LONDON: A superyacht named 'Phi' owned by a Russian billionaire became the first-ever vessel to be detained in London on Tuesday under the UK government's sanctions over the ongoing war in Ukraine.
Officers from the National Crime Agency's (NCA) new Combatting Kleptocracy Cell said they served a detention notice on the 38-million pounds superyacht docked at Canary Wharf.
Following what the agency said was "fast-paced work" by intelligence officers in the cell, supported by the Border Force Maritime Intelligence Bureau, the ultimate owner of the vessel was identified and the yacht recommended for sanction.
"Today we've detained a 38-million pounds superyacht and turned an icon of Russia's power and wealth into a clear and stark warning to [Russian President] Putin and his cronies," said UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
"Detaining the 'Phi' proves, yet again, that we can and will take the strongest possible action against those seeking to benefit from Russian connections," he said.
Owned by an unnamed Russian businessman, 'Phi' is the third biggest yacht built by prestigious shipbuilders Royal Huisman and includes what the builders call an "infinite wine cellar" and "patented fresh-water swimming pool".
"Today's activity demonstrates the NCA's ability to react at pace. We have surged officers to establish the Combatting Kleptocracy Cell, and the results of this are already bearing fruit," said Andy Devine, from the NCA.
"The NCA plays a vital role in targeting suspect assets, pursuing enablers of illicit wealth and supporting government partners in the delivery of the response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine," he said.
The NCA said the ownership of the yacht was deliberately well hidden.
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 origins.
The owner of the vessel is not currently subject to UK sanctions imposed on several Russians in recent weeks.
Under the 57D(3)(b) of the Russian (Sanctions)(EU Exit) Regulations 2019, a ship owned, controlled, chartered or operated by persons connected with Russia, may be subject to a detention direction by the UK's Secretary of State for Transport.
The UK government has imposed a series of asset freezes and travel bans on Russian government representatives, businessmen and socialites.
The sanctions in response to Russia's attacks on Ukraine also cover certain Russian banks, limiting the ability of Russian companies to raise finance on the UK markets.
Russian national carrier Aeroflot has also been banned from landing in the UK, with a phase out of Russian oil and gas in process.