Let’s imagine, for the sake of argument, that you’re a private jet-loving Russian banking billionaire, who just happens to have been apprehended in London and charged with defrauding the IRS on an epic scale.
The Americans are seeking to extradite you and throw you in jail for up to six years, but, having plunked down some small change ($25m) in bail and surrendered your passport, you have escaped the confines of a police cell for now at least, but are banned from leaving London. You also have potentially fatal leukemia, and have just acquired La Datcha, a $150m expedition superyacht.
This is the situation facing beleaguered billionaire Oleg Tinkov. The DoJ says that Tinkov allegedly concealed $1 billion in assets and income when renouncing his U.S. citizenship.
Some might detect a silver lining in the fact that his inability to legally travel beyond London’s orbital motorway due to bail restrictions has drawn less attention than it otherwise might have due to the coronavirus-induced cancellation of this year’s Monaco Yacht Show.
The cancellation of Monaco, the premium potlatch for your garden-variety billionaire, has, like everything else these days, gone remote, and with it the launch of La Datcha, the most hotly anticipated yacht of the year.
The expedition-class, ultra-long-range endurance vessel, which is both luxury yacht and ice breaker, certified to cut through 16 inches of polar ice, has instead been making its debut to the world via series of lowly video calls and Vimeo presentations while its owner fights for his life from a London hospital, and for his freedom from a nearby courtroom.
Although Tinkov visited the yacht while it was under construction at the yard of boat builder Damen, he is not believed to have stepped on board the deck of his hundred-million dollar baby on the open seas, and, if the Americans have their way, won’t do so for a long time yet.
Complete with a double helicopter garage (Tinkov, when not confined to London, is a sports fanatic and avid heli-skier, and the choppers mean La Datcha guests will be able to ski the most remote ski-runs in the world), a submarine, snowmobiles and multiple tenders, the 252-foot-long SeaXplorer expedition yacht is able to remain at sea (or “endure”) for up to 90 days at a time.
It can take its 12 guests and 25 crew quite literally to the ends of the earth and back, in stunning luxury. Should the views of breaching whales from the hot tub on the observation deck become tiresome, an extra-large “beach club” with sauna, steam room, massage, and gym is at the disposal of guests.
One can only imagine Tinkov’s extreme annoyance at not being able to spend a little time there himself, although his Instagram page makes clear that his focus right now, understandably, is on trying to beat his acute leukemia.
Even before he wasn’t able to make it to his own yacht for the launch, and even before he was diagnosed with the potentially fatal disease, Tinkov was not having a good year, even by the decidedly moderate standards of 2020.
He was arrested in February by British cops in London.
Tracking him may have been facilitated by the simple expedient of following his Instagram account, where he was given to posting pictures of himself posing in exotic locations alongside and on board his private jet.
His last such voyage was in late February; according to a report in The Times, he and his family flew from a small aerodrome in southern England to Berlin to celebrate the birthday of his youngest child, a pupil at an English private school.
Shortly after their return to their home in London, however, the long party came to a shuddering halt when Tinkov was arrested on an extradition warrant accusing him of a multimillion-dollar tax fraud in the U.S. relating to Russia’s Tinkoff bank, which he founded and whas since become one of Russia’s biggest retail banks, largely thanks to an efficient and comprehensive suite of online functions.
The indictment alleges that Tinkov filed a statement putting his net worth at $300,000 when he renounced his American citizenship in October 2013 (he became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1996).
It is alleged that as a result of an initial public offering of Tinkoff Credit Systems on the London Stock Exchange three days earlier, Tinkov, the son of a miner and a seamstress, was actually the “beneficial owner” of some $1 billion of the bank’s shares.
Tinkov, via his press officer, declined to comment to The Daily Beast for this story.
The DoJ says the renunciation of his citizenship was a “taxable event” and he should have reported the ownership of the shares—and paid tax on the profit.
Documents hacked and posted online as part of the Panama Papers data dump suggest that it was Tinkov’s love of private jet travel that might have tipped off U.S. investigators to look into his affairs in more detail.
Despite the founder’s woes, the Russian search company Yandex said last month it was buying Tinkoff bank, a transaction which is expected to enlarge Tinkov’s fortune. Forbes reckons he is currently worth some $2.8bn.
How much of that ends up in the pocket of Uncle Sam, of course, remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, industry sources are suggesting that La Datcha may be this year’s most in-demand charter yacht, despite a weekly tariff of $870,000.
In the absence of a dramatic change in Tiknov’s fortunes, it may be available for private hire somewhat more regularly than had originally been anticipated.