A superyacht linked to a sanctioned Russian oligarch is auctioned off in Gibraltar
By Joan Foss and Graham Kelly
MADRID (Reuters) – A $75-million superyacht linked to a sanctioned Russian steel billionaire was auctioned in Gibraltar on Tuesday, court sources said, in what is believed to be the first sale of its kind since Russia invaded Ukraine in February. Axioma was seized by Gibraltar authorities in March after US bank JPMorgan said its alleged owner, Dmitry Pampyansky, had reneged on the terms of a $20 million loan. The 72.5-metre vessel was auctioned by the Gibraltar Admiralty Court through a system of sealed bids sent electronically until Tuesday afternoon, a court spokeswoman said. The court added that while 63 tenders have been submitted for consideration, the selection process is expected to take 10 to 14 days.
The Guardian newspaper reported last week that there had been an “unexpected late surge of potential buyers” for the vessel worldwide, Nigel Hollier, broker for the Admiralty Marshal of Gibraltar’s Supreme Court, who led the auction.
The boat sleeps 12 people in six cabins and has a swimming pool, a spa, 3D cinema and water sports equipment.
According to court documents reviewed by Reuters, JP Morgan paid 20.5 million euros to British Virgin Islands-listed Pyrene Investments Ltd, which was owned by Furdberg Holding Ltd. Furdberg was owned by Pampiansky, who acted as guarantor for the loan.
The documents state that Pyrene Investments defaulted on the terms of the loan and on March 4 Pumpyansky transferred his shares in Ferdberg to a third party and was later sanctioned withholding repayment of the loan.
The 58-year-old, who is worth an estimated $2 billion according to Forbes magazine, was sanctioned by Britain and the European Union shortly after the invasion of Ukraine.
Until March, Pumpyansky was the owner and chairman of steel pipe manufacturer OAO TMK, a supplier to Russian energy company Gazprom. He has since withdrawn from the firm, the company said.
The Axioma is the first seized luxury yacht known to go up for auction since the West imposed sanctions on the powerful Russians following February’s invasion of Ukraine.
Sources close to the process told Reuters that JPMorgan would claim to be owed only 20.5 million euros and that it would be up to the courts to distribute any further proceeds from the sale.
World governments have seized many yachts and homes linked to Russian oligarchs since the invasion. British and American officials have said they will try to remit the proceeds of the sold assets to Ukraine.
A Gibraltar government source said the money would be frozen rather than paid to anyone other than the oligarchs.
A JP Morgan spokeswoman declined to comment.
James Jaffa, a lawyer at British firm Jaffa & Co, who specializes in yachts and who represented the Axiom before it was seized, said the vessel was likely to be sold for “under” 20 million euros.
After the auction, he said, the ship broker, crew wages, shipyard and maintenance money will have to be paid to the bank.
Still, a successful sale would be a “benchmark” for other banks looking to recoup losses by auctioning off repossessed assets and other assets of sanctioned oligarchs.
“The Axioma property will be a watershed moment for properties with bank financing against them because all the other banks will realize that the property can be sold and they can get some or all of their money back,” he said.
However, he stressed that the sanction alone would make it difficult to sell the properties without financial claims against them seized by the government.
(Reporting by Joan Foss and Graham Keeley, additional reporting by Inti Landaurow, editing by Aislin Laing and Bernadette Baum)