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A sanctioned Russian oligarch’s megayacht vanished. Now it’s resurfaced after disappearing for two weeks

May 26, 2022, 2:26 PM UTC

The superyacht linked to Leonid Mikhelson—the richest person in Russia after President Vladimir Putin—has reappeared after almost two weeks of radio silence.

The $150 million, 85-meter-long Pacific appeared cruising past the Canary Islands on May 20 after 12 days without broadcasting its position, and more recently has been seen near Malta in the Mediterranean Sea, according to Bloomberg. Sailing with the boat transponder shut off violates international maritime law.

While the vessel has indicated it will be heading to Port Said in Egypt as its next destination, analysts predict the ship will continue from there toward either the Maldives or Turkey—jurisdictions that are kinder to the very large boats owned by Russian oligarchs.

“It’s more likely that Port Said is an interim destination as it makes its way to enter the Suez Canal to get to some other location,” Andrew Lipow, president of consulting firm Lipow Oil Associates, told Bloomberg.

Pacific Superyacht
The $150 million, 85-meter long superyacht owned by Leonid Mikhelson
Sabri Kesen—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The ship, which has two helicopter pads, an elevator, a pool, and room for 12 guests, last broadcast 12 days earlier that it was headed to the Bahamas. It also previously indicated it might head to Barcelona’s Port Vell.

The erratic movements of the boat show the increasing desperation of oligarchs to keep their ships off the radar of governments trying to seize them. Some vessels have logged more than 5,000 nautical miles since the start of the invasion, according to an analysis by Bloomberg with Spire Global.

Mikhelson, the CEO of Russian gas company Novatek, has faced sanctions from the U.K. and Canada since Russia’s war on Ukraine began. Mikhelson owns a quarter of the shares of Novatek—the largest non-state-owned natural gas provider in Russia, producing around 10% of Russia’s gas. Novatek is sanctioned by the U.S.; Mikhelson himself is not.

So far, 17 yachts worth over $2.25 billion have been seized by international authorities as of mid-April. But this is a small dent in the number of Russian-owned superyachts out there. There are about 5,000 to 6,000 superyachts in the world, an attorney working on superyacht law told Quartz, and of those, 10% are owned by Russians.

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