Croatia Investigates Disappearance of Yacht Linked to Russian Oligarch
Croatian authorities launched on Friday a criminal investigation into the disappearance of a luxury yacht from an Adriatic port close to Split, where it was kept as part of Western sanctions imposed on Russian oligarchs close to Putin.
The yacht named ‘Irina VU’ is beneficially owned by Irina Viner, a rhythmic gymnastics coach and former wife of Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov. The couple divorced after 30 years of marriage last year sometime after sanctions were imposed on Usmanov.
“Several people have been taken to police for questioning in relation to the departure of the ‘Irina VU’ vessel from Croatia in October last year,” the Croatian Police Directorate said in a statement.
The investigation, according to police, has been focused to a wider area of Split county, where several offices and homes have been searched.
Since the West imposed sanctions, Croatia seized four other luxury yachts belonging to sanctioned Russian oligarchs. ‘Irina VU’ was docked in Croatia in a marina on the island of Murter, in central Dalmatia.
The value of the 35-meter-long vessel was estimated at five million euros (US$5.42 million), Croatian national TV reported.
Croatian authorities allegedly didn’t notice that a vessel under international sanctions had left the country, until it was pointed out in local media.
According to reports, despite the U.S., U.K. and EU sanctions, which prohibited the vessel’s departure, the yacht left the marina in October last year and sailed to the southern port of Dubrovnik, from where it sailed off towards Turkey, after passing police, customs and harbor master’s controls.
The Uzbek-born oligarch and one of the richest Russians, metal and mining mogul, Alisher Usmanov, who is reported to maintain close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, was added to the Western sanctions lists soon after the Moscow regime unleashed the invasion of Ukraine.
Some of his luxurious properties were seized as a result of the sanctions. Last year OCCRP reported how many of the oligarch assets are held through offshore companies, making them difficult to track.
Usmanov’s press service denied on Saturday that Irina Vu is owned by him and stated that he is in no way connected to its disappearance from the Croatian marina.
Correction: The article was updated to include a statement from the press service of Alisher Usmanov and to correctly reflect his relationship with his former wife Irina Viner.