The Phocea is one of the world’s largest superyachts, checking in at an impressive 75-meters in length. It has also proven to be a monkey’s paw of sorts, as great misfortune has befallen its ultra-successful owners:
The Phocea was built in Toulon in 1976 for yachtsman Alain Colas who called her Club Mediterranee. She competed in a Trans-Atlantic race for Colas, came second. Colas disappeared at sea the following year.
In 1982 French business man Bernard Tapie bought Phocea and had her converted to a private yacht at great expense. Tapie christened her Phocea, in honour of the Phoenicians who founded Marseilles where she was refitted.
Tapie later went to jail over corruption offences and in 1997 French Lebanese socialite Mouna Ayoub purchased the yacht – after she sold one of her diamonds, the largest yellow diamond in the world, and several other lesser jewels to pay for the US$17 million refit.
At some point after Ayoub’s sell-off of assets, the yacht fell into the hands of a man who goes by Pascal Anh Quan Saken. Quan claims to be the founder of the Billionaire Yacht Club, as well as the holder of an MBA from the “University of Minneapolis.” (Full curriculum vitae here.) But the PNG Post-Courier asserts that he is actually a trafficker of contraband who has no real ownership of the Phocea. In fact, Quan seems to have registered the ship in Malta by submitting forged documents; as a result, the Phocea was impounded by officials in Vanuatu, some of whom have been accused of illicit dealings with Quan. (Though he was apparently born in Vietnam, Quan appears to hold a diplomatic passport from Vanuatu.)
Quan is rumored to have flown to Papua New Guinea, to ask the government there to register the Phocea so it can be liberated from Vanuatu. I hope someone in Port Moresby asks him how, exactly, he got his hands on the yacht. My hunch tells me that it was exchanged for either arms or drugs, which is why there is no legit record of its sale. On a planet where large financial transactions are increasingly likely to come to the attention of the authorities, old-fashioned bartering may be the way of the future on the black market.
Check out a full list of stories on L’affaire Phocea here.