Detained Russian-owned superyacht Phi is seen in West India and Millwall Docks in London, Britain March 29, 2022. REUTERS/Tom Nicholson

March 29, 2022

By Kylie MacLellan and Alistair Smout

LONDON (Reuters) -Britain has detained a Russian-owned $50 million superyacht hours before it was due to leave London where it had docked for a meeting of the superyacht awards, saying the move was part of its sanctions package aimed at punishing Moscow.

The 58.5 metre Dutch-built yacht, named Phi, was detained in the Canary Wharf financial district of London under the government’s Russian sanctions, the first time the regulations have been used to detain a ship.

The government said Phi was owned by a Russian businessman that it did not name, but that ownership was “deliberately” hidden, with the company the ship is registered to based in St Kitts and Nevis, and the ship carrying Maltese flags.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) said the owner of the vessel had not been sanctioned in Britain but that under the law a ship owned, controlled, chartered or operated by persons connected with Russia could be subject to detention.

The yacht, which features a fresh-water swimming pool and what it described as an “infinite wine cellar”, was built by shipbuilders Royal Huisman.

“Today we’ve detained a 38 million pound superyacht and turned an icon of Russia’s power and wealth into a clear and stark warning to Putin and his cronies,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said in a statement.

“Detaining the Phi proves, yet again, that we can and will take the strongest possible action against those seeking to benefit from Russian connections.”

Britain has, along with international allies, introduced waves of sanctions on institutions, businesses and wealthy elites, seeking to cripple the Russian economy and punish those with links to the Kremlin for the invasion of Ukraine.

Phi was first identified as being potentially Russian owned on March 13, the government said, and a subsequent investigation by the NCA led to its detention.

“Today’s activity demonstrates the NCA’s ability to react at pace,” Andy Devine from the NCA said.

The government said it was also looking at a number of other vessels.

($1 = 0.7651 pounds)

(Additional reporting by William James; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel)

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