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Marina di Carrara, Italy – Italian police are in a race to end an investigation into the ownership of a $700 million luxury yacht, which US officials say is linked To Russian President Vladimir Putin, before the ship sets sail and is able to evade potential sanctions.

They may be running out of time.

After spending months at the Tuscan dock in Marina di Carrara, the 459-foot-tall ship, called Scheherazade, was put into the water again on Tuesday. Crew members milled around the upper side as water slowly filled the dry dock. The British captain, who was Previously He spoke to reporters, did not respond to questions.

A former crew member said the ship might be ready to set sail immediately, but that it would likely first undergo sea trials to check its equipment — a common occurrence for a ship undergoing repair, in this case, in port since September.

Scheherazade has so far avoided the fate of some luxury yachts linked to powerful Russians, which were seized as part of efforts by the European Union, Britain and the United States to go after the fortunes of the oligarchs and officials in Putin’s inner circle in response to the invasion of Ukraine. In March, Scheherazade’s captain, Guy Bennett Pierce, said the ship’s owner – who he did not identify – was not on any sanctions list. Italian media mentioned That the owner is Eduard Khdianatov, an oil tycoon who is not currently subject to sanctions. He is a longtime partner of Igor Sechin, a close ally of Putin and the head of Russia’s state-owned oil company Rosneft, who is believed to be the owner of a mega yacht seized in March.

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Mr. Khdinatov’s ownership of Scheherazade could not be independently verified. If he is already the owner, it may only be on paper. His name also appeared on the case of another luxury yacht, The News agency I mentioned earlier: Amadea, which shares exterior design, interior designer and builder with Scheherazade. On Tuesday, Fiji’s highest court granted permission to the United States Reservation of captivity seized Amadea’s $325 million party, which has been taking place in the South Pacific country since last month. According to a US official, the ship’s owner is Solomon A. Karimovtycoon gold billionaire from Russia was under the administration of the United States Penalties Since 2018; The Associated Press reported that defense attorneys claim that the real owner is Mr. Khdinatov.

A former crew member of Scheherazade, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to a nondisclosure agreement signed by workers on the ship, had not heard from Mr. Khedianatov and said it was openly discussed on board that Scheherazade’s real owner was Mr. Putin. After a short time wrote first About Scheherazade in early March, US officials said the yacht had links to Mr. Putin, without providing details. A team of journalists working for imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has obtained a list of crew members and Found Many of them were employees of the Russian agency that guards Mr. Putin.

A spokeswoman for the Italian Financial Police, which is leading the national and international investigation into Scheherazade’s ownership, said that if the ship leaves before the investigation ends, there will be nothing the authorities can do to stop it.

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Three port workers said that authorities were monitoring the yacht, apparently, the yacht, which was adjacent to a police and coast guard post while at the dry dock; They said a police helicopter was making daily flights. The workers, who were not authorized to speak to the press, demanded that their names not be disclosed.

If Scheherazade is “floating, it can move relatively quickly,” said Roberto Franchi, a retired shipyard employee.

It is not clear where the ship will go, but the moves of the giant Russian-owned yachts that have successfully evaded US, European or British sanctions offer some possibilities. Two ships belonging to billionaire Roman Abramovich, who is facing British and European sanctions, have been in Turkish waters for weeks. Others hang out in the Maldives, an island nation in the Indian Ocean. Nord, owned by the sanctioned billionaire Alexei Mordashov, went even further, arriving in the Russian Pacific port of Vladivostok at the end of March, according to To data from Marine Traffic, which tracks ships.

credit…Leon Lord/Fiji Sun, via Getty Images

Those superyachts have escaped the fate of the Amadea and a growing list of others, including the Sailing Yacht A, owned by billionaire Andrey Melnichenko and booked up by the Italian police in March. The ship, “Al Hilal”, sister ship of Scheherazade, was detained in Spain. Reuters quote A person in the Spanish police reported that El Hilal believed it belonged to Mr. Sechin.

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Here in Marina di Carrara, dock workers and others with access to the shipyard have seen a flurry of activity by Scheherazade’s crew: removing the white plastic screens protecting surfaces during repairs, cleaning the ship, and loading supplies. Last week, they said, fuel trucks filled the ship’s huge tanks, while crew members carried carefully packaged boxes aboard the ship.

As the sun set on Tuesday, a couple had an aperitif in a bar overlooking the shipyard.

“Look, Putin’s yacht is still here,” said Massimo Giovanni, the 25-year-old student. “If this continues, it will change the horizon here.”

Julian Barnes Contribute to the preparation of reports.

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