An unprecedented battle is taking place inside the Kremlin in advance of Vladimir Putin’s departure from office, the Guardian has learned, with claims that the president presides over a secret multibillion-dollar fortune.
Rival clans inside the Kremlin are embroiled in a struggle for the control of assets as Putin prepares to transfer power to his hand-picked successor, Dmitry Medvedev, in May, well-placed political observers and other sources have revealed.
At stake are billions of dollars in assets belonging to Russian state-run corporations. Additionally, details of Putin’s own personal fortune, reportedly hidden in Switzerland and Liechtenstein, are being discussed for the first time.
The claims over the president’s assets surfaced last month when the Russian political expert Stanislav Belkovsky gave an interview to the German newspaper Die Welt. They have since been repeated in the Washington Post and the Moscow Times, with speculation over the fortune appearing on the internet.
Citing sources inside the president’s administration, Belkovsky claims that after eight years in power Putin has secretly accumulated more than $40bn (£20bn). The sum would make him Russia’s – and Europe’s – richest man.
In an interview with the Guardian, Belkovsky repeated his claims that Putin owns vast holdings in three Russian oil and gas companies, concealed behind a “non-transparent network of offshore trusts”.
Putin “effectively” controls 37% of the shares of Surgutneftegaz, an oil exploration company and Russia’s third biggest oil producer, worth $20bn, he says. He also owns 4.5% of Gazprom, and “at least 75%” of Gunvor, a mysterious Swiss-based oil trader, founded by Gennady Timchenko, a friend of the president’s, Belkovsky alleges.
Asked how much Putin was worth, Belkovsky said: “At least $40bn. Maximum we cannot know. I suspect there are some businesses I know nothing about.” He added: “It may be more. It may be much more.
“Putin’s name doesn’t appear on any shareholders’ register, of course. There is a non-transparent scheme of successive ownership of offshore companies and funds. The final point is in Zug [in Switzerland] and Liechtenstein. Vladimir Putin should be the beneficiary owner.”
Given the situation of Anna Politkovskaya, Luke Harding, Stanislav Belkovsky, Yulia Latynina and others had better develop a healthy sense of paranoia.
Read it all at The Guardian.
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