Russian property developer Sergei Naumenko has lost an appeal against the seizure of his spectacular 58.5-metre motor yacht Phi.

The 50 million-euro yacht was impounded in London by the Brits despite its owner not being on anyone’s sanctions list.

The initial seizure of the vessel in March 2022 was the first such action undertaken by the UK government following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine the previous month. The recently-launched yacht was in London to feature in a superyacht event.

Then Transport Minister Grant Shapps described Naumenko as a friend of Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin, despite there being no evidence for this assertion.

Naumenko said the yacht was targeted simply because he was a wealthy Russian, despite the fact that he had no involvement in Russian politics or any connection with Putin. In his ruling, the judge in the case appeared to agree with the businessman but said the UK was right to take his boat anyway.

In a written ruling, Judge Ross Cranston rejected Naumenko’s argument that the yacht was unlawfully detained. It was arrested because it was “a high value ship … and its owner, Mr Naumenko, was ‘connected with’ Russia”, the judge said.

Cranston accepted Shapps was wrong to describe Naumenko as a friend of Putin, but said it was “excusable political hyperbole”.

The London ruling fires a shot across the bows of wealthy yacht owners whose nationality puts them in the firing line despite no evidence of wrongdoing, nor any proof of keeping bad company.

PHOTO: Phi Reuters