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Mercantile and Maritime acquires YPI

Yachting Partners International

Mercantile and Maritime acquires Yachting Partners International from BRS Group

Mercantile & Maritime Investments, the investment division of the Mercantile & Maritime Group, has today announced the acquisition of Yachting Partners International from the BRS Group.

YPI is a boutique luxury yacht brokerage, offering personalised yacht sales, charter and management services to high net worth individuals across the globe. It is one of the world’s oldest full-service yacht brokerages with 47 years of heritage and expertise in bespoke luxury.

The acquisition by MMI injects new investment and vision into the company, enabling the business to continue evolving its model as it seeks to disrupt the yacht brokering market through a data-led and personalised service. The business currently holds one of the most extensive online databases in the yachting world.

Commenting on the acquisition, Mr Simon Murray, Chairman at Mercantile & Maritime Investments said: “We are excited to welcome YPI into the group. With expertise in bespoke luxury and data-led intelligence and a client-first commitment, YPI is positioning itself at the forefront of next generation yachting.”

The global yacht industry is projected to reach US$74.7 billion by 2022, driven by the rising interest in luxury yachting experiences among high net worth and ultra-high net worth individuals particularly in developing regions of Asia-Pacific and the Middle East.

A spokesperson for YPI said: “This investment marks an exciting new chapter of growth for YPI. The Mercantile and Maritime Group has an extensive global network and a wealth of experience in the maritime sector and we look forward to developing the business together with them going forward.”

The Mercantile and Maritime Group is an experienced investor and operator in the maritime sector. Operating principally across the oil and gas value chain, MM has made significant investments in a range of other sectors in recent years, including luxury, commercial and residential real estate, technology, transport and distribution.

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yachting partners international dubai

Iconic yachts: Inside the build of 162m superyacht Dubai

Related articles, superyacht directory.

The creation of the iconic yacht Dubai was far from straightforward, with the build changing hands three times. Dubai was the largest yacht in the world by volume at the time of her build, with a gross tonnage of 12,488GT. She was originally intended for one royal family but went on to be used by another royal entirely. Commissioned by the Sultan of Brunei’s brother, Prince Jefri Bolkiah, Dubai started her life in Germany with naval architecture developed by Blohm+Voss (now part of Lürssen Yachts ), while design came from the UK’s Winch Design . In 1998, the project rolled to a standstill, with work completed on only the steel hull and part of the aluminium superstructure. The project was lying on a covered floating dock at the Blohm+Voss yard, and liquidators went out into the market to find potential buyers.

  • Iconic yachts: The story of Steve Jobs's Feadship superyacht Venus

Her name gives the next part of the story away: the partially built yacht was sold to the Dubai government. “Once Jefri fell out with his brothers, his assets were seized, including the yacht which was at early stage of construction,” explains Kostis Antonopoulos, the former managing director of Platinum Yachts, which eventually oversaw the build of Dubai . “In fact, at that time I was working at SETE of Latsis group and we offered for the project, but Dubai offered more and they got it.”

Initially, the Dubai government assigned the build project to Karam Sadikoglou in Turkey. The dock, partially built yacht and containers holding equipment such as main engines and generators were sent to Sadikoglou’s facility in Turkey. However, progress was slow, and the Dubai government demanded the project be transferred to the UAE. With progress still slow and costs skyrocketing, Sadikoglou left the project. Antonopoulos was brought in to finish the build under the banner of Platinum Yachts , a subsidiary of Dubai World. The project had almost 800 people working on it, not including the hundreds of subcontractors. Antonopoulos’s job wouldn’t be an easy one – he had to reorganise the structure of the build team, restore confidence in the project and gain the confidence of the Palace. Sultan bin Sulayem, the chairman of Dubai World, served as the in-between for the owner and yard.

  • Iconic yachts: Inside the story of Lürssen's 114.5m superyacht Pelorus

“The design of Dubai was quite ahead of its time, and although she had an enormous size the design did not flirt at all with the shapes of cruise ships,” says Antonopoulos. “And except for the hull, the rest was built and outfitted by people who had no idea what a yacht looked like.” Antonopoulos flew employees to the Monaco Yacht Show so they could see the details that make a superyacht. “It was great experience for them and a quantum leap to their knowledge and understanding,” he says.

  • Iconic yachts: Inside Lürssen's 90.1m eco explorer yacht Ice

The interior design was completed in-house by Platinum, and most of the build-out was by local contractors in Dubai. “The brief was simple: the owner wanted a floating Burj Al Arab – and he got it,” says Antonopoulos of the colourful interior which he describes as an “attack” on the senses. There are many custom details, such as the handmade tiles in the swimming pool, which are lit up by embedded optical fibres. Her massive volume afforded space for 48 guests and 88 crew. Dubai also had a cinema , disco, helideck , and a garage holding a submarine and a variety of toys.

  • Iconic yachts: Inside the design journey of the 138 metre Lürssen superyacht Rising Sun

As Dubai was built for a royal, security was a priority. “I asked a computer security firm to hack the yacht’s network , and while we thought that we had a very secure ship, the guys hacked it in 30 minutes! Of course, we redesigned the security,” says Antonopoulos. Another day, the owner came on board and discovered the lower decks did not have a clear GSM signal, so ceilings had to be ripped apart to add repeaters. Challenges to make the yacht SOLAS compliant were resolved by sending materials for lab tests to obtain class approvals.

