Behind Putin's wealth lies a 'co-operative' holding more than $4.5 billion in assets

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One of Russia’s best-kept secrets is the size of Vladimir Putin’s fortune. The Russian president publicly displays a modest lifestyle and officially earns a salary of only 11,000 euros per month. For years, journalists and NGOs have been trying to map his true wealth, suspecting him of holding numerous luxury real estate properties, yachts, jets and bank accounts.

Until now, it had never been possible to demonstrate the link between Mr. Putin and these various assets, whose official owners – wealthy oligarchs or people close to the president – are suspected of acting as dummy corporations on his behalf. One example is “Putin’s Palace” a sumptuous property on the Black Sea, which his opponent Alexei Navalny estimated at $1 billion (about €950 million), and which is officially owned by billionaire Arkadi Rotenberg, a longtime friend and judo partner of the Russian president. The same goes for the vineyards adjacent to the property, which are owned by oligarch Gennady Timchenko and the son of a childhood friend of Mr. Putin. Not to mention the Russian ski resort Igora, linked to Svetlana Krivonoguikh, who is reputed to have a long-standing love affair with Mr. Putin.

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On Monday, June 20, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), a global network of investigative journalists, and the Russian independent media outlet Meduza released an in-depth investigation that makes it possible, for the first time, to link 86 companies, holding more than 4.5 billion dollars in real estate, yachts, private jets, and financial assets alleged to actually belong to Vladimir Putin and his inner circle. All of these organisations used the same email domain name: LLCinvest.ru, a web server hosted by a discreet Russian IT company called Moskomsvyaz, some of whose internal data leaked to journalists last year.

Until now, only a few companies gravitating around Mr. Putin were connected to each other through common managers or shareholders such as Bank Rossia, sometimes dubbed the “Bank of Vladimir Putin’s Buddies.” The OCCRP and Meduza information, which combined and analyzed several data leaks, now links numerous entities that had apparently shared no links previously.

The leaked data shows that executives, owners and employees of nominally independent companies regularly communicated with each other as if they were part of the same company.

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A ‘cooperative’ of corruption

“Many of the businessmen who own LLCinvest companies are part of a group of friends and associates who clustered around Mr. Putin when he was a senior official in the St. Petersburg mayor’s office in the 1990s,” an expert on Russian corruption told the OCCRP, on condition of anonymity, after reviewing the organisation’s findings. He added:

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