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Deep in a 421-page legal filing from an obscure court case is a single sentence, offered almost as an afterthought, about a meeting at a Geneva restaurant where two businessmen chatted about “a yacht which had been presented to Mr. Putin.”

The passing reference, cited in a 2010 judge’s decision in London on a financial dispute involving a shipping company, is the rare shred of public evidence directly linking Russian President Vladimir Putin of Russia to any of the luxury boats, planes or villas that have been associated with him over the years. It has taken on new significance as U.S. and European authorities pursue Putin’s hidden wealth and the people close to him in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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