A superyacht owned by Russia’s second-richest citizen, whose oil/gas company has been a target of Western sanctions, has gone dark in the Caribbean.
According to Bloomberg data, the 85-meter (279 feet) long Pacific, owned by Leonid Mikhelson, turned off its automatic identification system, or AIS, in the Caribbean Sea on May 8.
Pacific’s true destination is unknown. There aren’t many countries in the Caribbean that are friendly to Russians except for Cuba or Venezuela.
“It’s inconceivable that Russian oligarchs would consider the Bahamas a safe jurisdiction given its close ties to the United States — not just in terms of location but in terms of its law enforcement cooperation.
“It’s very puzzling that a vessel likely to experience sanctions enforcement would risk turning up in the Bahamas, but it’s more likely it will turn up somewhere else nearby that’s more friendly to Russian interests like Cuba or Venezuela,” said Ian Ralby, chief executive of I.R. Consilium, a maritime law and security consultancy.
The vessel was anchored in several Costa Rican ports earlier this year and has bounced around Central America. And it traversed the Panama Canal into the Caribbean last weekend, where it turned off its AIS, a violation of international maritime law.
Going dark has been the norm for superyachts owned by Russian oligarchs as Western countries sanction President Putin’s circle of friends.
Mikhelson personally doesn’t face sanctions by the US, though the UK and Canada slapped the world’s 45th-richest person with a series of sanctions in early April. He’s the CEO of the largest non-state-owned natural gas company provider in Russia, called Novatek.
Since the invasion of Ukraine, Russian luxury vessels owned by oligarchs have been seized by Western countries. Scheherazade, a $700 million superyacht linked to President Vladimir Putin, was the latest seizure by Italian authorities last weekend.