Even by superyacht standards, the Scheherazade is enormous. Valued at an estimated $700 million, the vessel stretches to more than 450 feet, which is significantly longer than a football field. It has two helipads, elevator access between floors and gold-plated bathroom fixtures.
U.S. officials believe it could potentially belong to Russian President Vladimir Putin himself, according to The New York Times.
A number of superyachts owned by or linked to Russian oligarchs have been seized in recent days due to the ever-growing list of economic sanctions against Russia amid Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Some of the Russian leader’s assets are believed to be registered in others’ names.
Despite their size, yachts that wealthy individuals wish to keep out of the public eye can be hidden through shell companies, making it tough to figure out who owns it. People who work on such vessels are commonly made to sign nondisclosure agreements to discourage the information from leaking out.
The Times reported that American investigators are currently digging into the Scheherazade’s ownership, citing multiple unnamed people briefed on the information. Italian authorities are also trying to decipher who owns the ship, the Times reported earlier in the week.
The Scheherazade flies under the flag of the Cayman Islands, according to the tracking service MarineTraffic, and has been moored in the Italian town of Marina di Carrara since early September after arriving from Montenegro across the Mediterranean Sea.
The Times’ earlier story included a tantalizing quote from a retired Italian clerk: “Everybody calls it Putin’s yacht, but nobody knows whose it is.”
Investigators have so far reached no conclusions, according to the paper. The ship’s British captain, Guy Bennett-Pearce, told a Times reporter he had never seen Putin aboard, although he had heard the same rumors.
The Scheherazade appears to derive its name from the female protagonist in the Middle Eastern anthology “One Thousand and One Nights” who inspired a popular 19th-century symphony of the same name by Russian-born composer Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov.
In the classic tale, Scheherazade arranges to be married to a vengeful sultan who keeps marrying virgin brides and killing them the day after. But on her first night with the sultan, she begins telling a story so long, she is not finished by the morning. So she is allowed to continue the next night, and the one after, until the Sultan falls in love with her.
The vessel Scheherazade was manufactured in 2020 by German shipbuilding company Lürssen. It does not appear on the company’s gallery of “masterpieces” on its website, despite being one of the largest yachts in the world.
It also appears to have little outdoor lounging space for a ship of its size, the trade site Boat International noted. Its visitors are instead largely shielded by dark glass.