Putin’s Secret Riches

Putin’s Secret Riches

He’s the world leader accused of personally approving murder on the streets of London. The conclusion that the Russian state was probably involved in the murder of Mr Litvinenko is deeply disturbing. But is the president implicated in an assassination also responsible for theft on an extraordinary scale? He has fleets of things that almost no billionaire in the West would have. Vladimir Putin has been accused of looting his own country. TRANSLATION: Today Putin behaves like a Tsarnaev. — Tsar. Tonight we investigate the truth about President Putin’s riches. Why would it be kept secret? Because it belongs personally to Putin, not to the state. For the first time the Americans say what they really think about the Russian president. Is Vladimir Putin corrupt? In our view, yes. There is no other world leader like Vladimir Putin. Action man. Man of the people. And ruler of Russia. From Ukraine to Syria, Vladimir Putin’s influence is being felt. He’s faced countless accusations of corruption, but he still has record approval ratings in Russia. What do you think of Vladimir Putin? But should the Russian people trust Vladimir Putin? President Putin’s official income is around $100,000 a year, yet he lives like the super rich. He has a collection of expensive watches, even his designer tracksuit cost $3,000. He has a level of living that is far in excess of anything anyone in the West would have, even the very richest. It’s that kind of level that we see from Saudi Princes. So how rich is Vladimir Putin? Well, it may be one of Russia’s best-kept secrets, but one journalist came up with a figure. Stanislav Belkovsky claimed Putin had secret share holdings in some of Russia’s biggest companies. I met him in Moscow. I’ve got this information from my confidential sources. What figure did you come up with for Vladimir Putin’s wealth? $40 billion in assets, not in cash of course. I’m sure Putin is the richest man in Europe, one of the richest men in the world. Putin himself dismissed the $40 billion claim. But a secret CIA report agreed with Belkovsky’s figure. In their view, Putin was worth around $40 billion. Did you tell the CIA the details of your 40 billion figure? No, no. I think CIA and FBI have this information separately without my assistance. Russia’s role in the Ukrainian conflict has led to closer scrutiny of Putin’s finances. Many of his inner circle have faced financial sanctions from the Americans and the European Union. Now the US won’t publicly confirm the 40-billion figure, but they have told Panorama what they think about Putin’s wealth. I’m not in a position to give you figures, but what I can say is that he supposedly draws a state salary of something like $110,000 a year. That is not an accurate statement of the man’s wealth. And he has long time training and practices in terms of how to mask his actual wealth. Is Vladimir Putin corrupt? In our view, yes. How long has the United States known that Vladimir Putin was, in your words, a corrupt figure? I think for many, many years. Russia dismisses this sort of talk as nonsense. But the fact that the Americans are finally labelling Putin as corrupt shows how bad relations have become. So what’s the truth about Putin’s money? Has Russia’s president been making billions on the side and if he has, where’s it all hidden? I’ve come to Estonia to meet a man who says he knows about some of Putin’s cash. He fled Russia after falling out with Kremlin insiders. Our contact helped Putin collect money from the super rich. They all thought it was to pay for health care. But Sergey Kolesnikov says some of the donated cash was diverted and ultimately used to help build a billion-dollar palace for Putin. TRANSLATION: Regrettably these fund, which were supposed to be invested in decent investment projects, to a significant extent ended up being spent on a palace on the plaque sea coast. — Black Sea coast. And here it is. President Putin says the palace is nothing to do with him. But we’ve seen documents linking Vladimir Putin to the palace at the time it was built. They show a secret money trail, and it’s claimed Putin was at the heart of it. These are documents from one of the offshore companies that diverted millions of dollars to the palace. According to Kolesnikov, the owner of this company was Putin himself. The offshore company was overseen by Kolesnikov and his business partner, a Kremlin insider called Nikolai Shamalov. TRANSLATION: Shamalov said that he was taking 96 shares, 96%, keeping 2% for himself and he would be giving 94% to Putin. There’s more evidence. Kolesnikov and Shamalov were recorded apparently discussing $440 million of investments belonging to Putin. They refer to Putin using a nickname: Mikhail Ivanovich. Shamalov is still a trusted Kremlin insider. In that recording, he was discussing Putin’s Secret Fortune. Finding evidence like that about Putin is not easy. He used to run Russia’s intelligence service. He knows how to hide secrets. Few from his inner circle ever talk, but Panorama has tracked down one who will. I’ve come to Nice in the south of France to meet him. So I’m at the hotel and we’re about to be picked up and taken to the interview location. The truth is we have no idea where we’re going. We certainly don’t have anything like an address. The reason is probably because the man that we’re on our way to interview is on the run. He was one of Russia’s richest and most important men. But he fled his homeland and says he can’t go back. His driver has brought me to a secret location. Hi. How are you? P Sergei Pugachev — this is Sergei Pugachev. He says he helped Putin become president. They were friends. Their children played together. TRANSLATION: I had a very close relationship with Putin. Putin consulted me. Putin confided in me. Pugachev took Putin to see one of the presidential palaces. TRANSLATION: Of course, this was an absolutely new world, new life. Of course, he was astonished by it. In that first term as president, what was Putin’s attitude to money? TRANSLATION: I think that Putin was preoccupied