Russian billionaire’s superyacht built using illegal Burmese teak

Photo: Wikimedia Commons / KarleHorn & Waldi
Photo: Wikimedia Commons / KarleHorn & Waldi

A German shipyard has built a super-fancy superyacht for a Russian billionaire using illegal timber from Myanmar, claims a senior prosecutor in the German town of Kiel.

Prosecutor Alex Bieler is leading the investigation of the construction of Sailing Yacht A – one of the largest sailing yachts in the world – which was commissioned by Russian fertilizer tycoon Andrey Melnichenko and was built by the Nobiskrug shipyard at a cost of around £300 million.

Bieler says Nobiskrug bought teak wood from the Myanmar Timber Enterprise – a state-run company whose lack of transparency prompted the Danish government to sanction the entire Myanmar teak industry last month.

Expert analysis of the wood used to build Sailing Yacht A found that the wood was not sourced from a legal plantation.

Nobiskrug confirmed to Bieler that Myanmar teak had been used as decking on the yacht but claimed to have no knowledge of its illegal sourcing.

The German prosecutor’s investigation of the 150-meter-long yacht follows a previous investigation of nine European teak suppliers by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), which ended in October 2016. The EIA at the time “identified a shipment of 1,278 pieces of teak costing €174,750 being used aboard the yacht. This was one of many shipments from Myanmar by [Spanish supplier] Teak Solutions, imported in direct violation of the European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR).”

The CEO of Teak Solutions maintains that teak sourced through the the Myanmar Timber Enterprise is legal.

Nobiskrug recently told a German newspaper that it is cooperating with Beiler’s investigation, which is ongoing.

“In simple terms, no teak from Myanmar can legally be placed on the EU market due to the high risk of illegality associated with timber from that country and the lack of transparency by its Government to allow access to information that might demonstrate compliance,” said EIA Forests Campaigner Peter Cooper.

The superyacht also made headlines in February when it was impounded in Gibraltar over claims that Melnichenko, the billionaire owner, failed to pay Nobiskrug €15.3 million. The dispute was quickly settled.

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