Antonopoulos, who currently serves as managing director of Samos Steamship Co, looks back fondly at his time working on the build of the iconic yacht Dubai . “I enjoyed building a really good team,” he says. “When I arrived, the people in the project were working in isolation and there were competing teams… I managed to bring them together and make them understand that by cooperation and teamwork we can not only achieve successful completion of the yacht but we can also enjoy our time together!”

  • Iconic yachts: Inside the story of Lürssen's legendary 98m Carinthia VII

It’s been quite a while since the royally iconic yacht Dubai was finally launched in 2006, but Antonopoulos says she stands the test of time. “I think her design is timeless and she can even be considered a classic now.” Dubai sails under the UAE flag and is known to be an active yacht, recently spotted cruising in the waters off her namesake city.

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yachting partners international dubai

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65  Crewed Luxury Yachts for Charter in Dubai

Dubai Yacht Charters

Dubai is fast becoming one of the world’s most popular charter yacht destinations and is already a major superyacht centre in the Middle East . Leading the way in luxury living, it is renowned the world over for its glamorous bars and restaurants, and world-class five-star resorts.

Luxury yacht charters in Dubai With state of the art marinas and harbours providing all of the necessary facilities, Dubai and the Arabian Gulf are perfectly prepared to meet the demands of visiting superyachts. Presenting a wealth of once in a lifetime opportunities, charter guests who head to this part of the Arabian Gulf are able to combine their cruising with desert safaris, dune surfing, and shopping in some of the world’s best boutiques. Committed to raising the profile of this outstanding destination, organisers at the Dubai World Trade Centre put together the International Dubai Boat Show each March. Debuting in 2008, the show has grown in popularity and has ultimately helped to awareness of the rich selection of yachts available to charter in Dubai and the Gulf region.

Dubai Yacht Charter Guide Chartering a private yacht in Dubai allows you to experience the unique glamour of its cosmopolitan social scene whilst marvelling at its modern architectural wonders. Indeed, with a diverse range of attractions on offer, charter guests are able to spend their time moving between iconic hotspots and hidden gems once they’ve stepped off their yacht. From the landmark Burj Khalifa to the Burj Al-Arab – the world’s largest hotel – time spent around Dubai is time spent experiencing an altogether new world. For a quieter time, the Heritage Village in Shindagha replicates a traditional oasis village to provide some insight into the fascinating origins of the United Arab Emirates . Similarly, the exclusive Vox Outdoor Rooftop Cinema above the Galleria Mall in Jumeirah promises to treat moviegoers to an unforgettable night out. With each of these attractions easily accessible from Dubai’s marinas, charter guests can expect to enjoy this destination with ease.

Yacht charter itineraries in Dubai Taking advantage of the contrast between urban and natural landscapes which comprise Dubai, a yacht charter itinerary can be designed to transport charter guests through all the destination has to offer. One way of doing this is to visit the natural parks around Oman as well as the Musandam Fjords. A Dubai charter itinerary can also incorporate the world-famous Abu Dhabi Grand Prix which is held every November in the exclusive Yas Marina. The Formula 1 race offers is perfect for an event or corporate yacht charter, with trackside views of the action as it unfolds from the comfort of a private luxury yacht.

Planning a yacht charter in Dubai To plan a luxury crewed yacht charter in Dubai, begin by viewing and comparing all of the superyachts listed below before reaching out to your preferred charter broker . They will be able to inform you of the current availability of your chosen superyacht as well as providing recommendations about the best time to visit this remarkable destination.

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Crewed Charter Yachts in Dubai

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Cloudbreak Yacht Charter in Dubai

