$75m superyacht linked to Russian steel billionaire auctioned off in Gibraltar | Russia

A £65m superyacht owned by a sanctioned Russian oligarch has attracted 63 bids at auction in Gibraltar in the first sale of an oligarch’s assets since Putin invaded Ukraine in February.

The 72.5-metre Axioma, was seized from steel billionaire Dmitry Pumpyansky in March following sanctions by the UK, EU and the US.

The Office of the Admiralty Marshal in Ukraine said on Tuesday that “63 bids have been received” for Axioma but refused to detail the value of the bids for the yacht, which features six luxurious guest cabins, a swimming pool, a 3D cinema room, gym, jacuzzi and a fully equipped spa.

“The successful bidder will be selected by the Admiralty Marshal but details of the bidder and the value of the offer will remain confidential,” the court said in a statement. “Details about the sale value of the vessel will be made available once the transaction has been completed which could take place in approximately 10 to 14 days.”

The sale of Axioma has attracted controversy because it is being sold not for the benefit of the Ukrainian people but for a US investment bank, JP Morgan, which claims Pumpyansky owes it more than €20.5m (£17m).

Pumpyansky was until March of this year the owner and chairman of the steel pipe manufacturer OAO TMK, a supplier to the Russian state-owned energy company Gazprom. The UK said the billionaire, who it said had built up an estimated £1.84bn fortune, was one of the oligarchs “closest to Putin”.

The yacht was detained by the Gibraltar government after a legal claim from JP Morgan, which said Pumpyansky’s holding company Pyrene Investments owed it more than $20m.

JP Morgan said the fact the billionaire had been subjected to sanctions meant the terms of the loan had been breached because it legally could not accept loan repayments from Pyrene, and asked the Gibraltar courts to detain and sell the yacht.

There was an “unexpected late surge by prospective buyers” around the world for the vessel, Nigel Hollyer, broker to the admiralty marshal of the supreme court of Gibraltar who led the auction, told the Guardian last week.

The yacht, which was designed by the famous superyacht designer Alberto Pinto, was built by Dunya Yachts in Turkey in 2013. The boat, which was originally named Red Square before being renamed Axioma, was available for other millionaires to charter for $558,500 a week.

“With its luxurious interiors, vast array of onboard facilities and a highly trained and professional crew, a luxury yacht vacation onboard motor yacht Axioma promises to be nothing short of spectacular,” the charter listing states.

The Axioma is the first seized luxury yacht known to be auctioned since the west imposed sanctions on powerful Russians after the February invasion of Ukraine.

Scores of yachts and houses linked to Russian oligarchs have been seized by world governments since the invasion. British and American authorities have said they would seek to send the proceeds of sold assets to Ukraine.

James Jaffa, a lawyer for British firm Jaffa & Co which specializes in yachts and who had represented the Axioma before it was seized, said the vessel was likely to sell for “way below” €20m.

After the auction, he said, the ship broker, crew wages, the shipyard and maintenance would need to be paid ahead of the bank.

A successful sale would, nevertheless, be a “benchmark” for other banks looking to recoup losses by auctioning the repossessed property and other assets of sanctioned oligarchs.

“Axioma will be a watershed moment for assets that have bank financing against them because all the other banks will realize that the asset can be sold and that they can get some or all of their money back,” he said.

He stressed, however, that assets without financial claims against them which were seized by governments because of sanctions alone would be harder to sell.

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