In addition to the extra financial burden on the taxpayer, there’s also the question of how sanctions benefit the people of Ukraine at a time when they need help the most. One popular petition on Change.org is using these two arguments to ask for Amore Vero, one of the first yachts seized under current sanctions, to be repurposed as a refugee hotel.
Amore Vero was frozen and then formally seized by the French in La Ciotat in southern France, where it had sailed at the begging of the year to undergo repairs. It was supposed to sail out in early April, but obviously never did, because supposed owner Igor Sechin was sanctioned by the EU. Sechin has denied being the direct beneficiary of the superyacht, but was discredited by the fact that he was a major stakeholder in the management company that owned the vessel on paper.
“I'm angry,” Bonneau tells Bloomberg over phone, in an interview as part of a larger discussion on how repurposing seized assets to benefit Ukraine would make the most sense right now. “It has no sense to be there without being used.”
He’s clearly not the only one to think so: his petition is nearing 30,000 signatures and is short of becoming one of the most signed petitions on the platform right now. That means nothing in terms of actually changing anything, since petitions have no legal weight, but it could put pressure on authorities to do something about the situation – or even point them in the right direction in which they should go to solve it.
Previously called St. Princess Olga, Amore Vero is neither the largest nor the most expensive vessel owned by a Russian oligarch, but it is an impressive build. Delivered by Oceanco in 2013 to the oil baron slash billionaire Sechin, it has a total length of 280 feet (85.5 meters), four decks, and a very “airy and elegant” silhouette that aimed to show that naval design can be graceful and elegant. This kind of elegance comes with a reported price tag of $120 million.
Naturally, all these would mean very little to Ukrainian refugees, because the fact that they would have free lodging while waiting for permanent rehousing in France would be of higher importance.
Bonneau’s petition doesn’t mention how authorities should go about the conversion from a legal standpoint, which brings the problem back to square one: the reason why Amore Vero and all other seized superyachts have been sitting unused is that there is no legal precedent for the situation.