Netherlands puts 14 yachts suspected of being built for Russians under ‘supervision’

Rutte’s coalition government has been accused of failing to act quickly enough against Putin supporters

The Netherlands, the world leader in constructing superyachts more than 40m long, has placed 14 luxury vessels suspected of being built or repaired for wealthy Russians under "immediate supervision" until their beneficial ownership can be established.

The Dutch yacht industry has a long history of working with wealthy Russian customers, and the customs authorities say the 14 yachts include 12 under construction and two undergoing maintenance across five of the country’s leading shipyards.

Foreign minister Wopke Hoekstra said that the boats would be placed under "extra supervision" until it could be established whether they were subject to EU sanctions.

As the Ukrainian death toll mounts, premier Mark Rutte's coalition government has been accused of failing to act quickly enough against supporters of President Vladimir Putin – either by imposing the toughest possible sanctions or by impounding their property.

Independent MP Pieter Omtzigt, whose uncovering of a social welfare scandal was largely responsible for bringing down the last Rutte coalition, noted that by mid-March the Netherlands had frozen just €6 billion of Russian assets – as against €10 billion frozen by Belgium.

“This is a token amount,” he said. “We’re using tough language but doing very little. We’re applying the sanctions slowly and interpreting them very narrowly. Why?”

He pointed out that one financial newspaper had calculated that Russian firms had had around €90 billion invested in the Netherlands at the end of 2020 – of which around €45 billion was linked to names now on the EU’s sanctions list.

Vessels

There are 16 high-end specialist yacht builders in the Netherlands who between them turn over around €1.3 billion a year and employ some 3,000.

Any loss of Russian business would be a blow to companies such as Heesen Yachts in Oss, which is currently finishing a €100 million yacht for Azerbaijani businessman, Vagit Alexperov, president of Russian oil company Lukoil, who is not currently facing sanctions.

Heesen has also built vessels for Russian retail magnate Igor Kasaev and for oil exploration billionaire Alexander Dzhaparidze.

Another Dutch company, Damen Yachting in Vlissingen, has previously built boats for Dzhaparidze as well as for Oleg Tinkov, founder of Tinkoff Bank, who was convicted of tax fraud in the US last year.

Oceanco in Alblasserdam built the €290 million "Nirvana" for Vladimir Potanin, the wealthiest man in Russian as of last month, and "Amore Vero" owned by Rosneft chairman Igor Sechin, which was detained in France last month.

Peter Cluskey

Peter Cluskey

Peter Cluskey is a journalist and broadcaster based in The Hague, where he covers Dutch news and politics plus the work of organisations such as the International Criminal Court

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