Sanctioned Russian billionaire’s superyacht goes on sale for nearly €30m

MySky superyacht linked to Russia's Igor Kesaev (REUTERS)
MySky superyacht linked to Russia's Igor Kesaev (REUTERS)

A 168-foot superyacht linked to sanctioned Russian billionaire Igor Kesaev is up for sale for €29.5m, it has been reported.

The sale of the MySky superyacht, which comes complete with a gym and a helicopter landing deck, was disclosed in an advert emailed seen by Reuters from a US-based yacht broker to undisclosed recipients on 14 September.

It comes amid concerns from Western governments and campaigners that billionaires such as Mr Kesaev have been able to work around a patchwork of international sanctions targeting their luxury assets such as yachts.

The EU and UK sanctioned Mr Kesaev in April in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

At the time, the EU cited his involvement in military weapons production and tobacco distribution in Russia, as well as links to the Russian government “and its security forces.”

He has not been sanctioned by the US government and the Treasury did not respond to requests for comment.

Sara Gioanola, a spokesperson for Heesen Yachts, the Netherlands-based firm that built MySky, confirmed that Mr Kesaev commissioned it and another yacht, called Sky.

Reuters was unable to independently confirm that Mr Kesaev still has direct ownership in the MySky. A spokesman for Kesaev declined to address questions about the ownership of the yacht or its imminent sale.

The advert for the yacht’s sale was sent from an email address at Fort Lauderdale, Florida firm Merle Wood & Associates, which calls itself “one of the premier yacht brokerage firms worldwide.” It was circulated privately with a warning not to post the advertisement publicly.

The yacht named MySky features “ultra-modern sophisticated interiors” by a well-known Dutch architect, an “indoor climate-controlled gymnasium” and a deck that can be used for landing helicopters.

Merle A. Wood, who is listed as the point of contact on the MySky advertisement, told Reuters by phone he knows nothing about the yacht’s owner. Wood referred all questions to a different broker, Burgess, which has offices in London, Monaco and other major markets, which he said was the primary broker in the proposed sale.

A Burgess company spokesperson, Nicci Perides, said she “can’t answer questions about the yacht” and referred questions to Wood, who did not respond to additional requests for comment.

Clara Portela, a sanctions expert at the University of Valencia, said that because there are no US sanctions on Mr Kesaev, American businesses or buyers could be involved in the yacht sale without running afoul of sanctions.

A check by Reuters of the Burgess website on Wednesday found the MySky listed as available for charter bookings. As of Thursday, Burgess had removed the MySky charter listing.

The Merle Wood advert said that the yacht was in the Maldives.

Yachts linked to sanctioned Russians have appeared in destinations such as the Maldives and Turkey in recent months as authorities in the United States, the European Union and the United Kingdom levied sanctions and sought to seize such assets. Authorities in the Maldives did not respond to requests for comment.

A spokesperson for the European Commission, which handles EU sanctions, said European leaders are encouraging other countries to align their policies with the EU, but said sanctions apply only within the EU’s jurisdiction.

A spokesperson for the UK’s Treasury said it does not comment on individual cases but “takes enforcement action in every reported case of suspected financial sanctions breach.”

Roland Papp, who tracks illicit financial flows at Transparency International EU, said the often-secretive nature of sales involving superyachts means that it’s highly unlikely authorities would ever learn about such transactions.

“It’s very easy to try to avoid sanctions in this way,” he said.

Additional reporting by Reuters.