The 207-foot motoryacht Force Blue, which Italian authorities seized last month on tax-evasion charges, was released from custody on June 21 and will be allowed to perform yacht charters this summer in Italy and along the Mediterranean coast.
Milan-based Della Silva Communication Consulting, which manages communications for Federagenti, the Italian ship brokers association, says the tax-evasion charges are still pending. The yacht's owner was required to pay a €5 million security deposit in order to secure the yacht's release in time for the charter season. A final judgment on the tax-evasion charges will be made after the current charter season ends.
I confirmed the yacht's release, including the terms, this morning with a charter broker who has a client scheduled to board Force Blue for a charter this summer. Fraser Yachts Worldwide, which manages Force Blue for charter, also confirmed for me today that the yacht has been released. Fraser made no further comment on the details of the report out of Italy.
Force Blue was seized in La Spezia, where Italian officials accused owner Flavio Briatore of evading about €4 million in VAT taxes, as well as at least €250,000 in taxes on fuel. Italy's Guardia di Finanza released this video of the yacht being boarded. At issue is whether Force Blue actually operates as a charter yacht, or whether the owner is claiming incorrectly that the yacht charters in order to gain tax benefits.
Fraser Yachts, which has marketed Force Blue for charter since 2005, released a statement on May 23 that the problem appears to be confusing and inconsistent regulations, as opposed to any wrongdoing by the yacht's owner.
Force Blue is currently promoted as taking 12 guests at a weekly base rate of €255,000 in the Mediterranean. At the time Fraser released its statement last month, the industry's MYBAnet database showed four charter bookings scheduled aboard Force Blue this summer in the Mediterranean.