Putin owns mystery super yacht docked in Italy, activists claim

Navalny's team urges Italian authorities to seize Scheherzade.

The Scheherzade super yacht docked on the west coast of Italy belongs to Russian president Vladimir Putin, according to claims by the Anti-Corruption Foundation of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Investigative journalist Maria Pevchikh and anti-corruption activist Georgy Alburov on Monday published a video claiming that the Scheherzade - worth an estimated $700 million - can be linked to Putin through crew members that work on board the 140-m luxury vessel.

The six-storey yacht has two heli-pads, a gym, a beauty salon, an elevator and a swimming pool with a retractable cover that converts to a dance floor, according to the New York Times, which raised questions about the ownership of the Scheherzade in early March.

The new claim follows weeks of rumours, speculation and denials over who actually owns the yacht which has been moored at the Tuscan port of Marina di Cararra since September and is under investigation by Italy's finance police.

The video posted on Monday came after researchers got hold of a list of 23 crew names compiled in Carrrara in December 2020 when the yacht was in Tuscany for maintenance work, reports Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.

About a dozen people on the list, the group claims, work for the Federal Protection Service (FSO), the state agency tasked with protecting and managing the lives of high-ranking Russian state officials, including Putin.

The New York Times reports that the Scheherazade is flagged in the Cayman Islands and its owner, an anonymous company called Bielor Assets Ltd, is registered in the Marshall Islands.

The claim from the Navalny group follows Italy's recent seizure of super yachts and property from Russian oligarchs linked to Putin as part of EU sanctions in response to Moscow's military invasion of Ukraine.