Dutch government preventing 14 Russian yachts from leaving due to sanctions

AMSTERDAM, April 6 (Reuters) - The Dutch government said on Wednesday it is currently preventing 14 yachts -including 12 that were under construction - from leaving the country due to sanctions on Russia.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs made the statement in a letter to parliament, updating lawmakers on the enforcement of sanctions after criticism that the Netherlands had lagged behind other European countries in enforcement and seizures.

Yacht-building is a significant industry in the Netherlands, with chamber of commerce records showing that major builders Heesen, Feadship, Damen Shipyards and Oceanco had combined sales of around 1.5 billion euros ($1.66 billion) in 2020.

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Wednesday's letter said that while no "superyachts" are anchored in Dutch territories, including Caribbean islands like St. Maarten, the 12 yachts under construction for Russian owners "cannot at this moment be delivered due to the current export measures" and their ownership structures are being investigated.

In March, two Russian members of the supervisory board of Heesen Yachts stepped down. Heesen is owned by Morcell Ltd. of Cyprus, the investment vehicle of billionaire Lukoil (LKOH.MM) president Vagit Alekperov, who is not on sanctions lists. read more

The two other yachts cited by the letter that cannot depart the Netherlands were in the country undergoing maintenance, it said.

"For one of these yachts, the relationship with a person named on European sanctions lists is being examined," it said.

The letter also included an update on financial assets, saying 516 million euros in assets and 155 million euros in transactions have been frozen, up slightly from last week. read more

The government estimates that 27 billion euros in Russian assets are on the balance sheets of Dutch-registered companies, of which around 20 billion euros held by shell companies with little physical presence in the country.

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Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Andrew Heavens & Simon Cameron-Moore

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