Super yacht detained in Vanuatu
One of the world's most glamorous super-yachts has reportedly been arrested in a major Vanuatu police operation investigating money laundering and arms trading.
Polce detained the 75 metre long Phocea that was once owned by a rich Paris socialite who funded her purchase by selling one of the world's biggest diamonds, the Vanuatu Daily Post reports.
Vanuatu police confirmed they launched the operation on Sunday and have arrested four people, including the skipper.
The Post said police would not confirm details the investigation included a ni-Vanuatu cabinet minister and a backbench politician.
Phocea was believed to be involved in smuggling high powered arms, money laundering and breaching related laws of maritime borders, police said.
"A court warrant was issued and a search was conducted and numerous documents in relation to bilateral arrangement and the forging of signatures on official documents were confiscated," police said.
"On board the yacht were 16 crew members including the captain and a Samoan and Tongan.... They (Tongan and Samoan) are now in the hands of the police".
The yacht had sailed from Italy through the Panama Canal, to Tonga and arrived in Vila on Saturday.
Although Phocea is formally flagged to the land-locked duchy of Luxembourg, the Post says it is owned by a Thai national Anh Quan, who became a Vanuatu citizen this year. He is a principal in a company known as Amazonia Of The Pacific which is attempting to market agricultural produce internationally.
Phocea was built in France in 1976 and at the time was the largest yacht in the world.
In 1997, Lebanese businesswoman Mouna Ayoub purchased it for 5.5 million euros (NZ$8.4 million), part founding it by selling a 112 carat diamond. She is reputed to have spent US$20 million refitting the yacht.
The Post says those arrested were due to appear in court in Vila today.
- © Fairfax NZ News