Multiple websites are reporting that on Friday, the 154-foot ISA motoryacht Axioma was detained by Italian authorities who had received a tip that Russian fugitives were onboard. The yacht was escorted into the port of Lipari, where charter guests were forced to disembark and spend about five hours in the local police barracks before being released, according to the news reports. No arrests were made, and the guests and yacht were released.
I attempted to confirm this information just a few moments ago while speaking with Vanessa Morlot, the charter manager in the Monaco office of Yacht-Zoo, which manages Axioma for charter. She would neither confirm nor deny any of the details that have been reported, saying only that it was "a strange situation" and that "the whole thing should not have happened."
Morlot did confirm that Axioma has resumed a normal charter schedule, with a new group of guests scheduled to board to begin a charter vacation in just a few days.
The following video has surfaced on YouTube of authorities seizing Axioma and escorting last week's charter guests ashore, but the video does not bear the official logo of the Guardia di Finanza, as was the case when the Italian agency seized the 207-foot motoryacht Force Blue on tax evasion charges in May. The video does not appear to be an official accounting of what happened with Axioma, but instead a spectator's witnessing of the event:
I was last onboard Axioma in December 2008, when I wrote this favorable First Impression review. Axioma is a 2006 build that takes up to 12 guests at a lowest weekly base rate of €165,000 and a high-season weekly base rate of €185,000.
July and August are considered "high season" months in the Western Mediterranean, where Axioma was on charter at the time of the incident. Unfortunately for the charter clients involved, none of that charter fee is legally required to be refunded in a situation such as this. As one industry insider put it to me this morning: "It's like when you're driving down the road on the way to an appointment, and the police pull you over in a case of mistaken identity, and you end up missing your appointment for no reason at all. It's just plain bad luck."