Motor Yacht Force Blue Seized

21 May 2010

Dockwalk received the following from the Italian Ship and Yacht Brokers Association (ISYBA):

"Flavio Briatore's £15m yacht seized in fraud probe after police chase along the Italian coast.

Officers on high-speed boats 'pursued' the 60-metre yacht Force Blue for several miles this morning.

They finally boarded it when it anchored off the port of La Spezia near Genoa and was boarded.

They had authority from a local prosecutor who ordered the boat to be impounded as part of the probe which centres on its status as a yacht available for charter.

Prosecutors believe the glamorous pair may be gaining massive tax breaks by declaring their boat was for hire... then living on it themselves.

Briatore claims that the yacht is available for hire at £240,000 a week and as result is registered out of the European Union, in the Cayman Islands, entitling him to a favourable tax break, according to Genoa prosecutors.

But prosecutor Walter Cotugno is looking into claims that there is no evidence of it being chartered - and that Briatore and his wife spend a large part of the year living on board.

Last week it was moored off Monte Carlo for the Formula One Grand Prix. Every summer Briatore and his wife are regularly seen hosting lavish parties as they cruise the Mediterranean.

A police spokesman said more details of the investigation into the 'contraband use' of Force Blue would be given at a press conference."

UPDATE: Fraser Yachts, as the yacht's management company, released a statement confirming that Force Blue was seized near La Spezia by the Italian Guardia di Finanza. It clarified that the boat's arrest is related to VAT owed on fuel purchased.

Fraser Yachts says: "Fraser Yachts’ team of yacht management and charter experts is in direct contact with the yacht’s Captain on a regular basis and is not aware of any contravention of the legal or financial requirements, as set out by the Italian authorities, by either the owning company, Captain or beneficial owner." The statement goes on to say that current VAT regulations can appear inconsistent and confusing and that this incident looks to be the result of confusion and not of any wrongdoing on the part of the owning company. It also states that Force Blue is chartered 14 weeks a year.

A story on says that the unpaid duty on fuel may run up to €500,000 as non-EU-registered vessels must leave the EU within eight hours of purchasing duty-free fuel. The article also said that four million euros in unpaid VAT may be owed on the yacht as well.

Below is a video of the yacht's arrest.