Following hot on the heels of the abandoned, seized and sold Alfa Nero superyacht which endured a seemingly never-ending saga of its own — after being abandoned in Antigua at the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine conflict before gathering extremely expensive dust for several months and ultimately enjoying a $98 million AUD sale to a tech CEO — another Russian oligarch’s superyacht has become embroiled in global geopolitics.
In a recent legal battle reported by Superyacht Times, a Russian businessman — Sergei Naumenko — has had to endure the unwelcome news that the United Kingdom High Court rejected his appeal to release the 58.5-meter Royal Huisman superyacht, Phi. The Netherlands-built motor yacht was the very first vessel detained in British waters following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year. The yacht’s connection to Russia quickly raised eyebrows after the conflict began and spurred the authorities into action…
WATCH: This isn’t the only superyacht that’s come under fire in recent weeks…
The UK Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, explained that the superyacht was initially identified as potentially Russian-owned way back in March 2022. Sergei Naumenko, a Russian property developer, then promptly launched an appeal to keep the yacht out of government hands. At the time, he was described by Shapps as a close acquaintance of Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin, a claim that Naumenko vehemently denies.
However, as is often the way with these high-value seafaring vessels, things aren’t quite so crystal clear as the Uk government might like: the owning company of the superyacht is believed to be registered in the Caribbean islands of St Kitts and Nevis, while the yacht itself sails under a Maltese flag, making it a complex matter to pin down a single real ‘owner’. Similar tactics were deployed by the owners of the Alfa Nero yacht, abandoned in Antigua.
According to Naumenko, Phi really became a target due to its massive value, insisting that he has no involvement in Russian politics and no connections with Putin. His lawyers argued that the detention of the yacht was an unfair move by the Department for Transport, aimed at exerting pressure on an entire class of wealthy Russians after the invasion of Ukraine.
However, London’s High Court dismissed Naumenko’s case on Friday. Judge Ross Cranston ruled that Phi was lawfully detained because of its owner’s connection to Russia but did accept that Shapps was mistaken in describing Naumenko as a friend of Putin. However, it did downplay this latter section of the judgement, deeming it:
“Excusable political hyperbole.”Judge Ross Cranston
Responding to the ruling, Sergei Naumenko’s lawyer, Paul Dickie, expressed disappointment on behalf of the yacht’s owner and stated that they are considering filing yet another appeal against the decision. The Department for Transport stood firm, justifying the yacht’s detention as a measure to crack down on those benefiting from Putin’s regime and their involvement in the illegal war in Ukraine.
As the legal drama unfolds, the luxurious superyacht remains in detention, waiting for a resolution to its complex ownership dispute. These ongoing superyacht squabbles are a testament to the fact that not even the world of luxury, superrich sailing is immune to the winds of geopolitical strife.