London: A superyacht owned by a Russian businessman has been detained in London as the UK government continues to impose sanctions due to the ongoing war in Ukraine.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps confirmed that on Tuesday, UK officials boarded the vessel named Phi which was in Canary Wharf in east London.
The superyacht, which was in London for an awards ceremony, is 58.5 metres long and features what is described as an “infinite wine cellar” and a freshwater swimming pool.
“Today we’ve detained a £38 million superyacht and turned an icon of Russia’s power and wealth into a clear and stark warning to Putin and his cronies,” Shapps said.
“Detaining the Phi proves, yet again, that we can and will take the strongest possible action against those seeking to benefit from connections to Putin’s regime.”
The Department for Transport said it worked with the National Crime Agency and the Border Force Maritime Investigation Bureau to identify and detain the vessel.
Phi is owned by Vitaly Vasilievich Kochetkov, the founder of Motiv Telecom, a small mobile phone network in the Urals region. The Russian businessman owns two other superyachts, Aurelia and Phi Phantom, which are also both Malta-flagged and are currently moored at Porto di Imperia in Italy.
Phi is registered to a company based in the Caribbean dual-island nation of Saint Kitts and Nevis and carries a Maltese flag.
Contrary to claims from government sources that the Phi’s owner was close to Putin, Kochetkov appears to have been sharply at odds with the Russian state. According to Russian media, in early 2021 Russian law enforcement opened a criminal investigation into the parent company of Motiv Telecom, Yekaterinburg-2000, alleging tax evasion.
The Department for Transport added that it is “looking at a number of other vessels” and hopes its “strong stance sends an example to international partners”.
Following the detention of the vessel, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson told reporters that the UK government “will continue to take robust action against anyone benefitting from Russian links”.
“For the first time ever in UK waters, we have detained a Russian superyacht – the £38 million, Phi,” he said.
“The Department for Transport has worked closely with the National Crime Agency and Border Force Maritime Investigation Bureau to intercept the superyacht and will continue to take robust action against anyone benefitting from Russian links”
Phi – a vibrant bright blue superyacht named after a mathematical concept – is double the size of the other boats docked around it at Canary Wharf.
The vessel was built in the Netherlands and she made her maiden voyage last year.
Speaking after the vessel’s detention, Shapps said Phi “won’t be going anywhere”.
The government later clarified that the owner of the vessel is not currently subject to UK sanctions.