Superyacht owned by Vladimir Putin is being seized in new sanctions on Russia

Vladimir Putin's superyacht dream appears to have sunk after a luxury vessel said to be owned by the Russian president was set to be seized by Italian authorities.

The $700 million (£570 million) Scheherazade, which is more than 450ft long and boasts spas, "countless" swimming pools, a sauna, theatre, ballrooms, gym and two helicopter landing pads – plus a hospital – has been recommended for impoundment as part of sanctions against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.

Although the ownership of the craft has only been linked to an unnamed "significant person", it has been subject to an investigation and has been docked in Marina di Carrara near Pisa, in north-west Italy, since September undergoing a refit.

The announcement about the ship's future yesterday came after fears grew that the Scheherazde could escape into international waters and avoid any sanctions. A statement from the Italian Financial Police said: "After verification by the fiscal authorities it has come to light that there is a significant economic connection between the owner of The Scheherazade and senior elements of the Russian government.

"On the basis of these elements it has been recommended that the yacht be placed on the current European Union sanctions list and the minister of finance in Rome has agreed."

Mariateresa Levi, of the Italian Financial Police, was quoted as saying: "I am not in a position to tell you who the actual owner is but we are satisfied that the yacht should be seized and in the next few hours officers will board and impound her."

The Scheherazade's captain is reportedly a Briton, Guy Bennett-Pearce, 43, who has denied Mr Putin is the owner, but associates of Alexei Navalny, the jailed Russian opposition head, believe it is linked to the president.

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It is understood many of the yacht's crew were Russian secret service agents, and that it is registered offshore in the Cayman Islands. The staff appeared to have returned home.

The yacht is said to have room for 18 guests in nine luxury cabins in addition to a crew of 40. Its name references a character in the Middle Eastern collection of folk tales known as the One Thousand and One Nights, and is also the title of music by the Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.

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