Documents coming from a Cyprus-based services provider show that sanctioned tycoon Roman Abramovich has a much larger fleet than previously known.
In fact, Abramovich owns at least 10 more yachts and vessels through offshore companies and trusts—in addition to six yachts worth at least $1 billion that were already public knowledge.
MeritServus is the Cyprus-based corporate services provider used by Russian oligarchs and the new files were shared with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and its partners, including Forbes.
They were initially shared with The Guardian, which received them from an anonymous third party.
The files show that Abramovich transferred ownership of 10 offshore trusts with billions of dollars in assets—including the trust that owns his yachts and private jets—to his seven children in early February 2022, just three weeks before the Russian invasion of Ukraine and about a month before Abramovich was sanctioned by the U.K. and EU.
An OCCRP investigation using company records and documents in the leak also revealed that Abramovich had invested some $230 million in a large Russian forestry company—whose other shareholders included the Russian government—between 2008 and 2016, before selling his stake for about $110 million one month before the outbreak of war in Ukraine.
Forbes identified 10 vessels owned by Abramovich that had not been previously attributed to him, bringing his overall tally to 16. Eight of the ships are small vessels that, according to the leaked documents, are “used to support the operations” of Eclipse, the 533-foot, $427 million megayacht that Abramovich had built in 2010.
Eclipse is currently moored in the Turkish port of Bodrum, with three more of Abramovich’s yachts—the 458-foot, $475 million Solaris, the 180-foot, $38 million Halo and the 220-foot, $20 million Garcon—all anchored nearby, along Turkey’s western Mediterranean coast. A representative for Abramovich did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Outside of the eight support vessels, the leaked documents also show that Abramovich owns a 40-foot Bluegame motor boat named Umbra A, valued at roughly $1 million in a 2016 annual report. The most valuable of the previously unreported yachts is the 80-foot Kewpie, worth about $3 million according to yacht valuation experts VesselsValue. The ship is registered in Bermuda and is currently located in the French overseas territory of Saint Barthélemy, more commonly known as St. Barts, where it has been moored since early November. Abramovich is a familiar face in St. Barts: He owns two properties on the island, one of which was frozen by French authorities in April.
That means Kewpie is also at risk of being frozen, because it’s located on French territory and Abramovich is under EU sanctions—unlike the megayachts in Turkey, which has not imposed sanctions on Russian oligarchs. And Kewpie isn’t the only one of Abramovich’s vessels that could be in trouble. His 162-foot, $11 million Sussurro has been moored in La Ciotat on the French Riviera for nearly a year. Yet another yacht, the 164-foot, $30 million Aquamarine, appears to still be in the Netherlands. Aquamarine’s ultimate owner is a British Virgin Islands-based company that Abramovich transferred to his business associate David Davidovich on February 24, 2022.
Abramovich uses a complex structure of offshore entities for his yachts plus other assets including four jets, six helicopters and luxury villas and estates. His fleet of 16 ships and 10 aircraft—worth a collective $1.6 billion—are owned by several firms registered in offshore havens including Aruba, the British Virgin Islands, the Isle of Man and Jersey, all known for their secrecy and low-tax regimes.
The leaked filings, combined with a seizure warrant for two of Abramovich’s jets filed by the U.S. Department of Justice in June, show that all of these assets—except Aquamarine—are ultimately owned by the Cyprus-based Europa Settlement Trust.
Until February 4, 2022, Abramovich was the trust’s only beneficiary. But on that day, two of Abramovich’s representatives—David Davidovich and Tatyana Haykin—filed a document that added his seven children as additional beneficiaries. Four days later, Abramovich was removed entirely, leaving the trust and its trove of yachts and jets to his kids. The amendments to the trust appear to have been completed by February 24, the same day Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine.
Despite the changes to his trusts in February, Forbes still counts Abramovich as a billionaire with an estimated net worth of $8.7 billion. While the megayachts and jets are now technically owned by his children, the oligarch still appears to control them: Abramovich flew aboard his Gulfstream G650 from Israel to Istanbul on March 14, before departing for Moscow the next day.
(By Giacomo Tognini)