The 60-meter Phi, which can easily be called one of the most elegant superyachts blocked in Europe amid Western sanctions, is eager to go to the open sea for the first time. According to Bloomberg, the conflict caught the ship in the port of London, where it was undergoing the last stages of finishing. Businessman Sergey Naumenko called himself the owner of the yacht last spring. The businessman immediately expressed his intention to sue the British authorities for seizing the property of an unsanctioned person and for slandering that he, they say, is a man of the Kremlin – the head of the British Ministry of Transport spoke in this spirit.
Now the promise has been fulfilled – the lawsuit has been filed. This is evidenced by the information on the website of the National Archives of Great Britain. Vladimir Gladyshev, managing partner of Gladyshev & Partners law firm, British law lawyer, discusses the prospects for the case:
“On the one hand, English justice works well at this level. On the other hand, on a number of issues, British judges listen strongly to the political authorities, and they do this not behind the scenes, but officially. In a number of cases, the law requires British judges to be guided by the explanations of the British Ministry of Foreign Affairs. If we look, for example, at the Venezuelan gold case, when the gold was seized and it was said that now the president is not Maduro, but Guaidó, the decision against Maduro was taken on the basis of a letter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The English judge, if there is no special evidence for this, may well decide in favor of the plaintiff. To do this, he must make sure that he is not on the sanctions lists and this action is not subject to sanctions. An English judge may well say: “Guys, this is not a matter of regulation at the moment of the legal situation.”
At the same time, Naumenko is more than a mysterious person. Bloomberg calls him a “developer and food importer,” but does not list the names of his companies or even the countries in which they operate. Given the cost of Phi, which the agency estimates at $48 million, Naumenko’s fortune should be at least hundreds of millions – it is unlikely that he bought a yacht with his last savings. At the same time, the businessman’s name has not been found in the archives of Russian news agencies for at least ten years. A year ago, the Financial Times linked the ship to the Ural businessman Vitaly Kochetkov – but, firstly, he did not confirm this, and secondly, he himself is not under sanctions.
How will the court determine whether Naumenko is really the real beneficiary of the asset? Ilya Rachkov, Associate Professor of the Department of International Law at MGIMO, partner at NSP law firm, comments:
“They will meticulously analyze which ports this ship called, who provided services to support the ship (refueling, and so on), who paid for these services, who ordered them, who – by name – was on board this ship, in what periods, how many spent time there. Plus, the persons involved in the process will be required to provide evidence, up to the disclosure of their assets, the origin of the funds for which this yacht is contained. A yacht is still not a workhorse, not a commercial vessel that carries cargo, but rather an expense item. Will Naumenko be studied under a microscope: has he been interested in yachts for a long time or is this a recent hobby? Maybe he is a master of sailing and has raved about it all his life. And recently I bought myself a yacht, because I earned enough money. Or maybe, on the contrary, he will not be able to confirm that he or the company under his control had the necessary funds, which means that someone provided them to him. Then the questions begin: who, on what terms?
A full hearing on Phi’s unfreezing lawsuit is scheduled for July, according to Bloomberg. Both Naumenko’s lawyers and the UK Department of Transport refused to comment to the agency.