75m   Abeking & Rasmussen

from $815,000 p/week ♦︎

Bold Yacht Charter in Dubai

Flying Fox 22

136m Lurssen

136m   2019

from $4,345,000 p/w eek ♦︎

Moonlight II Yacht Charter in Dubai

Moonlight II 36

91m Neorion

91m   2005/2020

from $701,000 p/w eek ♦︎

Lauren L Yacht Charter in Dubai

Lauren L 36

90m Cassens-Werft

90m   2002/2008

from $755,000 p/w eek ♦︎ *

Project X Yacht Charter in Dubai

Project X 12

88m Golden Yachts

from $1,195,000 p/w eek ♦︎

Chakra Yacht Charter in Dubai

86m Scheepswerf Gebr. van der Werf

86m   1998/2024

from $538,000 p/w eek ♦︎

Sunrays Yacht Charter in Dubai

86m Oceanco

86m   2010/2018

from $1,242,000 p/w eek ♦︎

Bold Yacht Charter in Dubai

85m SilverYachts

from $950,000 p/w eek ♦︎

Solandge Yacht Charter in Dubai

Solandge 12

85m Lurssen

85m   2013/2022

from $1,080,000 p/w eek ♦︎

Romea Yacht Charter in Dubai

82m Abeking & Rasmussen

82m   2015/2021

Cloudbreak Yacht Charter in Dubai

Cloudbreak 22 6 12

75m Abeking & Rasmussen

from $815,000 p/w eek ♦︎

Lady Vera Yacht Charter in Dubai

Lady Vera 12

74m Nobiskrug

74m   2011/2023

from $760,000 p/w eek ♦︎

Bleu De Nimes Yacht Charter in Dubai

Bleu De Nimes 28

72m Clelands Shipbuilding Co

72m   1980/2020

from $532,000 p/w eek ♦︎

Stella Maris Yacht Charter in Dubai

Stella Maris 12

72m Viareggio SuperYachts

72m   2015/2018

from $650,000 p/w eek

Serenity Yacht Charter in Dubai

Serenity 28

72m   2004/2017

from $597,000 p/w eek ♦︎

Polestar Yacht Charter in Dubai

Polestar 12

70m Rossinavi

from $782,000 p/w eek ♦︎

Nomad Yacht Charter in Dubai

69m Oceanfast

69m   2003/2020

from $413,000 p/w eek ♦︎

Wayfinder Yacht Charter in Dubai

Wayfinder 12

68m Astilleros Armon

from $375,000 p/w eek

Silver Angel Yacht Charter in Dubai

Silver Angel 12

65m Benetti

65m   2009/2015

from $425,000 p/w eek

Running On Waves Yacht Charter in Dubai

Running On Waves 42

64m Segel Masten Yachten

64m   2011/2021

from $114,000 p/w eek ♦︎

Isabell Princess of The Sea Yacht Charter in Dubai

Isabell Princess of The Sea 12

64m Codecasa

64m   1990/2023

from $315,000 p/w eek ♦︎

Katina Yacht Charter in Dubai

60m Brodosplit

60m   2015/2017

from $245,000 p/w eek

IDyllic Yacht Charter in Dubai

59m Benetti

59m   2008/2022

Geco Yacht Charter in Dubai

55m Admiral Yachts

from $364,000 p/w eek ♦︎

Warsan Yacht Charter in Dubai

55m   2008/2010

Purpose Yacht Charter in Dubai

55m Trinity Yachts

55m   2006/2023

from $293,000 p/w eek ♦︎

Burkut Yacht Charter in Dubai

54m Baglietto

54m   2009/2012

Mia Rama Yacht Charter in Dubai

Mia Rama 12

54m Golden Yachts

from $272,000 p/w eek ♦︎

Wind of Fortune Yacht Charter in Dubai

Wind of Fortune 12

52m   1981/2020

from $137,000 p/w eek ♦︎

Vertigo Yacht Charter in Dubai

52m Golden Yachts

52m   2007/2020

from $179,000 p/w eek ♦︎

Moka Yacht Charter in Dubai

51m Miss Tor Yacht

51m   2013/2020

from $255,000 p/w eek ♦︎

Code 8 Yacht Charter in Dubai

50m Benetti

50m   1995/2016

from $305,000 p/w eek

Elena V Yacht Charter in Dubai

50m Codecasa

50m   2004/2019

from $212,000 p/w eek ♦︎

Rocket Yacht Charter in Dubai

50m   2011/2021

from $250,000 p/w eek ♦︎

Para Bellum Yacht Charter in Dubai

Para Bellum 11

47m Sanlorenzo

from $326,000 p/w eek ♦︎

Asya Yacht Charter in Dubai

from $261,000 p/w eek ♦︎

Reve D'or Yacht Charter in Dubai

Reve D'or 12

46m Sanlorenzo

46m   2011/2017

from $194,000 p/w eek ♦︎

My Little Violet Yacht Charter in Dubai

My Little Violet 10

46m Abeking & Rasmussen

from $196,000 p/w eek ♦︎

Something Cool Yacht Charter in Dubai

Something Cool 12

45m   1981/2023

from $91,000 p/w eek ♦︎

Bliss Yacht Charter in Dubai

44m   2007/2024

from $211,000 p/w eek ♦︎ *

Stardom Yacht Charter in Dubai

43m Al Shahali Marine

AK Royalty Yacht Charter in Dubai

AK Royalty 12

41m Palmer Johnson

41m   2009/2023

from $122,000 p/w eek ♦︎

Ocean Emerald Yacht Charter in Dubai

Ocean Emerald 12

41m Rodriquez Yachts

41m   2006/2015

from $103,000 p/w eek ♦︎

Indigo Star I Yacht Charter in Dubai

Indigo Star I 10

38m Siar & Moschini

38m   1995/2018

from $96,000 p/w eek ♦︎

Babylon Yacht Charter in Dubai

38m Rodriquez Yachts

38m   2005/2024

from $152,500 p/w eek

DXB Yacht Charter in Dubai

35m Benetti

35m   2003/2022

from $98,000 p/w eek ♦︎

Dolce Vita Yacht Charter in Dubai

Dolce Vita 8

32m Numarine

from $53,000 p/w eek ♦︎

Medusa Yacht Charter in Dubai

31m   2001/2017

from $70,000 p/w eek ♦︎

Time Out Umm Qassar Yacht Charter in Dubai

Time Out Umm Qassar 8

30m Overmarine

30m   1996/2016

UD30 Yacht Charter in Dubai

29m Sunseeker

29m   2003/2022

Empros 100 Yacht Charter in Dubai

Empros 100 15

New Edge Yacht Charter in Dubai

New Edge 10

28m Sunseeker

