20 biggest scandals at sea

Mussolini's yacht seized from Mafia-linked businessman

Italian police have seized a classic sailing boat which once belonged to fascist dictator Benito Mussolini from a businessman with links to the Mafia. Black Flame was confiscated from Salvatore Squillante along with €28 million of assets including real estate, luxury cars and company shares.

The confiscation came after Squillante rented property to a firm owned by convicted murderer Salvatore Buzzi who was taped during an investigation in to the Capital Mafia saying the drug trade was proving less lucrative than schemes involving migrants. It is believed a pact may exist between Squillante and Buzzi's organised crime ring to defraud the Roman administration through contracts awarded to manage migrant reception.

Black Flame itself has a troubled history. One of the most amazing  superyachts given as gifts, it was presented to Mussolini by a fellow fascist friend but was sunk when the regime fell in 1943 to stop it passing into the hands of the Germans. It was later hauled out of the water and restored before being bought by Squillante through one of his companies.

28 people arrested for lewd behaviour on yacht

Twenty-eight people, including policemen and army personnel, were arrested in October 2014 for drinking, partying and having sex on a yacht in Dubai.

Police officers seized 101 bottles of alcohol, including vodka, beer and whisky during the early morning in Dubai Marina.

In April 2014 Dubai Misdemeanours Court convicted the 28 defendants of getting together on the yacht without being related to each other, inciting each other to commit sins by committing immoral practices and drinking alcohol and partying without being related to each other.

Two men and three women were originally handed a year-long jail term for having consensual sex out of wedlock but this was subsequently reduced to one month. The defendants lost an appeal yesterday (December 14) and will now serve their sentences.

The court also upheld the Dh2,000 fine (approximately $550 US) for the other party goers for incitement to commit indecent behaviour.

Picture courtesy of Mohamed Alwerdany/Shutterstock.com

Relatives of Venezuela’s first lady arrested for trafficking drugs on yacht

Police in the Dominican Republic raided 40.8 metre luxury yacht The Kingdom on November 11, 2015 finding 54 bricks of a substance believed to be cocaine or heroin.

The yacht was berthed at the Casa de Campo marina in La Romana and six people found on board were arrested. The raid was performed as part of an on-going investigation into Efrain Antonio Campo Flores and Francisco Flores de Freitas, the godson and nephew of Venezuelan first lady Cilia Flores respectively, who were caught trying to make a drugs deal with an undercover agent in New York. All six suspects arrested were found to have connections to the pair.

Australia's most wanted terrorise locals on a yacht

A father and son became Australia’s ‘most wanted’ after they sailed along the country’s east coast committing crimes wherever they docked, News Grio reports.

Gino, 57, and Mark Stocco, 35, started their life on the run 12 years ago after father Gino bought a yacht, the Kiwarrak, with a $100,000 divorce settlement. According to a family member, Gino “went haywire” following the break-up of his marriage.

They set sail from the New South Wales coastal town of Taree, funding their trip by defrauding people they met in port. The pair were accused of stealing several people's identities, including a priest and an Australian soldier serving in Iraq along the way.

Gino Stocco was sentenced to four months and one week's imprisonment and Mark Stocco to two months. They were fined a total of A$3,000.

Following their release from a prison in Victoria, the pair have allegedly embarked on a new life of crime robbing rural properties, for which there are warrants for their arrest.

Prostitute murders Google executive on his yacht

Murder, drugs, call girls and court rooms – the most recent headline-making scandal at sea has all the calling cards of disrepute.

Google executive Forrest Timothy Hayes was found dead on his yacht, Escape, in November 2013 in Santa Cruz Harbor in California. Thanks to surveillance cameras installed on board, what happened to Hayes wasn’t left a mystery.

On the night in question, Forrest Timothy Hayes had hired a call girl named Alix Tichelman – as he had several times previously. According to authorities, Tichelman injected the Google exec with heroin, then left Forrest Timothy Hayes alone without seeking help when he passed out from an apparent drug overdose.

