- Sergei Naumenko, a Russian property developer, wants his 192-foot superyacht “Phi” back.
- He’s suing the UK’s transport department to free the vessel and is seeking undisclosed damages.
- The ship features an “infinite wine cellar” and was detained in 2022.
A 192-foot superyacht has been caught in a legal tug-of-war between the UK government and a Russian business tycoon as the war continues in Ukraine.
Sergei Naumenko, a Russian property developer who isn’t on any sanctions list, per Bloomberg, is listed as the beneficial owner of the “Phi.” The vessel — which is worth £38 million, or $48 million — was seized by UK authorities last year.
Now, the businessman wants his ship — which has been moored in London’s Canary Wharf since the end of 2021— back. He is suing the UK’s transport department to free the vessel and is seeking undisclosed damages, according to a high court claim document filed on May 10.
The Phi — which features an “infinite wine cellar” and a “patented fresh-water swimming pool,” according to the Guardian — was detained by Grant Shapps, then the transport minister, amid a big media frenzy.
Shapps even posted a TikTok video in March 2022, where he said: “We’ve just detained the ship which was due to sail at midday. It’s a yacht which belongs to a Russian oligarch — friends of Putin — and was here for a refit,” adding: “We’re not going to allow this yacht to sail we’ve detained indefinitely.”
The video had almost 19,000 likes.
“This Government will continue to take robust action against anyone benefiting from connections to Putin’s regime,” Shapps tweeted at the time while announcing the detention.
—Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP (@grantshapps) March 29, 2022
Insider visited the quay where the yacht was docked hours after the UK announced its seizure and saw bright lights burning on the ship akin to fake stars and no visible security, Grace Dean reported.
Despite the court filing, the ownership of the Phi is also in question. A March 30 report by the Financial Times lists the owner as Vitaly Vasilievich Kochetkov, the founder of a small mobile phone network called Motiv Telecom in the Urals region of Russia.
When seizing the vessel, the UK government did not name Phi’s owner, only saying that it belonged to a “Russian businessman” and adding that the yacht’s ownership was “deliberately well-hidden,” the FT reported.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Western governments scrambled to freeze some of the most high-profile Russian assets — and more than a dozen yachts with links to wealthy Russians have since been detained, Bloomberg reported Thursday.
Justice Chamberlain, the presiding judge, said a “substantive hearing” to decide the yacht’s fate is scheduled for July.
The UK Department for Transport declined to comment on ongoing legal proceedings. A legal representative for Naumenko did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
The case number is CO/1160/2023 and lists the claimants as Dalston Projects, Sergei Naumenko, and Prism Maritime.