Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin
By Kremlin.ru, CC BY 4.0, Link

In late 2007, Russian President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin was preparing to leave office and transfer power to then-Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. This circumstance caused a Kremlin power struggle to erupt for control of the assets of Russian state-run businesses, although the rival clans both appeared to be loyal to Putin. One faction included Igor Sechin, CEO of Rosneft, and other Kremlin officials with security and military backgrounds. A rival, ‘liberal’ faction included Medvedev and several Russian industrial oligarchs including Roman Abramovich and Alisher Usmanov. Amid this struggle, reports were leaked that Putin had secretly accumulated a fast fortune, making him Europe’s richest man. Putin’s assets were alleged to include ownership shares of Russian oil and gas companies, including Gazprom, Surgetneftegaz (an oil exploration and production company), and nearly full ownership of Gunvor, a Switzerland-based oil trading company lead by Gennady Timchenko, reportedly Putin’s former KGB colleague. Putin’s ownership was allegedly concealed behind “a non-transparent network of offshore trusts” and hidden in Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Source

US State Department Cables

On November 28, 2010, along with several major newspapers, Wikileaks coordinated a broad publication of selected diplomatic cables from a set of about 260,000 leaked US State Department diplomatic cable messages. The leaked cables continued to be published slowly over the next year, until the entirety of the leaked cables became publicly available on September 1, 2011. Wiki

Among the leaked cables was a report from former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice that when Putin stepped down in 2008, he selected a weak successor (Medvedev) because he feared “law enforcement investigations into his alleged illicit proceeds” if he had chosen then-deputy prime minister Sergei Ivanov. Source Another leaked cable written by the US ambassador to Russia, John Beyrle, reported further rumors that the Swiss oil trading company Gunvor was a large source of Putin’s undisclosed wealth. Source

Anti-Putin Protests
Moscow Rally 24 Dec 2011
By Bogomolov.PLOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

From 2011–2013, Russian opposition parties conducted widespread protests against Vladimir Putin and his United Russia Party, some becoming violent. Russia passed laws in 2012 strictly limiting protests, and Vladimir Putin implicated Hillary Clinton as pushing for a Russian version of a “color revolution” recently seen in other countries. Some US officials believe these protests may have damaged Putin’s confidence in his viability as a politician. DNI James Clapper alleged that this may have caused Putin to respond with the subject propaganda operation. Source1 Source2 Wiki

Panama Papers

Mossack Fonseca Logo

On April 3, 2016, an anonymous party leaked a trove of 11.5 million files from Mossack Fonseca, a large law firm based in Panama. The files, dating from the 1970s to contemporaneous to the leak, included personal financial information of various wealthy individuals, including some public officials. Reporters investigating the leak presented evidence that many shell companies Mossack Fonseca had created were being used for fraud, tax evasion, and avoidance of international sanctions. Source

Vladimir Putin was not personally implicated in any of the leaked documents, However, among the disclosures were documents showing how Putin’s family and close circle of friends, including his best friend, musician Sergei Roldugin, had accumulated fabulous wealth through complex financial transactions using different offshore shell companies. The transactions could be traced back to the Russian government. For example, many of Putin’s inner circle received millions (or billions) of dollars in unsecured loans at 1% interest, which do not appear to have been repaid. Others received large payments for vaguely described services, or in “compensation” for allegedly cancelled deals. The documents further revealed apparently fake securities transactions, with shares being “traded” retrospectively. One Roldugin company was shown to have purchased rights to a $200 million loan for $1. Source

Link – Putin: The Money Trail

Immediately prior to publication of the Panama Papers, journalists had reached out to the Kremlin for comment. Although Russia did not provide a comment to the journalists, prior to publication Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov accused various parties of concocting the documents just prior to their forthcoming September parliamentary election in an attempt to influence Russia by discrediting Putin. Source

After their publication, on April 7, 2016, Putin would continue to publicly dismiss the Panama Papers, implausibly claiming that his musician friend Roldugin had spent “almost all of the money he earned on acquiring musical instruments from abroad and bringing them to Russia.” Source

On April 8, 2016, Putin held a meeting of the Security Council of Russia, gathering his most trusted officials. It is suspected this meeting may have been held to discuss a retaliatory response to the disclosures made in the Panama Papers. Source

On April 14, 2016, Putin claimed that the journalists who published the Panama Papers were “employees of official US agencies.” He further falsely claimed that German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, responsible for the Papers, was owned by US financial corporation Goldman Sachs. The Kremlin publicly apologized to Goldman for Putin’s error the next day. Source