The Phi was docked in Canary Wharf when it was seized by UK authorities (Picture: PA)
The government has stood by its decision to seize a superyacht in London in a bid to ‘make life harder for Russian elites’ in the capital.
It comes after the captain of the boat slammed the move as a ‘PR stunt’ and said ministers had ‘got the wrong guy’.
National Crime Agency (NCA) officers raided the Phi, a lavish £38m boat complete with wine cellar and swimming pool, on March 29.
The Department for Transport alleges the boat’s owner is an individual ‘seeking to benefit from connections to Putin’s regime’.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps personally visited its Canary Wharf berth to declare the move a blow against allies of the Russian president with wealth in the UK.
Its owner on paper is Sergei Naumenko, who is reportedly named on the detention order but does not appear on the sanctions list.
The NCA previously said ‘ownership of the yacht was deliberately well hidden’, adding: ‘The company the ship is registered to is based in the islands of St Kitts and Nevis and it carried Maltese flags to hide its origin’
The 192-foot ship features an ‘infinite wine cellar’ and hot tub on board (Picture: PA)
The seizure was heralded by transport secretary Grant Shapps as a blow against Putin’s allies (Picture: PA)
But the captain of the vessel has lashed out at authorities, accusing them of ‘headline-grabbing, clickbait, attention-seeking’ in a Sky News interview.
Guy Booth said: ‘Phi is low-hanging fruit, she’s the only Russian boat around here. It was easy pickings done for social media.’
He said its owner had provided financial information to UK authorities and ‘none of it links the owner of the boat to any position in Russian politics, to Mr Putin or to any other political aspiration’.
Under sanctions legislation, UK authorities can detain any ship which is ‘owned, controlled, chartered or operated by persons connected with Russia’.
Mr Booth claimed his boss is considering legal action but the transport department believes the owner does not dispute the fact it falls under the scope of sanctions.
The Department for Transport said: ‘We stand firmly by our decision to detain assets, such as the Phi, which satisfy both the scope and purpose of sanctions, and will always stand with Ukraine against this despicable and illegal war.
‘The secretary of state will continue to act within his available powers to ratchet up the economic pressure on Russia and make life harder for Russian elites.’
Yachts linked to notable Russian businessmen including Roman Abramovich, Alisher Usmanov and Igor Sechin have all been seized by various European governments since the February 24 assault on Ukraine began.
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