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Mystery in paradise - what's on board the superyacht Phocea?

by Lee Mylchreest on 19 Aug 2012
Stunning superyacht Phocea, now the centre of an investigation in Vanuatu SW
Mystery surrounds the strange case of the superyacht that arrived in the idyllic sailing paradise of Vanuatu several weeks ago, with the recent dramatic arrest of thirteen members of the crew. It's quite a remarkable story - a giant super yacht, allegations about drugs and money smuggling and politicians coming aboard the yacht and policemen being told not to continue the investigation.

Vanuatu citizens have been talking about it for the last few weeks, and while there's much rumour and speculation, the facts are hazy. There's been a call for the Vanuatu government to be more open about investigations into a super yacht.

The four masted vessel, the Phocea, was raided by Vanuatu authorities on suspicion of drug smuggling and passport fraud. What's extraordinary is that the Phoceas' owner, Pascal Anh Quan Saken, is Vanuatus' honorary consul in Vietnam(**see below), who left the country just before the raid.


It has been reported that the policeman who started the investigation has been suspended, that without customs clearance two ministers of the government went on board the vessel.

The state prosecutor says this is just the beginning of the hearing on the Phocea issue and the captain of the yacht Richard Malaise and a woman known as Fabiola will appear today to face multiple charges.

Details of the nationality of those appearing and specific charges brought have not been given as the police investigation is said to be ongoing.

The head of Transparency International in Vanuatu is calling for the police and politicians to reveal information about the seized yacht, the Phocea.

Marie-Noelle Ferrieux Patterson said when there are allegations of corruption in the police, problems with public prosecution and in the courts, the reputation of Vanuatu is tarnished. She claimed that Vanuatu needs help from either Australia or New Zealand as it’s very hard to trust anyone with an apparent cover up going on.

Other sources revealed that one of the two local prominent businessmen who borrowed money from millionaire businessman, Vanuatu naturalized citizen Pascal Anh Quan Saken and owner of the yacht Phocea, is believed to be behind the massive campaign against 'a ship bringing in arms' to Vanuatu.

About the Phocea:
Phocea was built in 1976 by DCAN near Toulon, France, commissioned by French yachtsman Alain Colas to compete in the Observer Singlehanded Transatlantic Race. Following the race, she had a chequered history, becoming first a day charter vessel and later refitted as a superyacht by a French entrepreneur.

She was purchased in 1997 and sent to Lurssen in Germany where she was stripped back to just the hull and superstructure and completely rebuilt to her new owner’s exacting specifications. Following these two metamorphoses she is now a stunning sailing superyacht accommodating 12 guests - and, by all accounts, has an interesting life.

**Since the publication of this story, and on information from a reader, the Foreign Affairs Ministry has now confirmed that Mr Saken has been nominated to be the Vanuatu Honorary Consul to Vietnam, although his appointment has not been made yet officially according to the process of such diplomatic positions. Anh Quan Saken’s nomination has, however, already been endorsed by the Council of Ministers of the government led by Prime Minister, Sato Kilman.

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