The abandoned yacht and Sheik Mohamed Ashmawi with Sean Connery in Marbella (inset) / IDEAL

From the Marbella jet set to Motril shipwreck

The megayacht that ran aground a week ago off the Costa Tropical originally belonged to an Arab sheikh and was the epitome of luxury in the 1990s

PILAR GARCÍA TREVIJANO / JOAQUINA DUEÑAS

It has emerged that the megayacht stranded since Wednesday of last week off Carchuna beach in Motril (Granada province) was, for 35 years, considered the height of luxury and hosted lavish summer parties for Marbella’s jet set during the 1990s.

Before being bought by the French man who would abandon it last week after it ran aground following an apparent fault in the engine room, the Neeveen, as she was known, had been owned by Saudi businessman Mohamed Ashmawi, an Arab sheikh who chose Marbella as one of his residences in 1981.

The yacht was named after the sheik's daughter and for years was one of the attractions of Puerto Banús, where it was moored. On his death, Ahmed Ashmawi, Mohamed’s eldest son, inherited his father's empire. However, Ahmed passed away in September last year in Marbella after a long illness and so the boat passed into the hands of the French-Ukrainian family who have allegedly disappeared without trace.

Mohamed Asmawi passed away in May 2019 and in September of the same year a monument was erected in his honour for his role in Marbella’s social life during the 1990s and for having promoted the town. Before that, the Golden Mile - the kilometre-long avenue that separates the town centre from Puerto Banús - where his palace was located, was named after him.

The businessman not only owned numerous properties in Marbella, but also in Egypt, Ivory Coast and Tangier. He was the official distributor of Rolls-Royce in Saudi Arabia and owned a high-end car business in San Pedro. He embodied opulence and for four decades was considered one of the Costa del Sol’s best ambassadors in the Arabic-speaking world.

The Neeveen was also once used by the former mayor of Marbella, Jesús Gil, to travel to Ceuta during an election campaign. It is said that the return journey was made complicated by a storm and crew and passengers alike were concerned for their safety.

After the yacht ran aground last Wednesday Capitanía Marítima gave the French owner 24 hours to prepare a rescue plan. A company from Granada, Marina Motril, began to draw up the plan at the behest of the owner, who appeared to be involved in the rescue; that is until he vanished without a trace.

When Capitanía went to the hotel where the man was staying to notify him that he had lost the rights to the boat as he had failed to submit the plan within the 24 hours given, he had left the room. Now the rights belong to the Capitanía Marítima, which is currently trying to move the vessel.

Salvamento Marítimo, with a team from Cartagena, began last Friday to clean the yacht and remove the fuel to avoid environmental risks. The work was hampered by strong winds at the beginning of the week, but they were able to start again today (Wednesday). Depending on the condition of the vessel, it is likely to be either scrapped or put up for auction.

Ashmawi at one of his Marbella parties, along with Adnan Khashoggi / josele