28m   2019/2023

from $80,000 p/w eek

Notorious Yacht Charter in Dubai

Notorious 8

28m   2008/2022

from $76,500 p/w eek

Xclusive XVI Yacht Charter in Dubai

Xclusive XVI

Majesty 88 Yacht Charter in Dubai

Majesty 88 8

27m Gulf Craft

Xclusive II Yacht Charter in Dubai

Xclusive II

26m Gulf Craft

Duretti 85 Yacht Charter in Dubai

Duretti 85 6

26m Duretti

Lady Bella Yacht Charter in Dubai

Lady Bella 6

Serdal Yacht Charter in Dubai

26m De Birs Yachts

from $65,000 p/w eek

Bella III Yacht Charter in Dubai

Bella III 8

24m Ferretti Yachts

Black Magic Yacht Charter in Dubai

Black Magic 6

23m Leonard

23m   2007/2023

from $29,000 p/w eek ♦︎

Fos Yacht Charter in Dubai

22m Sanlorenzo

from $24,000 p/w eek ♦︎

Seazen II Yacht Charter in Dubai

Seazen II 9

21m Sunreef Yachts

21m   2008/2023

from $32,000 p/w eek ♦︎

Fat Boy Yacht Charter in Dubai

from $57,000 p/w eek ♦︎

Java Yacht Charter in Dubai

20m Sunseeker

20m   2003/2018

from $20,000 p/w eek ♦︎

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At YACHT PARTNERS , our mission is to be trusted, transparent, and expert partners for consumers with a passion for yachting. We offer elite brokerage services, specializing in the sale of new yachts, used yachts and tenders.

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Annual Dubai Boat Show Leisure Yachting Conference Highlights Regional Outperformance — 2024

Annual Dubai Boat Show Leisure Yachting Conference Highlights Regional Outperformance — 2024

The Annual Dubai Boat Show Leisure Yachting Conference marks the beginning of the Dubai International Boat Show , attracting more than 200 leaders from the global maritime industry. They convene to delve into topics such as innovation, regulation, sustainability, and the future of our seas. Register your interest for 2025 and engage in these pivotal discussions.

BOAT SHOW DUBAI

Our Speakers

yachting partners international dubai

Martin Redmayne

Chairman & editor-in-chief, the superyacht group.

yachting partners international dubai

Yousuf Lootah

Acting ceo of corporate strategy & performance, dubai department of tourism & tourism.

yachting partners international dubai

Guillermo Canellas Vears

Head of asset management, neom.

yachting partners international dubai

Chief Port Officer, Galataport Istanbul President, MedCruise

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Anastazja Kociolkowska

Business development manager, burgess.

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Artur Poloczanski

Public relations director, sunreef yachts .

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Michael Stusch

Executive chairman & ceo, h2.

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Xavier Bouin

Founder & ceo, tan services.

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Sophianna Bergonzi

Founder, yachtllywood media.

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Jad Zakkak Migliorini

Europe head of sales & delivery operations – head of marketing, azimut yachts, remove --> 8:30 registration, meet & greet session/peer-to-peer coaction.

MASTER OF CEREMONY:

  • Sharifah AlEssa , Founder, Creative Creators

remove --> 9:15 SETTING THE SCENE

  • HE Saeed Mohammed Hareb, Secretary General, Dubai Sports Council , and Senior Advisor, Dubai Boat Show
  • Trixie LohMirmand, EVP, Dubai World Trade Centre

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Government initiatives have propelled the region into a global yachting paradise. The crown jewel Dubai Reef, the world’s largest artificial reef, stands as a beacon of sustainability. Powered by 100%renewable energy, it is drawing yachters and divers alike with its promise of eco-friendly cruising. Other high-profile attractions such as Ras Al Khaimah’s multi-billion dollar hospitality project as well as Saudi Vision 2030’s $2bn Amaala Yacht Club and NEOM’s Sindalah Island set to be another yachting hub in the Red Sea, are defining new standards of luxury and leisure.

The Gulf’s strategic location also offers access to major events; Saudi, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the Dubai SailGP. These, along with improved facilities and eased regulations, make the Gulf an enticing choice for marine tourism. This is a $5.7bn market that is expected to reach almost $12.3bn by 2027, driven by increased demand from better-informed and a more tech-savvy younger generation inbound tourism boosted by leisure, international brands with dedicated offerings and the development of new luxury malls. Therein lies the opportunity. The conversation among visionary dignitaries will evolve around exploring the Arabian Gulf as the new alluring destination for marine tourism.

