A superyacht linked to a sanctioned Russian billionaire has dropped anchor in Hong Kong after arriving in the city on Wednesday, according to marine tracking websites. The city’s Marine Department, which grants entry to foreign vessels, has said it will not pursue action against the ship or its owners.

Nord yacht Russia sanctions Alexey Mordashov Oct 12
The 142-metre Nord superyacht in Hong Kong on October 12, 2022. Photo: Mercedes Hutton/HKFP.

The 142-metre yacht Nord – said to be worth HK$3.92 billion – is tied to steel mogul Alexey Mordashov, Russia’s third-richest person as of the Bloomberg Billionaires Index on Friday. The majority shareholder and chairperson of Severstal, the country’s largest steel and mining company, has been the target of sanctions from the European Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States, imposed in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Announcing the measures against Mordashov in June, the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control said it was taking “action to degrade the key networks used by Russia’s elites, including President Vladimir Putin, to attempt to hide and move money and anonymously make use of luxury assets around the globe.”

Nord location
A screenshot showing the location of Russian-linked superyacht Nord on Friday afternoon. Photo: Marine Traffic.

Files leaked as part of the Pandora Papers revealed Mordashov’s ties to companies linked to a close Putin associate, and show how he made his vast fortune – helped by accounting firm PwC.

While a number of private yachts and aircraft have been seized as a result of sanctions – including one owned by Mordashev in Italy in March – in recent months the Nord has sailed from the Seychelles to the Russian port city of Vladivostok, where it was largely based before departing for Hong Kong on September 27.

Responding to an enquiry from HKFP, a spokesperson from the Marine Department said it “do[es] not comment on any individual cases of vessel entry into Hong Kong.”

On the topic of sanctions, the department said that the government “has all along been implementing and enforcing fully the sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council.” However, the spokesperson added that Hong Kong “does not implement, nor do we have the legal authority to take action on, unilateral sanctions imposed by other jurisdictions.”

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive John Lee, Chief Secretary Eric Chan and security chief Chris Tang, as well as former leader Carrie Lam and several other high-ranking officials, were hit with US sanctions in August 2020 for “undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy.” Those on the sanctions list were quick to dismiss the impact of the action, with saying they did not have assets in the US.

Vladimir Putin Alexay Mordashov
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and billionaire Alexey Mordashov, in 2018. Photo: Wikicommons.

According to Bloomberg, Mordashov is not currently aboard the vessel, which has two helipads, five decks, a cinema and 20 guest cabins.

Visiting yachts have to undergo “port formalities” when entering Hong Kong waters, including gaining permission of the Director of Marine, and can stay for up to 182 consecutive days. A list of all on board, including passengers and crew, must be provided for immigration procedures.

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Mercedes is a British journalist who has been based in Hong Kong since 2012. At Hong Kong Free Press, she has covered a number of local environmental issues, including climate inequality and marine biodiversity, and explored how Hong Kong's arts scene reflects a changing city. She has contributed to the Guardian and BBC Travel, and previously worked at the South China Morning Post, where she wrote a weekly column about the social and environmental impact of tourism in Asia.