• Yachts of six sanctioned oligarchs have disappeared from global tracking systems: The Observer.
  • A crew member told the newspaper they were told to turn off tracking and “unscrew” the system.
  • Under maritime law, yachts are required to transmit a long-range signal.

Superyachts linked to sanctioned Russian oligarchs are vanishing from global tracking systems in an attempt to avoid sanctions, according to an investigation by The Observer

The British newspaper analyzed AIS (automatic identification system) data from tracking company Vessels Value, which indicated six yachts owned by sanctioned Russian oligarchs had disappeared from tracking systems. 

The assets include the 238 ft Clio linked to industrialist Oleg Deripaska, which last transmitted in the Black Sea on April 18; the 229 ft Galactica Super Nova, linked to the former Lukoil CEO Vagit Alekperov and last seen off the Croatian coast on March 2; and the 459 ft Ocean Victory linked to Viktor Rashnikov, which last transmitted in the Maldives on March 1.

Other superyachts linked to fertilizer magnate Andrey Melnichenko, cigarette tycoon Igor Kesaev, and billionaire Andrey Guryev also disappeared off tracking systems in recent months while in the Maldives and the Caribbean.

Sam Tucker at VesselsValue told The Observer: “There are some vessels where we would be previously getting a signal every few minutes from transponders and we are now seeing gaps of months. It’s very likely that some have flicked off the switch and gone into stealth mode.”

One crew member of a superyacht linked to a sanctioned oligarch told the paper, the Guardian’s Sunday titles: “We were told to turn off the AIS. We removed the screws on the power plug and pulled it out.” 

Maritime law requires yachts to transmit a long range signal “to enhance security of shipping and for the purposes of safety and marine environment protection”, according to the International Maritime Organization.

The Observer investigation highlights the difficulty in implementing sanctions designed to sow discontent among Putin’s inner circle and put pressure on the Russian president to end his invasion of Ukraine.  

Oligarchs continue to scramble to protect their assets in the West. Many yachts have set sail to countries free from sanctions, including Melnichenko in the Maldives and Turkey, where five superyachts linked to oligarchs were sent.

No representatives of the oligarchs linked to the superyachts immediately responded to Insider’s request for comment.

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