  • Martin Redmayne, Chairman & Editor-in-Chief, The Superyacht Group

CONTRIBUTORS:

  • Yousuf Lootah, Acting CEO, Corporate Strategy & Performance, Dubai Department of Economy & Tourism
  • Guilermo Canellas Vears, Head of Asset Management, NEOM
  • Figen Ayan, Chief Port Officer, Galataport Istanbul , President, MedCruise
  • Hamza Mustafa , COO, Port Rashid DP World
  • Omar Khoory , Chief Assets Officer, Nakheel

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Everything we do – from what we build to how we build it to how we support it – is to make your life on the water easier. When you have enough systems running to worry about, your water maker or purifier should not be one of them.

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Dubai International Boat Show and The International Yachting Media: media partnership agreement signed for the second year in a row.

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Dubai International Boat Show and The International Yachting Media: media partnership agreement signed today

An important agreement was signed today between the Dubai International Boat Show and The International Yachting Media . The DIBS – that’s the acronym for the boat show – registered a very successful 2023 edition and, anticipating a further increase in visitors and shipyards for the edition starting in a few weeks, it could only call for the support and media coverage of The International Yachting Media, which, with its 6 magazines, 17 international editions and the renowned Boating News App , is the most widely read digital yachting publisher in the world.

The-International-Yachting-Media

Journalists of our group’s six digital publications, which disseminate yachting information around the world, will therefore follow the show from February 28 to March 3, report on it in real time through articles, photos and videos and chronicle everything that will happen at this luxurious exposition, providing the show with maximum media coverage of news related to shipyards, boats , accessories and marine services and technologies.

For The International Yachting Media , a group founded in 2014 by Luca D’Ambrosio, the media partnership with Dubai International Boat Show represents a further element of prestige in a period full of achievements and successes that has seen the group acquire YACHTDIGEST.COM , launch the German editions of SUPERYACHTS and YACHTING NEWS and launch its presence in the metaverse with YACHTING METAVERSE .

Middle East Leisure Yachting Conference

The Middle East Leisure Yachting Conference is a prestigious annual conference that, held the day before the opening of the boat show, inaugurates each edition of the Dubai International Boat Show, bringing together more than 100 world leaders in the industry, who are called upon to discuss in depth industry innovation, regulation, sustainability and the future of the seas. Moderator of one of the sessions of this important event, moreover, will be Luca D’Ambrosio himself, our founder, who will be entrusted with the debate on the future of the different forms of yacht purchasing and the profiles of new owners, those entering the boating world for the first time.

LINK TO THE CONFERENCE PAGE

MIDDLE EAST YACHTING CONFERENCE

Dubai International Boat Show

The Dubai International Boat Show, to be held from February 28 to March 3, 2024 at Dubai Harbour , is a unique boat show. Capable of gathering a large number of yachts and superyachts from all over the world, it is the largest boat show in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) , the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Middle East.

Whether you want to buy a boat, visit large luxury superyachts, test the latest jet skis or explore the latest water and underwater innovations, the Dubai International Boat Show is the ultimate event to introduce you to it all.

Dubai is a renowned and very special tourist destination. You can visit the highest skyscrapers on earth or stay in the most luxurious hotels in the world. In Dubai, the place where anything is possible, you can even ski when temperatures approach 50° or swim 300 meters above sea level in the infinity pool at the Address Beach Resort.

LINK TO THE BOAT SHOW WEBSITE

LUXURY CARS AT DUBAI INTERNATIONAL BOAT SHOW

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Yachting Malta

Yachting Malta Returns to Dubai International Boat Show with Expanded Presence and Key Industry Collaborations

Yachting Malta will once again be present at the prestigious Dubai International Boat Show for the second consecutive year. 

Building upon the success of their inaugural presence, Yachting Malta returns with an even more prominent stand and an expanded crew, poised to showcase the best of Malta’s yachting industry on the global stage.

In 2024, Yachting Malta will be collaborating with Malta Enterprise and the Malta Tourism Authority as well as the Maltese Embassy for the UAE, with whom a dynamic programme of high-level meetings for the Maltese delegation will be organised. This strategic partnership underscores Yachting Malta’s commitment to fostering strong ties between Malta and the UAE, particularly within the maritime industry.

The Dubai International Boat Show serves as a pivotal platform for industry leaders to converge, exchange ideas, and explore opportunities within the maritime sector. Yachting Malta recognizes the significance of this event and is committed to leveraging it to promote Malta as a premier yachting destination and a hub for maritime excellence.

Yachting Malta has forged strategic partnerships with key industry stakeholders, offering them the unique opportunity to showcase their services alongside Yachting Malta.. This collaboration underscores Yachting Malta’s dedication to fostering synergy within the industry and creating a cohesive ecosystem that benefits all stakeholders.

Speaking about their participation, Michael Mifsud, CEO of Yachting Malta, stated, “ We are thrilled to return to the Dubai International Boat Show, this time with an expanded presence and valuable collaborations with industry partners. This event presents an unparalleled platform to showcase Malta’s thriving yachting sector and to forge new connections within the global maritime community.”

Joining forces with Yachting Malta on stand MLL 104 will be representatives from  Camilleri Marine, Chaudron Powerboats, CSR, DF Advocates, KSi Malta,  Maritime MT, Mediterranean Maritime Hub, Melita Maritime Group, St. Julian’s Maritime Finance, Yacht Hub Group, Yachting Partners, and Yakof Agius &Associates.

