A wealthy Russian business tycoon has lost the legal battle against the UK government for seizing his £38 million (~ $49 million) luxury superyacht. A London court ruled in favor of the government, rejecting a plea filed by Sergei Naumenko to deem the UK’s decision to freeze the 60-meter (197-foot) vessel “Phi” illegal. Naumenko is a property dealer from Russia who doesn’t feature in any of the sanctions lists announced by the Western countries after the invasion of Ukraine. In a desperate attempt to retrieve his brand new superyacht, Naumenko decided to sue the UK’s Department of Transport, claiming he never engaged in any kind of political activities nor has any connections with Putin. His lawyer argued that the detention was a “disproportionate interference” with his property rights and it was done just so that the authorities could look tough on other yacht owners.
The UK court dismissed the lawsuit there was a strong public interest in seizing the yacht. “The Secretary of State is entitled to a broad margin of discretion in deciding that the detention power is to be exercised in pursuit of the government’s foreign policy aims,” said Judge Ross Cranston. According to the ruling, the vessel was seized on the grounds that it was “owned, controlled or operated by a person connected with Russia.” The judge also said that while the detention of the superyacht did interfere with Naumenko’s “property rights,” the public interest in the UK for having as “deep an impact as possible” on Russia through sanctions was greater. Sir Ross concluded that had “great wealth” and did not claim to be “suffering financial hardship” because of the seizure of a “luxury superyacht.”
After his plea was dismissed, the Russian businessman said through his lawyers that he is “disappointed” in the court’s decision and is exploring options to appeal against the verdict. The ruling is one of the first of its kind, which will strengthen the UK government’s capability to seize the assets of wealthy Russians. Very little is known about Sergei Naumenko, who is believed to be in his 50s and lives in the Ural mountains in western Russia, according to a report by The Telegraph. Interestingly, Naumenko has never even used his $49 million superyacht. Phi became the first-ever yacht to be detained in UK waters shortly after completing her maiden voyage in December 2021 to London.
Phi and its unfortunate story –
Phi was invited to London for the World Superyacht Awards in 2021. However, the crew was surprised the superyacht was boarded by officers from the National Crime Agency hours before it was due to leave. The pleasure vessel has been in the UK ever since. However, the superyacht has also been a headache for the authorities. According to estimates, Phi has accumulated a hefty bill of $150,000 in mooring fees alone. Additionally, the UK government could have already paid around $5 million in upkeep since seizing the vessel in March last year.
The stunning superyacht was built by Royal Huisman from The Netherlands. Decked out in a beautiful shade of deep blue on the outside, its sleek exterior was designed by Cor D. Rover Design, while the interior design was done by Lawson Robb. Phi has an aluminum hull along with an aluminum superstructure and is powered by 2 MTU engines, which give her a top speed of 22 knots. The vessel is big enough to accommodate up to 12 guests. It features a freshwater swimming pool that can be covered by a flush pool cover and sealed with the touch of a button. Additionally, Phi boasts a 300-bottle infinite wine cellar in the lower deck lobby that gets walls made of giant mirrors, which create the illusion of an endless corridor adorned with wine bottles.