Report: Oligarchs’ Yachts Enter Stealth Mode to Avoid Seizure

A new investigation reveals the extent of the practice

Alfa Nero
Alfa Nero in Canale della Giudecca, Venice, Italy.
VWPICS/Nano Calvo/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine earlier this year, a number of governments have responded by seizing the assets of Russian oligarchs with ties to Vladimir Putin’s government. This has included several high-profile seizures of yachts across the world — and the phenomenon of some massive yachts heading to locations far from land (and, one assumes, far from law enforcement).

Now, the plot — as they say — has thickened. A report from The Observer notes that several yachts with ties to Russian oligarchs have stopped communicating with systems used to monitor boats traveling across the ocean.

The Observer‘s investigation reveals that “at least six superyachts linked to UK-sanctioned oligarchs” have turned their tracking capabilities off. These include the Alfa Nero, last seen in Sin Maarten, and the My Sky, last seen in the Maldives.

A crew member on one such vessel told The Observer that the crew had been ordered to remove the yacht’s automatic identification system (AIS) system. “We removed the screws on the power plug and pulled it out,” the crew member said.

The article points out that maritime laws require AIS systems to be on at all times. Given that the systems in question would likely lead to the ships’ being impounded, it’s not hard to see why they’ve gone dark — though given that a superyacht isn’t exactly inconspicuous, it also seems more like postponing the inevitable than anything else.

Win the Ultimate Formula 1® Miami Grand Prix Experience

Want the F1 experience of a lifetime? Here’s your chance to win tickets to see Turn 18 Grandstand, one of Ultimate Formula 1® Miami Grand Prix’s most premier grandstands!