “According to the documentation available to the company, and according to the checks carried out by the competent authorities, the 140-meter-long yacht Scheherazade, which is currently under construction for maintenance activities, can not be attributed to the Russian president. Vladimir Putin’s property. ” says the statement, also sent to The Daily Beast.
But the port also admitted that if Scheherazade were to be seized, it would be catastrophic for the port’s 400 workers, who have already invested hundreds of hours and materials in rebuilding the mega yacht. “Inside the yard, 400 direct workers and another 200 work in the related industries,” says union leader Gazzoni. “If the yacht, which has been carrying out rebuilding operations for weeks now, were seized, it would be a disaster, a huge impact on the work of the workers; the seizure would freeze a huge area of the construction site, who knows how long, and would prevent new work in to come in.”