There have been several boats with troublesome histories making headlines lately, but the Alfa Nero might take the cake.
The Alfa Nero was (or still is) owned by Russian oligarch Andrey Guryev. The billionaire businessman is the former head of PhosAgro, the world's fourth largest producer of fertilizer. Guryev and his family carry a net worth of an estimated $4.8 billion USD.
The yacht was built by Oceanco in 2007 with an LOA of 267 feet (81.2 m) for an estimated $190 million. It was registered in the Cayman Islands but has been sailing under the flag of Antigua and Barbuda in recent years.
The impressive vessel can accommodate up to 12 guests and 26 crew, and offers over 4000 square feet (370 square metres) of living space. Her coolest feature is arguably the 12' x 38' pool on the aft deck that transforms into a dance floor or a helipad thanks to an elaborate hydraulic system. The ship carries a range of 6600 miles (10,670 km) with a cruising speed of 15 knots (28 km/m), and brings a top speed of 21 knots (39 km). In other words, she's a very, very nice ride.
But despite her beauty and functionality, when the Russo-Ukrainian War broke out in February 2022, several western government including the U.S. and the UK quickly sanctioned Guryev due to his close ties with the Russian government.
Further sanctions followed in mid-2022 from the European Union, Japan, and New Zealand, among others, directed at Guryev's businesses and extended family, including his son Andrey Guryev Jr., the current CEO of PhosAgro, and his wife and daughters.
Then in April 2023, the Alfa Nero was boarded by the Antiguan military while docked in the Caribbean. She had been at port, and arguably hiding from authorities, for months at the Antigua Yacht Club Marina.
Once repossessed, the boat was put up for auction in May 2023 and purchased by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt for a meager $67.6 million, less than 1/3rd the original purchase price. Schmidt served as Google's CEO from 2001 to 2011 and its executive chairmen from 2011 to 2015 before branching out into philanthropy and venture capitalism.
During that same period, Business Insider and other major new sources reported the crew of Alfa Nero was having a grand time while docked, including playing Call of Duty in the master suite while racking up $112,000/month in operating costs.
Amidst all the turmoil Guryev’s daughter filed a last-minute injunction claiming the yacht was hers, but it was widely speculated that both the Antiguan government and the U.S Treasury Department had denied the appeal.
Or maybe they didn't.
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The sale to Schmidt is now in limbo. It appears there are not one, but two injunctions at play -- one filed by Guryev's daughter, and another filed by Flying Dutchmen Overseas Limited (who are seemingly the registered owners of the vessel). The aim is to block the sale by placing the matter up to the jurisdiction of the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal.
While it seems both appeals are currently in process, what's unclear is whether the court is considering Guryev's appeal, the Flying Dutchmen's appeal, or both. The only clarity is the confirmation of a 'review' being conducted by a Privy Council to determine the merit of the appeals and how to proceed.
According to Boat International, a cabinet meeting held on June 28th stated that the purchaser [Schmidt] has shown "a willingness to dispatch the resources; however, because a judicial decision is pending, he was advised by the lawyer to wait a day or two until the court made a decision."
The dates for a response from the Privy Council have since come and gone, so the Alfa Nero is neither bought nor sold.
In local news, the Antigua Observer quoted Andrew O'Kala, a lawyer seemingly representing the owners, saying: “On the one hand, the matter is before the High Court as we have been granted leave for judicial review on some grounds, and on the other hand it is before the Court of Appeal with respect to the emergency application for interim relief.”
“To be clear, however, whether the auction goes ahead [Friday] or not, anyone intending to bid for the yacht needs to know that the government’s argument that it has the legal power to transfer ownership of the yacht to a purchaser is still the subject of an ongoing challenge in the courts," he added.
Meanwhile, the Antiguan Attorney General, Steadroy Benjamin, appeard unconcerned about the boat's eventual transfer to Schmidt.
“I am not too bothered by that because I don’t think that the application has any merit…and I am sure that the sale will take place as planned,” he said.
“It is partly strange that over a year and months nobody has come forward, but just two or three days prior to the sale everybody is coming out of the woodwork."
Another official, Darwin Telemaque, the CEO of the Antigua and Barbuda Port Authority, concurred: “It is not like you can just walk in today and say I want to bid on the Alfa Nero…The process had to be executed in that manner to ensure that the sanction status of the vessel could not have been changed."
So until local Antiguan authorities, and by extension the U.S. Treasury Department, make a decision on the status of Alfa Nero, she will remain docked and under supervision.
Whatever they decide, before the boat leaves Antigua there's still the matter of settling outstanding invoices. The boat has racked up a $500k fuel bill among other expenses, and proceeds from the sale must cover all other unpaid charges including dockage, upkeep, maintenance costs, and paying the crew.
That can't be good news for Schmidt, who despite having a massive bankroll, would undoubtedly like to get a return on his investment.
Schmidt applied to become a citizen of Cyprus back in 2020, which has some of the nicest yachting grounds in the world in the heart of the Mediterranean. Summer is ticking away.
If you're a real legal beagle, you can even read the latest legal documents from the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court.