One of the worldâ€™s largest yachts is currently in the Tuscan resort of Marina di Carrara. Who it belongs to is disputed but there are suspicions it could be owned by Russian president Vladimir Putin.
In the Tuscan resort of Marina di Carrara, thereâ€™s a superyacht that dwarfs everything else around it.
Itâ€™s 140 metres long, has six deck levels, and is estimated to be worth around $700 million.Â
â€śItâ€™s been called a mini city with its multiple swimming pools, ballrooms, and even, ready for this? Gold toilet paper holders.â€ťFox News
The superyacht boasts two helicopter landing pads, a full-sized gym, and a pool table designed to tilt so it reduces the impact of the waves.Â Â
Itâ€™s called the Scheherazade, the name of the storyteller in the Arabian Nights.Â
But who it belongs to is disputed because its real ownership is hidden by various shell companies.
There are rumours though, among the portâ€™s locals, that the Scheherazade belongs to Russian president Vladimir Putin.Â
And allies of Alexei Navalny, the imprisoned Russian opposition figure, claim they have evidence that proves it belongs to him.
[Clip of Alexei Navalnyâ€™s research team speaking in Russian]
In that clip from Alexei Navalnyâ€™s website, a team of an investigative journalist and an anti-corruption activist explain what theyâ€™ve discovered.
If their claims turn out to be true, the Italian authorities could seize the superyacht using European Union sanctions.
But when the New York Times asked the shipâ€™s captain, Guy Bennett-Pearce, who the owner was, he said it didnâ€™t belong to Vladimir Putin and that the Russian president hadnâ€™t even set foot on the superyacht.Â
Italyâ€™s financial police have said itâ€™s likely to take a couple of weeks to gather evidence before they present it to a government committee.
So what evidence do they claim to have?
â€śThis may look like a modern art gallery or the lobby of a five-star hotel but itâ€™s actually the reception area to a shipyard. The Italian Sea Group is best known as the mother company of the luxury yacht brands Admiral and Technomaâ€¦â€ťThe Boat Show
The Scheherazade is currently in the hands of the Italian Sea Group, which has been carrying out refits and maintenance on the superyacht since it arrived last September.
And theyâ€™ve been quick to quell any speculation that it belongs to the Russian president. Yet during the summers of 2020 and 2021, the Scheherazade made trips to Sochi on the Black Sea where Vladimir Putin also spent large amounts of his time.
The team working for Aleksei Navalny claim theyâ€™ve got a list from December 2020 which shows all crew members, apart from the captain, were Russian and, according to the portâ€™s local union leaders, those Russian crew members abruptly left their jobs after the war in Ukraine started.Â
Alexei Navalnyâ€™s team also believe some of the crew worked for Russiaâ€™s Federal Protective Service, the FSO, an agency that manages security for high-ranking officials including Vladimir Putin himself.
Last week, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky addressed Italyâ€™s parliament.
[Clip of Volodymyr Zelensky addressing Italyâ€™s parliament]
In it he urged Italy not to, quote, â€śbe a resort for murderersâ€ť, end quote, and asked them to support more sanctions against Russia, including freezing assets, bank accounts, and seizing yachts. He even referred directly to the Scheherazade.
Italian authorities have already frozen â‚¬800 million in assets from Russian oligarchs on the European sanctions list.
â€śThe properties have been seized across prestigious real estate locations including Lake Como, Tuscany, Sardinia, while two superyachts have been caught in the countryâ€™s northern partâ€¦â€ťWION News
But theyâ€™ll be hesitant to jump the gun on the Scheherazade until they are confident they can prove who its owner is.
Todayâ€™s story was written and produced by Imy Harper.
The trials of Alexei Navalny
What does the story of Alexei Navalny and his wife Yulia Navalnaya tell us about Vladimir Putinâ€™s Russia and the state of opposition?