Putin's mega yacht? Mystery ship appears ready to set sail from Italy
'Scheherazade', worth an estimated $700 million, is the subject of a probe into its ownership by Italy's financial police. (Federico SCOPPA AFP)

A mega yacht at the centre of a mystery over its ownership appeared ready to set sail from Italy Friday, an AFP photographer saw, as speculation swirls it might belong to the Russian president.

"Scheherazade", worth an estimated $700 million, is the subject of a probe into its ownership by Italy's financial police.

It had been berthed for several months for maintenance work at a shipyard at the Marina di Carrara, within the western seaside town of Massa.

Now, the yacht is back on water but the mystery remains unresolved: who does "Scheherazade" belong to? A Russian oligarch? Vladimir Putin?

Built by Germany's Luerssen in 2020, the 140-metre yacht features two helipads, a swimming pool and a movie theatre, according to the SuperYachtFan website, which researches yachts and their owners.

Italian police insist they are doing their best to identify the owner.

"It's not always easy to attribute ownership" of a yacht, a source close to the Italian probe told AFP in late March.

The same source said Friday there was "nothing new" in the investigation.

Researchers at the anti-corruption foundation of Russian dissident Alexei Navalny link the yacht to Putin.

They cited a crew list in their possession that included several members of Russia's federal protective service, charged with Putin's security.

But the Italian Sea Group said in a statement the yacht was "not attributable to the property of Russian President Vladimir Putin".

The shipyard's owner said its assessment was based on "the documentation in its possession and following the findings of the checks carried out by the relevant authorities".