UK detains £38m Russian-owned superyacht in Canary Wharf

Phi superyacht Canary Wharf sanctions

The UK has detained a Russian-owned superyacht in London’s Canary Wharf, just hours before it was set to leave the capital following a superyacht awards ceremony.

The UK government says the move is part of sanctions imposed against Russia for invading Ukraine. It is the first ship to be detained in the UK since sanctions were introduced.

The 58.5-metre Phi has a freshwater swimming pool and an “infinite wine cellar” – created by reflections of mirrors –according to the website of its builder Royal Huisman. Phi is the third-biggest yacht built by the prestigious Dutch shipyard, and also has its own 36-metre shadow vessel. It made its maiden voyage from the Netherlands to London in December, and has been moored in Canary Wharf since.

Officers from the National Crime Agency boarded Phi. Photo courtesy of the National Crime Agency

The ownership of the £38m yacht was deliberately well hidden. The company the ship is registered to is based in the islands of St Kitts and Nevis and it carried Maltese flags to hide its origins.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the unnamed owner is not currently sanctioned but is a businessman who has “close connections” to Russian President Vladimir Putin. While initial reports in British outlets claimed the vessel is owned by Russian businessman Sergei Georgievich Naumenko, the Financial Times reports the ultimate owner is Vitaly Vasilievich Kochetkov, the founder of Motiv Telecom.

The Daily Mail reports a source claiming the boat had been impounded over concerns that a ‘pretend owner’ was being used to shield the ultimate owner.  

Phi undergoes sea trials last year. Photo courtesy of Royal Huisman/Tom van Oossanen

Shapps arrived at Canary Wharf after the yacht was detained on Tuesday for a photocall.

“We’ve detained a £38m superyacht and turned an icon of Russia’s power and wealth into a clear and stark warning to Putin and his cronies,” he says. “Detaining Phi, proves, yet again, that we can and will take the strongest possible action against those seeking to benefit from Russian connections.”

Andy Devine from the National Crime Agency adds: “Today’s activity demonstrates the NCA’s ability to react at pace. We have surged officers to establish the Combatting Kleptocracy Cell, and the results of this are already bearing fruit.”

Meanwhile, the vessel’s captain Guy Booth, from West Sussex, has previously posted on his Facebook account that the vessel does not have a Russian owner.

The UK government says it is now looking at a number of other vessels.

Read our round-up of all 11 Russian superyachts sanctioned so far across Europe.

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