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CRYPTOCURRENCY

Leaked dubai property files link luxury flats to onecoin crypto scammers.

The Dubai Unlocked investigation shows how the emirate became a refuge for self-proclaimed “Cryptoqueen” Ruja Ignatova and nearly a dozen of her associates, even as the United Arab Emirates sought to clean up its image as a haven for criminals and fraudsters.

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I n the spring of 2015, accused Bulgarian cryptocurrency fraudster Ruja Ignatova was amassing a fortune by selling fake digital currency.

The entrepreneur had recently founded OneCoin, a Sofia-based firm that purported to issue a cryptocurrency that she declared would be “the number one” worldwide. International investigators would later link it to a $4 billion pyramid scheme with more than 3.5 million victims around the world.

As she was getting ready to launch her business in the U.S. and potentially entice more unsuspecting investors, Ignatova and some of her associates settled in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates’ financial hub.

yachting partners international dubai

There she incorporated shell companies and opened bank accounts to receive and allegedly launder money wired from OneCoin investors. She set up and managed a hair- and body-care salon called Kings & Queens with two of her OneCoin associates, documents obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists show. She listed as company offices two units in a building near Dubai Marina. And she used a Dubai shell company to buy a $2.7 million penthouse apartment on the top floor of a skyscraper overlooking Palm Jumeirah, an archipelago of artificial islands in the Persian Gulf, according to the documents reviewed by ICIJ.

Now newly leaked confidential Dubai land records shine a light on the role Dubai plays for criminals and suspects such as Ignatova and her cronies, many of whom are serving lengthy prison sentences or are on the run from international law enforcement. Ignatova, who called herself the “Cryptoqueen,” went missing in 2018 shortly after U.S. authorities issued a warrant for her arrest.

The Dubai records were obtained by the Center for Advanced Defense Studies (C4ADS), a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization that analyzes data on transnational security matters. C4ADS shared the data with ICIJ and more than 70 media outlets as part of the Dubai Unlocked investigation coordinated by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and Norwegian financial outlet E24.

The property records at the heart of Dubai Unlocked come from multiple leaks totaling more than 100 datasets, mostly from the Dubai Land Department, plus publicly owned utility companies.

The new investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and more than 70 media partners, led by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project , shows how one of the Middle East’s most exclusive real estate markets became a hot spot for ill-gotten wealth. The data was obtained by the U.S. nonprofit Center for Advanced Defense Studies and shared with Norwegian news outlet E24 , then ICIJ and other partners.

Taken together, the leaked property records, mostly from 2020 and 2022, provide a detailed overview of hundreds of thousands of properties in Dubai and information about their ownership or usage. Economists at the EU Tax Observatory and Norway’s Centre for Tax Research who analyzed the data estimated foreign-owned residential properties in Dubai were worth $160 billion in 2022.

ICIJ and its partners used identifying information — such as names, nationalities, dates of birth and passport numbers — to confirm ownership. Reporters also obtained the deeds for some of the properties from the Dubai Land Department. A second tranche of property and transaction data from Dubai reveals additional information about the buying and selling of properties as well as rental incomes.

Dubai Unlocked is part two of a cross-border investigation into Dubai real estate purchased with illicit funds. ICIJ did not participate in part one of the project, Dubai Uncovered, published in May 2022.

The most recent dataset is dated 2022 and has information on Dubai property owners, from wealthy businesspeople and family members of prominent politicians to most-wanted criminals.

Many members of the international reporting team (but not ICIJ) previously analyzed Dubai’s 2020 land data and found that property owners included more than 100 members of Russia’s political elite, public officials or businesspeople close to the Kremlin, as well as dozens of Europeans implicated in money laundering and corruption cases.

According to the Dubai records and other corporate filings reviewed by ICIJ, in March 2015, Ignatova set up a Dubai company called Oceana Properties Ltd. and used it to buy the luxurious 5,303-square-foot flat in the Oceana Pacific building where she officially resided.

In 2017, as the U.S. Justice Department sought to indict her on fraud and money laundering charges, Ignatova closed down OneCoin’s Dubai companies and her beauty salon. Then, within days of her indictment and issuance of an arrest warrant on Oct. 12 that year, she boarded a plane to Athens and disappeared.

According to ICIJ’s media partner Bird , files seized by Sofia police during a search of a slain police officer’s home appear to show that Ignatova was later killed on a yacht in Greece on the order of a Bulgarian mafia boss. But some news outlets have questioned that account.

In 2019, after several banks flagged transactions involving the “Cryptoqueen” and her companies as suspicious , Ignatova’s company Oceana Properties finalized the sale of her luxurious Dubai flat. A title deed obtained by ICIJ’s partner Paper Trail Media shows that a young British lawyer bought the apartment for about $1.6 million. It is not clear who handled the sale on behalf of Ignatova and pocketed the money. The lawyer who bought the property did not respond to reporters’ questions.

Ignatova remains on the FBI’s list of most wanted fugitives. The agency considers her to be alive “until there is documented evidence that she is dead,” a spokesperson told ICIJ.

