Billionaires and their pleasure crafts are a serious sort of love affair. As a man fights for his lady love, these tycoons don’t shy away from locking horns with the government, begging and pleading with them to return their seized luxury vessels to their asset-clad lifestyle. Russian businessman Sergei Naumenko wants his 192-foot motoryacht “Phi” back. The UK government took the $48 million ship of the man who isn’t even named on the sanctions list. Sadly, his boat has been moored in London’s Canary Wharf since the end of 2021, and the businessman is now going down the legal route to have Phi back where she belongs.
Naumenko, tired of waiting, sued the UK’s transport department to free the vessel and is seeking undisclosed damages, according to a high court claim document. A judge presided over a preliminary high court hearing with lawyers representing Naumenko and the transport secretary. He stated that Phi was a vessel of interest to the UK Government as it was owned, controlled, or operated by a person connected with Russia.
The Russian businessman will have to wait a bit longer as a substantive hearing will occur in July. In the past, wealthy, sanctioned oligarchs like Farkhad Akhmedov (Luna Yacht) and Alisher Usmanov (Dilbar yacht) have pleaded with the European courts to suspend the harsh sanctions to get their seized megayachts back.
The Ph-abulous Phi yacht-
Naumenko has never even used his glorious $48 million asset, which explains his frustration. Royal Huisman’s 192-footer PHI completed her maiden voyage in December 2021 in London following delivery and was seized shortly after. The Cor D Rover-designed Phi, a fast-displacement, aluminum superyacht, looks stellar in blue with interiors by London design studio Lawson Robb.
In addition to a top speed of 22 knots, the vessel flaunts a freshwater swimming pool that can be covered by a flush pool cover and sealed with the touch of a button.
The sleek motoryacht boasts a 300-bottle infinite wine cellar in the lower deck lobby, called so owing to the interplay of mirrors, creating an illusion of an endless corridor adorned with wine bottles. Phi can accommodate 12 guests in six cabins serviced by 11 crew.
Phi became the first-ever yacht to be detained in UK waters –
Phi Yacht was in London for a World Superyacht Awards judging panel event in 2021. Tables turned for the superyacht as it was surprisingly boarded by officers from the National Crime Agency hours before it was due to leave Canary Wharf. The NCA said Phi was registered to a company in the Caribbean islands of St Kitts and Nevis and carried Maltese flags to hide its origins deliberately. Phi became the first yacht to be detained in UK waters on these grounds.
While Sergei Naumenko isn’t a sanctioned businessman, the government said the law impounded his pleasure craft simply because it was owned by a Russian national and did not require proof. Grant Shapps, transport secretary, said, “Detaining the Phi proves, yet again, that we can and will take the strongest possible action against those seeking to benefit from connections to Putin’s regime.” Shapps posted a TikTok video in March 2022, where he said: “We’ve just detained the ship which was due to sail at midday. It’s a yacht which belongs to a Russian oligarch — friends of Putin — and was here for a refit,” adding: “We’re not going to allow this yacht to sail we’ve detained indefinitely.” Phi was seized in March 2022 and has been docked at Canary Wharf.
The UK Government has already paid millions maintaining this yacht –
Per our calculations, a motoryacht with a length of 59 meters or 192 feet would have attracted a hefty bill of $150,000 in mooring fees alone. Moreover, the annual cost of maintaining a vessel is 10% of its value. Sergei Naumenko’s Phi is worth $48 million, meaning the UK government would have paid $4.8 million in upkeep since seizing the vessel in March last year.
Sergei Naumenko is a Russian property developer and food importer who isn’t on any sanctions list but is clearly, wealthy enough to afford a lavish luxury vessel.