Video footage captured on the yacht showed Alix Tichelman casually gathering her things, finishing a glass of wine and stepping over the motionless Hayes before lowering the blinds and leaving the yacht.

Tichelman was arrested eight months later, and on May 19, 2015, she pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and administering drugs. A Santa Cruz County Superior Court judge has sentenced her to six years in prison.

Alix Tichelman’s defence attorney, Larry Biggman, says, “It was an accidental overdose between two consenting adults”, and expects to have her sentence reduced to only three years, with a year credited for time served.

Did William Hearst try to kill Charlie Chaplin?

Thomas Ince, a film producer, died in 1924 after allegedly being shot by William Randolph Hearst, the newspaper mogul, on Hearst’s yacht, Oneida. It was claimed he shot Ince by mistake, having intended to shoot an actor, whom he believed was having an affair with his mistress….

While Hearst’s papers claimed Ince had been suffering from stomach pains – and the death certificate cited heart failure – rumour spread around Hollywood that Hearst exploded with rage when he found his mistress Marion Davies in an embrace with film star Charlie Chaplin. In the scuffle that ensued on board, it was Ince who was accidentally shot instead of Chaplin. An investigation was launched but quietly dropped and it was claimed that Hearst had paid Ince’s widow to hush it up.

Natalie Wood drowned during boat trip – was it really an accident?

The American actress, Natalie Wood, sadly drowned in 1981 on a boat trip off Los Angeles, California. Her husband, Robert Wagner, was on board as well as actor Christopher Walken. Her death was declared an accident, but in 2011 this scandal at sea gained headlines once again when a new investigation was opened after the boat’s captain admitted he had lied to police and that Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner had fought that evening. The cause of death was changed to “drowning and other undetermined factors”.

Donald Crowhurt fakes log in Golden Globe round-the-world yacht race

Donald Crowhurst drowned, presumed suicide, while competing in the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race in 1969. The race was a non-stop, single-handed, round-the-world yacht race, which was the first of its kind. What makes this a scandal at sea is that when Crowhurt’s boat was found, it was uncovered that he had spent several months falsifying his position in radio reports and, far from sailing around the world, he had never left the Atlantic.

It seems that Donald Crowhurst, who was something of a fantasist but not an experienced sailor, bit off more than he could chew. Donald Crowhurst’s boat, Teignmouth Electron, was a 12 metre trimaran that was unproven on such long voyages, and he had only sailed her for a few weeks before leaving port, in which time he had fallen overboard several times. It was felt that when Crowhurst found he was not up to the task, he decided to hide in the South Atlantic, send fake radio reports of his location and falsify his logs before his return, rather than admit defeat and face financial ruin. As other competitors dropped out and Donald Crowhurst looked as if he might win on elapsed time (the field started on different dates), it is thought he panicked at the thought of a proper investigation and jumped overboard. The boat was found unoccupied 12 days after his last radio transmission. Examination of his logbooks revealed the deception. A film is in the works on this sad and scandalous yachting story, starring Colin Firth as Donald Crowhurst, and directed by James Marsh.

Did Patrick McDermott fake his own death?

Picture: Rex Features

File this one under unsolved mysteries: Patrick McDermott was accused of faking his own death after disappearing on a fishing trip off California in 2005, shortly after ending his nine-year relationship with Olivia Newton-John. Five years later it was claimed he was living in Mexico, but there is still no proof that Patrick McDermott is alive.

Boater Andrew Biddle fakes own death

The facts seem to point to one conclusion: championship speed boater Andrew Biddle tried to his fake his own death after he “disappeared” in a boating accident in July 2014. After an accident on a pontoon boat, Andrew Biddle fell overboard and couldn’t be found, prompting an 18-hour search by the US Coast Guard. This turned into a manhunt by the New Jersey police when it came to light that Andrew Biddle was indicted for defrauding his clients at his brokerage firm. While Andrew Biddle recently resurfaced and turned himself in, it is still a mystery as to where he’d been hiding out the six-plus-months he was on the lam, where he intended to go and what punishment will befall him now.

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