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Italian police seize Briatore's yacht UPDATE Rome’s crackdown on suspected tax dodgers has unsettled owners of super-yachts considering Italy as a summer destination, after the tax police’s seizure of the 63-metre Force Blue owned by tycoon Flavio Briatore.

Flavio's super-yacht
Some legal advisers are telling their worldwide clients, 90 per cent of whom have their yachts under a Cayman Islands flag, to take care before venturing into Italian waters.

A spokesman for the Guardia di Finanza tax police, who intercepted Force Blue off La Spezie last week and forced Mr Briatore’s fashion model wife and infant to leave their temporary home on the vessel, said that three similar cases of super-yacht tax evasion were under investigation. He declined to give further details.

“The seizure is sending shock waves through the super-yacht community,” Quentin Bargate, senior partner with the London-based law firm Bargate Murray, said in an interview.

“Our advice to clients has been to be very wary of Italy and to check carefully with advisers before engaging in charter activity there. We hear of other cases in the offing, so it just is not worth taking risks,” he wrote on his firm’s website.

“For Italy, they risk driving away lucrative yacht business that must be of considerable benefit to local businesses.

“The situation right now is that even a well-run and properly structured yacht business might be targeted for something as routine and normal as flying a Cayman flag.” FT.com

05/21/10 (GMM)  Italian police have seized Flavio Briatore's yacht.  A week after the banned former Renault boss hosted Bernie Ecclestone on the 60-metre Force Blue on the Monaco harbor, police boarded it on Thursday.

They had followed the yacht with high speed boats to the port of La Spezia, near the northern city of Genoa, with the 60-year-old Italian, his wife Elisabetta and new son Falco all on board.

Local prosecutor Walter Cotugno ordered the boat be impounded on the suspicion it is improperly registered as a charter.

Investigators suspect Briatore has registered it in the Cayman Islands, with a hire price of 275,000 euros a week, in order to obtain a tax break and to avoid paying sales tax when anchoring in European harbors.

They suspect the yacht is not chartered at all and in fact is used only by Briatore's family.

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