What’s Known About Putin’s Wealth After the Panama Papers?
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the Russian Popular Front's Third 'Truth and Justice' Media Forum of independent and local media on April 7, 2016. (Sergey Guneev/Sputnik via AP)
Hundreds of reporters parsed through 11.5 million documents for a year, finally publishing their findings from the massive data leak that has been dubbed the Panama Papers last weekend. Some of the figures named in the leak of documents from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca include celebrities and politicians, from Ukraine’s president to Iceland’s prime minister. The latter resigned in the wake of the leak, which has sparked worldwide outrage about the use of offshore banking by the rich and powerful.
Also named in the leak is Sergei Roldugin, a cellist and close friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as at least three other Russian billionaires. As The Guardian, one of the first publications to expose the leak, reported:
“A network of secret offshore deals and vast loans worth $2 billion has laid a trail to Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin.
An unprecedented leak of documents shows how this money has made members of Putin’s close circle fabulously wealthy.
Though the president’s name does not appear in any of the records, the data reveals a pattern — his friends have earned millions from deals that seemingly could not have been secured without his patronage.
The documents suggest Putin’s family has benefited from this money — his friends’ fortunes appear his to spend.”
On Thursday, Putin addressed the Panama Papers directly on Russian television, dismissing them as an attempt to destabilize the country. He also pointed out that the allegations don’t name him. “Your humble servant is not there; there is nothing to talk about,” he said.
Putin also defended his friend Roldugin, saying, “He is a minority shareholder in one of our companies and makes some money out of it, but not billions of dollars, of course.” Putin noted that Roldugin had used most of the money he earned on musical instruments. “They’ve found a few of my acquaintances and friends … and scraped up something from there and stuck it together,” he said.
The leak is not the first time the Russian president has been forced to answer questions about his vast fortune, which estimates have placed as high as $40 billion. Putin’s critics have alleged that much of that wealth is hidden through proxies, but determining how much is a matter of speculation.
In 2015, FRONTLINE examined the allegations of corruption and criminality surrounding Putin’s reign in Russia. Sergei Kolesnikov, a Russian tycoon now living in exile, said he had intimate knowledge of how the system of corruption worked in the country.
“Russian business entirely depends on protection,” Kolesnikov said. “You need protection. It is called having a roof, or in Russian, ‘krysha,’ and the more krysha you have, the more successful your business will be. So every businessman dreams about giving presents and gaining protection. And if you give a present to the president, it’s like having God himself watching your back.”
Watch the clip below to learn more: