Sanctioned Russian oligarch’s $500m megayacht docks in Hong Kong

A 500-foot, $500 million yacht belonging to Russian oligarch Alexey Mordashov is the latest Russian megayacht to make headlines.

 The 465-foot superyacht "Nord", reportedly owned by the sanctioned Russian oligarch Alexei Mordashov is seen, in Hong Kong, China October 7, 2022.  (photo credit: REUTERS/TYRONE SIU)
The 465-foot superyacht "Nord", reportedly owned by the sanctioned Russian oligarch Alexei Mordashov is seen, in Hong Kong, China October 7, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/TYRONE SIU)

A 500-foot megayacht linked to sanctioned Russian billionaire Alexey Mordashov docked in Hong Kong, according to a report by CNN.

While Mordashov has not been seen in Hong Kong himself, the boat – among the world’s largest and most expensive megayachts – docked in Hong Kong Wednesday from the Russian city of Vladivostok, according to the Hong Kong Marine Department.

Mordashov, a steel and mining tycoon with an estimated net worth of $18.7 billion, was sanctioned by the EU in March and by the US State Department in June. He has challenged the EU decision, maintaining his innocence and saying he “does not understand” why the EU sanctioned him and his family. 

Recent escalation of the Ukraine-Russia War

 A helicopter drops water to extinguish fuel tanks ablaze on the Kerch bridge in the Kerch Strait, Crimea (credit: REUTERS) A helicopter drops water to extinguish fuel tanks ablaze on the Kerch bridge in the Kerch Strait, Crimea (credit: REUTERS)

The yacht’s trip came amid an escalation of tensions in the Ukraine-Russia War. The yacht moved a week after the Nord Stream pipeline was sabotaged and Russian officials ramped up their nuclear rhetoric

Recent missile strikes on key areas by both Russia and Ukraine, such as Monday’s onslaught of missiles on Ukrainian cities or Sunday’s strike of a bridge in Crimea, have seen tensions continue to rise ahead of the winter.

Russian billionaire’s yachts

The yacht, estimated to be worth at least $500 million, is a prime example of the type of luxury assets international authorities have sought to seize from Russian elites they see as enablers and close associates of Vladimir Putin.

Spain in April seized a $100 million megayacht belonging to a Russian billionaire on behalf of US authorities, while Italy seized a $700 million yacht linked to Vladimir Putin in May. 

Why Hong Kong?

The self-administered Chinese island of Hong Kong has garnered a reputation as a global finance center, a hub for economic freedom and an international safe haven from tax policies. It has also proven to be something of a geopolitical safe haven in the past – Edward Snowden famously stayed in the Hong Kong airport for months after whistleblowing on the NSA in 2011.

Recent tensions between China and The West also make it unlikely that the Chinese-ruled region would cooperate with US authorities on politically-sensitive issues, such as the seizure of Russian yachts. Extradition treaties between Hong Kong and other Western powers, such as the US, were suspended in 2020 amid China’s implementation of the Hong Kong National Security Law. 

Hong Kong leader John Lee said on Tuesday that any United Nations sanctions would be upheld in the city when asked about the megayacht by Reuters.