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Overall, the findings show how Dubai remains an attractive destination both for foreigners who want to invest in real estate in a low-tax jurisdiction and for money launderers who benefit from some local real estate agents’ “no-questions-asked” policy. Real estate investments also allow foreigners to obtain UAE residency if they buy one or more properties worth at least $545,000.

According to Jodi Vittori, a Georgetown University professor and illicit-finance expert, rules around property purchases in the UAE are more lax than those in other jurisdictions.

News investigations have repeatedly shown that property developers “were willing to take all-cash purchases; they would facilitate crypto purchases,” Vittori said. “It seemed that they were quite open to taking money from anybody and there weren’t very many rules of how to do that.”

The UAE authorities did not respond to the reporters’ specific questions but defended the country’s commitment to the fight against financial crimes. In an emailed statement to ICIJ’s British media partner, The Times, an official with the UAE’s British embassy said that the “UAE takes its role in protecting the integrity of the global financial system extremely seriously,” and that the country “works closely with international partners to disrupt and deter all forms of illicit finance.”

Clean reputation

The Dubai Unlocked revelations come as the UAE tries to clean up its image as a hub for illicit transactions. Numerous investigations and media reports have linked its banks, lax incorporation rules and free-trade zones to sanctioned individuals, corrupt politicians and gold and drug traffickers.

In 2022, the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force, an inter-governmental body that sets standards to combat financial crime, added the country to a list of jurisdictions under scrutiny for flaws in their anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism financing system. But early this year, the task force announced it had removed the UAE from the “gray list” in light of “ significant progress ,” including better cooperation with international anti-money laundering investigations. The task force acted at the urging of Germany, the U.S. and other Western countries despite concerns voiced by its own monitors for the UAE about the reliability of information provided by the government, according to Politico .

The fraud in Dubai is bigger than ever. — Jonathan Levy, a lawyer representing OneCoin fraud victims

Soon after, the European Commission sought to remove the UAE from the EU’s own list of countries at high risk of money laundering, but the European Parliament blocked that proposal in April, citing “important and recent” evidence that the UAE facilitates financial crimes and the evasion of sanctions.

Unlike other notoriously secretive jurisdictions such as the British Virgin Islands, the UAE’s role as a critical military ally of the U.S. and a bulwark against terrorism in the Middle East have shielded the country from a greater degree of scrutiny by Western powers, according to some experts .

Vittori said she was “disappointed” but unsurprised that the UAE was removed from the list, owing to its political significance in the Middle East and zealous reputation-laundering efforts.

“That gives them a capability to avoid a lot of international scrutiny that a lot of other countries that weren’t so astute and didn’t have so much oil money and didn’t use it so well would be capable of,” Vittori said.

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Fugitives and criminals

The review of Dubai land records by ICIJ and its media partners raises questions over the UAE’s commitment to implementing the reforms it promised to the global task force.

Like Ignatova, at least 11 of her associates owned some of Dubai’s most exclusive properties over the last nine years, the confidential data show. The buyers included OneCoin’s co-founder Karl Sebastian Greenwood, who is serving a 20-year sentence in the U.S. for his involvement in the OneCoin scheme; and Kari Wahlroos, a Finnish businessman who presented himself as OneCoin’s “European ambassador” at promotional events organized by the company. Greenwood declined to answer ICIJ partners’ questions. Wahlroos has not been charged. Asked about the properties in the leaked data, he confirmed to Finnish broadcaster YLE in a recent phone interview that he owned several apartments in Dubai. He also said he was on “really good terms” with Ignatova, but denied knowing that the company was used to launder money, as alleged by prosecutors. “I’ve never had a penny to do with OneCoin itself,” Wahlroos said.

  • Contact ICIJ

Do you have a story about corruption, fraud, or abuse of power?

Another OneCoin insider and Dubai property owner was Ignatova’s security counselor Frank Schneider, a Luxembourg national and former spy who escaped house arrest in France and is currently wanted by law enforcement.

Schneider owned a three-bedroom flat on the outer crescent of Palm Jumeirah, the Dubai land data show. According to Luxembourg magazine Reporter.lu and Swedish television broadcaster SVT, both ICIJ partners, Schneider sold his apartment in January 2022 while he was detained in France waiting to be extradited to the U.S. In 2023, he fled house arrest and became a fugitive.

Jonathan Levy, a London-based lawyer representing OneCoin fraud victims, says Dubai provided a haven for fraudsters and washes its hands of responsibility for their victims.

“The fraud in Dubai is bigger than ever,” said Levy. “There’s no government entity that would actually ever intervene on behalf of victims in a case like this.”

Maj. Sauod Almutawa, who works for the Dubai Police’s anti-money laundering unit, rejected any allegations that the UAE ー and Dubai in particular ー is a hub for financial crimes.

“Dubai is not a safe haven for illicit funds [and] for illicit actors,” Almutawa said in an interview with SVT.

