A London-headquartered port operator could be breaching sanctions laws by allowing Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich to dock his $600m (£460m) superyacht Solaris at a port that it operates in Turkey.
Legal experts said Global Ports Holding, which has been listed on the London Stock Exchange since 2007, was taking “a very big risk” by allowing a superyacht owned by a sanctioned individual to use one of its ports.
Solaris, which is 140m long and boasts a helipad and swimming pool, arrived at Bodrum Cruise Port last week, according to shipping intelligence service Marine Traffic. The port is one of 22 terminals run by Global Ports Holding, which is headquartered in Mayfair in London.
Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea football club, is one of several Russian billionaires hit by UK sanctions last month as part of the government’s efforts to put pressure on Vladimir Putin to end the invasion of Ukraine. Boris Johnson described the sanctioned individuals as having “the blood of the Ukrainian people on their hands”.
Lawyers said Global Ports Holding was probably risking a breach of UK sanctions laws if it accepted port or other fees for hosting a superyacht linked to someone subjected to financial sanctions. UK sanction laws prevent British companies from accepting payments from companies or assets controlled by sanctioned individuals.
Michael Biltoo, a partner at law firm Kennedys, said Global Port Holdings was “certainly at risk … a very big risk” of breaching UK sanctions. “If we were advising them, we’d say, ‘Stop, you need to make a number of checks,’” he told the FT.
Simon Taylor, a partner at Forensic Risk Alliance, said: “The UK is invoking strict liability for sanctions laws and closing any perceived loopholes fast. Companies must be alert to potential risk, particularly in high-profile cases, and as move quickly as possible to avoid penalties and reputational damage.”
Global Ports Holding did not respond to requests for comment.
Ukrainian protesters tried to stop Solaris mooring at the port last week. Members of the Optimist Sailing Team Ukraine confronted the vessel in a small boat, chanting, “No war in Ukraine” and waving the country’s flag. They were part of a junior sailing team that was in Turkey to compete in an annual competition, having left Ukraine before the invasion.
The Solaris had been undergoing urgent repairs in Barcelona, but left hurriedly on 8 March as European Union countries began seizing sanctioned individuals’ assets. Four days later it stopped at the port of Tivat in Montenegro, which is not in the EU, before arriving in Bodrum.
Turkey has refused to impose sanctions on Russians despite the UK, US and EU uniting to impose restrictions on oligarchs believed to have benefited from close relationships with Putin. The Turkish foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, this week said the oligarchs were “of course” welcome and could do business in Turkey according to international law.
Eclipse, another even larger superyacht owned by Abramovich, is also currently moored in Turkey. Eclipse, which at 162.5m is believed to be the world’s second largest superyacht, arrived at the port of Marmaris on 22 March.