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France seizes superyacht linked to Russia's Sechin as oligarch assets get targeted

Key Points
  • According to a translation of a letter shared in the tweet, French authorities seized the Amore Velo yacht on March 2, after a check that took several hours.
  • The 280-foot yacht was seized in the La Ciotat shipyards, on the south coast of France.
A picture taken on March 3, 2022 in a shipyard of La Ciotat, near Marseille, southern France, shows a yacht, Amore Vero, owned by a company linked to Igor Sechin, chief executive of Russian energy giant Rosneft.
Nicolas Tucat | AFP | Getty Images

LONDON — French authorities have seized a yacht they say is linked to Russian oligarch Igor Sechin.

"Thanks to the French customs officers who are enforcing the European Union's sanctions against those close to the Russian government," France's Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said in a tweet Thursday, according to a Reuters translation.

According to a translation of a letter shared in the tweet, French authorities seized the Amore Velo yacht on March 2, after a check that took several hours. The 280-foot yacht was seized in the La Ciotat shipyards, on the south coast of France.

Sechin was included in a list, published Feb. 28, of Russian oligarchs that would be subject to European Union sanctions, in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The letter said the yacht had arrived in La Ciotat on Jan. 3, 2022, and was set to remain there until April 1 to undergo repairs. However, France's ministry of finance said that the yacht was preparing to cast off when authorities began their check.

The ministry said this departure attempt constituted an infraction of a customs code because it aimed to breach planned economic and financial restrictions.

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Sechin, former deputy prime minister of Russia, has been the CEO of Russian state oil company Rosneft since 2012. According to the European Union's sanctions document, Sechin is one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's "most trusted and closest advisors, as well as his personal friend."

The document also highlighted that Rosneft Aero, which is a subsidiary of Rosneft, delivers jet fuel to the Simferopol Airport. This airport provides flight connections between the annexed territory of Crimea and Sevastopol and Russia.

"Therefore he is supporting the consolidation of the illegally annexed Crimean peninsula into the Russian Federation, which in turn further undermines the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine," the document stated.

Sechin's net worth is unclear, but in 2015 Reuters reported that he was earning up to $4.7 million a year as chief of Rosneft.

Russian billionaire business-magnate Alisher Usmanov, said to be one of Putin's "favourite oligarchs," was also listed in the European Union sanctions document.

Forbes reported on Wednesday that German authorities had seized Usmanov's 512-foot yacht Dilbar, said to be worth $600 million, in Hamburg's shipyards.

German shipbuilding company Lurssen Yachts, which designed the yacht, said it was the world's largest motor yacht by gross tonnage, at 15,917 tons. Dilbar includes a 25-meter swimming pool, which Lurssen said was the largest to ever have been installed on a yacht.

Usmanov has a net worth of $14.1 billion, according to Forbes. His largest holding is in steel and mining giant Metalloinvest.

On Wednesday, U.K. Premier League soccer club Everton suspended its sponsorship deals with three Russian companies in the wake of the conflict. This included its deal with Usmanov's private holding company USM. Usmanov sold his 30% stake in U.K. soccer club Arsenal in 2018.

Data from shipping database MarineTraffic, reviewed by CNBC, indicated on Thursday that a number of superyachts are currently anchored in Male, the capital of the Maldives.

They appear to include Titan, a superyacht owned by billionaire Alexander Abramov, the chairman of steel company Evraz.

Russian business leaders have been moving their yachts toward Montenegro and the Maldives following the announcement of sanctions by leaders from around the world, including the U.S. Treasury targeting Russia's central bank. The Maldives doesn't have an extradition treaty with the U.S., according to World Population Review.

CNBC's Brian Schwartz contributed to this report.