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UK seizes first superyacht in British waters

The UK has seized its first superyacht in British waters as part of sanctions against Russia.

The £38m yacht, named Phi, is owned by an unnamed Russian businessman.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the individual was not currently sanctioned but had “close connections” to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The UK has introduced a raft of sanctions against Russian individuals and businesses following the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

The 58.5m (192ft) Phi was first identified as being potentially Russian-owned on 13 March but its ownership is “deliberately well hidden”, the government said.

It added that the company the ship is registered to is based in the Caribbean islands of St Kitts and Nevis but it carried Maltese flags to hide its origins.

The Department for Transport (DfT) would not comment on why it was not naming the individual who owns the yacht.

Transport secretary Mr Shapps said the move was “a clear and stark warning to Putin and his cronies”.

“The ship won’t be going anywhere for the time being,” he said. “People who have benefitted from [Mr Putin’s] regime cannot benefit from sailing around London and the UK in ships like this.”

On its website, the ship’s builder Royal Huisman describes Phi – which is named after the mathematical concept also known as the Golden Ratio – as “magnificently sensuous”.

The bright blue yacht features what the builders call an “infinite wine cellar”, as well as a fresh-water swimming pool and penthouse apartment on the upper deck.

The ship, which was built in the Netherlands, made her maiden voyage last year.

UK officials boarded Phi in Canary Wharf, east London on Tuesday. The vessel was in the capital for a superyacht awards ceremony and was due to depart at 12:00.

The DfT worked with the National Crime Agency and Border Force Maritime Investigation Bureau to identify and detain the vessel.

The department, alongside law enforcement agencies, are also looking at a number of other vessels.

The UK, US and EU have all said they will target superyachts linked to sanctioned Russians, and at least eight have been seized so far – by authorities in France, Italy and Spain.

For example, at the beginning of March French authorities seized a yacht owned by Igor Sechin, boss of Russian state energy company Rosneft.

More yachts remain on the move or moored in places that are currently beyond the reach of sanctions, including the Maldives. BBC News

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