Russian Oligarch Denies Ties to Putin in an Appeal to Save His Yacht

File image courtesy Sam Morris

Published Jun 7, 2022 6:07 PM by The Maritime Executive

In a newly-filed appeal to EU decisionmakers, Russian billionaire Farkhad Akhmedov has attempted to distance himself from Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian energy sector in an effort to secure the return of his megayacht, the Luna. It is a rare example of a disavowal of Putin's administration from a member of the Russian elite, who have so far been loathe to break ranks in public.

In a filing recently obtained by The Times, Akhmedov appealed for relief from European sanctions related to the invasion of Ukraine. His yacht, the 380-foot expedition class vessel Luna, is undergoing a refit in Hamburg and may be subject to control measures by German authorities if his sanctions listing is not removed. 

In his appeal, Akhmedov claimed that he is "no longer involved in the energy sector . . . and has not been for several years." In addition, he asserted that he was "not close to the Kremlin at all and has never been part of the circle surrounding President Vladimir Putin." 

The EU has sanctioned Akhmedov because its officials believe he "is close to the Kremlin and is a leading businessperson involved in economic sectors providing a substantial source of revenue" to the Russian government. Mr. Akhmedov acquired his fortune through investments in Russia's oil and gas sector, primarily in the Bechtel-founded natural gas firm Nortgas. He traded half his stake in Nortgas with state-owned Gazprom in 2005 to gain access to the Russian gas pipeline system, and he sold his remaining shares to Novatek in 2012 for $1.4 billion. His current net worth is approximately $1.7 billion, according to Forbes.

In 2014, Mr. Akhmedov bought the Luna from fellow oligarch Roman Abramovich for $360 million. In recent years he has fought doggedly to keep possession of the vessel. In 2018, an acrimonious divorce-settlement case put the yacht's future in doubt: With deep-pocketed financial backing from a British investor, Akhmedov's former wife Tatiana Akhmedova attempted to seize the Luna, hoping to secure payment on a $600 million court award from divorce proceedings. The couple fought over the Luna's ownership in courts in Dubai and the UK, and though Akhmedova managed to get the vessel detained for a period, Akhmedov ultimately prevailed - only to see his access to the vessel curtailed by EU sanctions.