Russian oligarch sues for return of £38m superyacht Grant Shapps claimed was owned by ‘Putin’s cronies’
A Russian oligarch is suing the Government for seizing a £38m superyacht that Grant Shapps claimed was owned by “Putin’s cronies”.
Sergei Georgievich Naumenko, a property tycoon and food importer who is not on the UK’s sanctions list, has demanded that the Department for Transport return his 58m (192ft) superyacht and pay damages.
The boat, called Phi, was barred from leaving Canary Wharf last year as part of the UK’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
At the time, the Government said that ownership of the superyacht was “deliberately well hidden” but was believed to be linked to an unnamed Russian businessman.
The superyacht was formally seized by Grant Shapps, then Transport Secretary, who said the move had “turned an icon of Russia’s power and wealth into a clear and stark warning to Putin and his cronies.”
Mr Shapps also posted a video of himself with the blue superyacht on TikTok, where he said: “It cannot be right that oligarchs – people who benefited from Putin – should continue to sail in and out of London, or indeed anywhere in the UK, whilst that appalling war is taking place in Ukraine.”
It followed an investigation by the Department for Transport, National Crime Agency and Border Force Maritime Investigation Bureau, which were investigating vessels with connections to Russia.
The superyacht can accommodate up to 12 guests and boasts six staterooms. According to its Dutch shipbuilders, the luxury vessel has a swimming pool and infinity wine cellar.
The Phi was the first superyacht in British waters seized by UK authorities following the Ukraine war.
This decision was later reviewed and maintained on two separate occasions, again by Mr Shapps in April 2022 and by current Transport Secretary Mark Harper in January.
In March, Mr Naumenko launched proceedings against Mr Harper, claiming that the Government breached his legal rights to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions.
Earlier this month, a judge oversaw a preliminary High Court hearing in London and heard arguments from lawyers representing Mr Naumenko and Mr Harper.
Mr Justice Chamberlain described Mr Naumenko as the “beneficial owner” of the Phi, which is owned by Prism Maritime and Dalston Projects in a corporate structure.
A full hearing to decide the Phi’s fate is scheduled for July.
The Department for Transport said it doesn’t comment on legal proceedings.
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