Ruja Ignatova, pictured in the above wanted poster, is seen giving a speech at the OneCoin’s Wembley Arena event for investors pic.twitter.com/ggx5NazryM — US Attorney SDNY (@SDNYnews) June 30, 2022

He added that the UAE authorities are “aware” of the risk posed by criminals and illicit proceeds flowing from foreign jurisdictions to the country. That’s why they are “super confident” that their response to cooperation requests from foreign law enforcement agencies is fast and well “beyond international standards,” he said. “As an assurance to our friends and strategic partners internationally, we will even continue to improve and bolster our international cooperation,” Almutawa said.

Besides the OneCoin fraudsters, the 2022 data reveal that dozens of criminals, including mafia bosses and individuals sanctioned for financing al-Qaida and other terrorist groups, bought luxurious flats, commercial real estate and parking lots in the Persian Gulf’s financial hub. Among them are Daniel Kinahan, a former boxing promoter who is accused by Irish and U.S. authorities of running a deadly global drug cartel from the UAE, and his wife, Caoimhe Robinson.

The dataset lists passport numbers, building names, room descriptions and other details of flats and commercial properties owned by individuals and companies. ICIJ and reporters participating in the Dubai Unlocked investigation cross-referenced the property data with the UAE registry of sale transactions from 1990 to 2023.

The records also show that even individuals who are the subject of an Interpol red notice — a request for a country to provisionally arrest someone — can be property owners in Dubai. For example, Isabel dos Santos, the wealthy daughter of Angola’s former ruler, is listed as the co-owner of a two-bedroom apartment near the Dubai waterfront. Since 2019, at least three countries have frozen dos Santos’ assets. Dos Santos, who denies wrongdoing, is banned from entering the U.S. due to her alleged “involvement in significant corruption” and was recently charged in Angola with 12 crimes , including embezzlement and fraud.

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As a member country of Interpol, the UAE can decide to comply with the international police agency’s request and provisionally arrest her, but it’s not obliged to.

A ‘black hole’

In recent years, the number of countries signing extradition treaties and other deals with the UAE to tackle international crimes has increased. However, the country’s financial and corporate systems continue to represent a hurdle in lawyers’ efforts to chase criminals’ assets and help their clients recover lost money.

According to the anti-corruption group Tax Justice Network, the UAE is one of the world’s “most complicit [jurisdictions] in helping individuals to hide their finances from the rule of law.”

In 2021, ICIJ’s Pandora Papers investigation found that Dubai-based financial services providers incorporated shell companies for clients who wanted to keep their identities undercover. The companies’ beneficiaries included a Belgian tycoon accused of profiting from the smuggling of “conflict gold” from the Democratic Republic of Congo and a Canadian internet mogul convicted in the U.S. of laundering money for fraudsters, child porn traffickers and other criminals.

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Still today, the UAE’s legal system is a “black hole,” said Levy, the lawyer for OneCoin fraud victims. Since 2021, UAE-registered companies have been required to disclose the identity of their true owners to authorities, but only the government can access the ownership information.

In the case of OneCoin, while U.S. authorities ordered co-founder Greenwood to forfeit $300 million, Levy said that other efforts to recover victims’ money are slow-moving and that the money lost in Dubai is “as good as gone.”

Contributing reporters: Luc Caregari (Reporter.lu), Eiliv Frich Flydal (E24), George Greenwood (The Times), Kevin Hall and Khadija Sharife (OCCRP), Axel Humlesjo and Diamant Salihu (SVT), Carina Huppertz (Paper Trail Media), Riku Roslund (YLE). 

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    Luxury Partners; F.A.Q. Contacts; Management. Yacht Management Services; Operational Support; Financial Services; ... Yacht Charter Specialist ... Al Habtoor Business Towers, Dubai Marina, PO Box 29805 338482 Dubai United Arab Emirates tel. +971 4 453 2643. [email protected] ...

  13. About

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    Marina Yachts is an Approved Dealer | Distributor and Services Provider in Dubai, UAE. Deals in Dometic, Whisper Power, Westerbeke, SpotZero & Maestrini Products - New & Pre-Owned Boats and Yachts - located in Al Jadaf. ... Join Us at DUBAI INTERNATIONAL BOAT SHOW - 1st to 5th March 2023 || Shop ESS-02 Dubai Harbour. BUY TICKET. Meet the CEO ...

  19. Dubai Boat Show chooses The International Yachting Media

    The Dubai International Boat Show, to be held from February 28 to March 3, 2024 at Dubai Harbour, is a unique boat show. Capable of gathering a large number of yachts and superyachts from all over the world, it is the largest boat show in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) , the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Middle East.

  20. Yachting Malta » Yachting Malta Returns to Dubai International Boat

    Yachting Malta will once again be present at the prestigious Dubai International Boat Show for the second consecutive year. Building upon the success of their inaugural presence, Yachting Malta returns with an even more prominent stand and an expanded crew, poised to showcase the best of Malta's yachting industry on the global stage.

  21. Leaked Dubai property files link luxury flats to OneCoin crypto

    The review of Dubai land records by ICIJ and its media partners raises questions over the UAE's commitment to implementing the reforms it promised to the global task force. Like Ignatova, at least 11 of her associates owned some of Dubai's most exclusive properties over the last nine years, the confidential data show.