Italian police are probing a mysterious super yacht in a small Tuscan town to see whether it should be seized under Russian sanctions amid speculation it could belong to Vladimir Putin himself.
The Scheherazade, worth an estimated $700 million, (£533m) dominates the harbour at Marina di Carrara, but no owner has been publicly identified.
The ownership of the 459-foot vessel, which has two helicopter decks, is now being probed by the Italian authorities.
Workers at the shipyard have speculated for more than a year that the ship belongs to Putin, a source told Daily Mail.
But the superyacht’s British captain Guy Bennett-Pearce denied Putin was associated with the luxury vessel, one of the most expensive of its kind in the world.
He told the New York Times: “I have never seen him. I have never met him.”
Mr Bennett-Pearce told the publication he could not give further details because of a “watertight” non-disclosure agreement but he insisted the owner was not on any sanctions list.
He said Italian police had been inspecting the ship for clues about its true ownership. He added: “They are looking hard. They are looking at every aspect. I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever that this will clear the vessel of all negative rumours and speculations.”
The Italian investigation into the ownership of the Scheherazade comes as European authorities race to identify if any yachts are associated with oligarchs under sanctions after Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Last week, French authorities seized the 289-foot superyacht Amore Vero in the Mediterranean resort town of La Ciotat.
It belongs to Igor Sechin, who runs Russian oil giant Rosneft, which has been on the US sanctions list since 2014.
The French Finance Ministry said in a statement that authorities boarded the Amore Vero and discovered its crew was preparing for an urgent departure, even though planned repair work was unfinished.