American officials are examining the ownership of a $700 million superyacht currently in a dry dock at an Italian seacoast town, and believe it could be associated with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, according to multiple people briefed on the information.
United States intelligence agencies have made no final conclusions about the ownership of the superyacht — called the Scheherazade — but American officials said they had found initial indications that it was linked to Mr. Putin. The information from the U.S. officials came after The New York Times reported on Tuesday that Italian authorities were looking into the 459-foot long vessel’s ownership and that a former crew member said it was for the use of Mr. Putin.
People briefed on the intelligence would not describe what information they had that indicated the superyacht is associated with Mr. Putin. If American officials know whether or how often Mr. Putin uses the yacht, the people briefed on the information would not share it.
American officials said Mr. Putin kept little of his wealth in his own name. Instead he uses homes and boats nominally owned by Russian oligarchs. Still, it is possible that through various shell companies, Mr. Putin could have more direct control of the Scheherazade.
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic Mr. Putin has also spent large amounts of time in the Russian resort city of Sochi on the Black Sea, U.S. officials said. The Scheherazade made trips to Sochi in the summers of 2020 and 2021.
Both the Treasury Department’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis and the Navy’s Office of Naval Intelligence are investigating the ownership of superyachts associated with Russian oligarchs. A spokesman for the Navy and a spokeswoman for the Treasury both declined to comment.
The Justice Department has set up a task force to go after the assets of sanctioned Russian oligarchs. In a discussion with reporters on Friday, a Justice Department official said the task force would be investigating individuals who help sanctioned Russian officials or oligarchs hide their assets. Those individuals could face charges related to sanctions violations or international money laundering charges.
In addition, under recently published Commerce Department rule changes, if more than 25 percent of a plane or a yacht is made of U.S.-manufactured airplane or marine parts, it cannot go to Russia.