Oligarch’s $200m superyacht handed over to Ukraine

Royal Romance superyacht

Olena Duma, the head of Ukraine’s Asset Recovery and Management Agency (Arma), has confirmed that ownership of the 93m superyacht Royal Romance will be handed to the Ukrainian government after a landmark ruling by a Croatian court.

The yacht (pictured above) is owned by the family of Ukrainian Viktor Medvedchuk, a former lawyer and the leader of Ukraine’s most prominent pro-Russia party, who is Putin’s close ally. Medvedchuk is living in exile in Russia after being handed over in a prisoner swap in 2022.

In 2022, Croatia ruled that the $200m (£158m) Royal Romance should be transferred to Arma — a special branch of the Ukrainian government — in a move designed to “preserve the economic value by selling it at auction.” This means the funds can be used directly to help the Ukrainian people.

Now, this decision has been approved by a Croatian court, and the yacht will be handed over to Ukraine “as soon as possible”, Arma says. In a statement, the agency adds: “According to the Croatian side, there are no legal obstacles to the implementation of this intention.”

Some early reports stated that the yacht had already departed for Ukraine, after it was spotted underway on 25 January 2024. Arma says that this was in fact a test sail to “confirm its technical capability, buoyancy and engine operation (test drive),” upon request of the Croatian authorities. The yacht has now returned to the Adria Docks shipyard in Trogir, Croatia.

Arma has also received approval to conduct a re-examination of the superyacht to ensure a proper sale.

After carrying out an assessment of the seized yacht, Arma assays it plans to sell it at auction. The sale of Royal Romance will be the first example of the sale of seized assets located abroad in Ukraine’s history.

The question of what to do with seized Russian assets has been growing in the yachting industry, as many countries attempt to rid themselves of the burden of costly superyachts sitting in ports worldwide.

In January, an Antiguan High Court ruled the crew of the ‘abandoned’ superyacht Alfa Nero should receive more than a year in unpaid wages after the vessel was blocked from leaving Antigua in February 2022, pending a search to confirm whether its ultimate owner appeared on sanction lists following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The 82m Oceanco superyacht is said to be costing the authorities US$112,000 a month in maintenance fees, after a failed attempt at auctioning the vessel in 2023.

Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google, formally withdrew his bid for Alfa Nero in September due to ongoing legal complications.

Main image courtesy of Tjerk Zweers via Creative Commons.

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