The teen who made headlines for tracking Elon Musk’s private jet has turned his attention to wealthy Russian oligarchs’ jets and yachts.
The teenage tech genius who went viral for creating a Twitter account that tracks Elon Musk’s private jet is honing in on a new target — this time turning his attention to the multimillion dollar network of superyachts and jets owned by Russia’s oligarchs.
Jack Sweeney, a 19-year-old freshman at the University of Central Florida in the US, was private messaged by the Tesla founder and offered $US5000 to take down the account.
“I don’t love the idea of being shot by a nutcase,” Musk said to the teen, calling the Twitter bot a “security risk”.
But Mr Sweeney’s latest Twitter bots — @RUOligarchJets, @PutinJet and @RussiaYachts — are drawing a different response.
At the time of writing, the three accounts had a combined following of more than 500,000, as people across the world kept an eye on Russia’s oligarchs.
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Authorities across the world are cracking down on Russia and the wealthy oligarchs that have close ties to President Vladimir Putin in response to his invasion of Ukraine.
Police across Europe and the US have begun seizing superyachts owned by the oligarchs, with oil magnate Igor Sechin one of the most recent to be stung by the crackdown.
“I just kept getting more and more people in my direct messages saying, ‘Can you do the yachts, too?’ So, I did it,” he said.
Russia Yachts, which is “not automated yet”, Mr Sweeney said, follows 23 superyachts, owned by some of the country’s wealthiest people.
The jet account tracks their planes while @PutinJet keeps watch on aircraft possibly owned by the president.
Mr Sweeney’s jet-tracking bots rely on publicly available data from plane transponders that log longitude, latitude and altitude and calculate location.
The teen then created an algorithm that picks up where the planes are.
His yacht account uses a similar system from on-board safety devices that are constantly transmitting their location.
The world has put Russia on notice over its invasion of Ukraine last month, launching massive sanctions and seizures.
High-profile individuals hit included Nikolay Tokarev, the president of oil and gas giant Transneft, Rostec defence firm chief Sergei Chemezov and bank head Igor Shuvalov.
In his State of the Union address last week, US President Joe Biden warned the nation would “find and seize their yachts, their luxury apartments, their private jets”.
“We’re coming for your ill-begotten gains,” he added.
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said that oligarchs’ “partners, their children, their property holding companies” would be affected, “such that they won’t be able to hide behind financial constructs”.
The UK has been one of the Western nations most favoured by Russians stashing away their wealth in financial assets or real estate, earning the capital the derogatory nickname “Londongrad”.
In France, only one major seizure has made headlines since sanctions were imposed – the superyacht Amore Vero linked to Rosneft boss Igor Sechin, believed to be worth up to 120 million euros.
A senior official in France’s own oligarch task force said that they were able to seize the Amore Vero superyacht only because its crew attempted to depart for Turkey, “placing themselves outside the law”.
Meanwhile Italy on Saturday said it had seized yachts belonging to steel magnate Alexei Mordashov and Putin confidant Gennady Timchenko, worth 95 million and 50 million euros respectively.
Many Russian billionaires have already moved their floating palaces to safer waters, with rumours coursing about upcoming moves away from the Cote d’Azur, according to a source familiar with the industry.
The source mentioned Dubai as one possible destination, while the Maldives – which have no extradition treaty with the US – are also now hosting several yachts, including those belonging to aluminium magnate Oleg Deripaska and steel tycoon Alexander Abramov.
– With AFP