with the issue of wealth from the start. For Putin this was an important factor. We talked about it. He didn’t hide it. He knew he wanted to leave office as a wealthy person. Vladimir Putin has come a long way. He wasn’t born rich and to understand him, you need to go to his home city, St Petersburg. This is where he grew up, there on the fifth floor. Putin’s family had one room in a shared apartment. No hot water and a shared kitchen in the corridor. Vladimir Putin grew up in poverty. But it was in St Petersburg that Vladimir Putin first tasted power. Back in the ’90s, not long out of the KGB, Putin became a deputy mayor. On his watch, millions of dollars disappeared from public funds to a company called Twentieth Trust. The detective who investigated says Putin was one of those who benefitted. He says Putin ended up with a property in Torrevieja in Spain. TRANSLATION: If Twentieth Trust is building a Villa for Putin in Torrevieja, is this Putin personally receiving the money or not? In my opinion, the answer is straightforward. But the criminal case was closed after Putin became president. Zykov says he was forced into retirement. The Kremlin has denied the claims. But Spanish investigators revealed the details of wiretapped phone conversations between Russians who’ve been linked to organised crime. They can be heard discussing Putin’s property in Spain. One of the gangsters says Putin’s house is in Torrevieja, the same Spanish town Zykov had identified. It looks like Zykov was right. Putin got a house in Spain. So in St Petersburg, Putin learned how to profit from power. He also built a loyal team. After he moved to the Kremlin, they came with him. The men closest to Putin have been with him for years. They were with him here in St Petersburg and they’ve stayed with him ever since. This is the group that he trusts and that he rewards, and this is the group that runs Russia. Putin’s lawyer at the Town Hall became president and then Prime Minister of Russia. His former deputy also served as prime minister. The Chief of Staff at the Town Hall now runs Russia’s anti-drugs agency. His former assistant now runs the biggest oil company in the world. And his form ere economist — former economist now runs the biggest gas company in the world. All of them worked with Putin in this building. They rose up together. They went with him to Moscow. They have been a very stable elite. This whole group, who grabbed the commanding heights of the Russian economy, they all work together in a very small office, in fact, in St Petersburg. As President, Putin was at the centre of this new elite. He had power and access to the super-rich. You can see how Putin used it by looking at his relations with Britain’s most famous Russian, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich. He was one of the unwitting donors to Putin’s Palace. He thought all his cash would be spent on health care, and he gave more than $200 million. TRANSLATION: Abramovich’s role was rather simple. He provided $203 million. Were these oligarchs effectively just paying tribute to Vladimir Putin? I think this is exactly what they thought. Abramovich and other wealthy Russians are expected to pay for important projects, like hosting the 2018 World Cup. The Fifa World Cup, ladies and gentleman, will be organised in Russia. But we have been told about a gift that can’t be explained away as good for anyone other than Vladimir Putin. A 35mm or is yacht like this one. — 35 Ian dollars yacht. Given by Roman Abramovich. And our source is the man who managed the yacht. He fell out with the Kremlin, he is a wanted man in Russia and he is living in the UK. Dmitry, I am Richard. Nice to meet you. Dmitry Skarga says he oversaw the transfer of the yacht from Abramovich to Putin. In March 2002 in Amsterdam, there was a representative of Mr Abramovich. Skarga says the yacht was given to an offshore company but the real owner was President Putin. We have seen documents that would appear to support Skarga’s story. Roman Abramovich’s lawyers said the claims were unsubstantiated, little more than a rehash of speculation and rumours. But they didn’t specifically deny that he had given President Putin a yacht. You can hardly blame Abramovich for wanting to keep on Putin’s good side. Standing up to him can be dangerous. This is a billionaire Mikhail Khordorkovsky publicly challenging Putin about corruption. Khordorkovsky was jailed for tax evasion and embezzlement. His business was taken by the Russian state. The beauty of the system is that it’s organise and run according to the old adage, for my friends everything, for my enemies the law. The message that Putin chose to send to all of them was, I can put you in prison for anything. I don’t need to have a watertight case. That is the genius of the system. Sergei Pugachev claims he lost his business too. He started a multi-billion dollar compensation claim against the Russian state. But the Russian authorities accuse him of stealing billions of dollars from a bank used to own. TRANSLATION: There is no court in Russia, that is why I went to the International court. I am convinced I will win. The Russian state says you effectively looted your bank after it was bailed out by the Russian Central Bank. Lead you do that? Well, of course not. — did you do that? These are absurd accusation is not substantiated by anything. We don’t know who is telling the truth about Pugachev’s fortune, but the allegation is clear, Putin controls the super-rich in Russia. People who possess a fortune, a large business in Russia, realise that they do not own this, because everything depends on Putin. They depend on hundred percent on his mood. — 100%. For those who have been in Putin Circle, the benefits have been immense. A cellist who is godfather to Putin’s daughter has a valuable stake in a major Russian bank. A neighbour has an even bigger stake. Another neighbour ended up running the railways. A childhood friend has made a fortune from government contracts. And his brother has made even more. The Americans say this is how Putin’s Russia works. We have seen him enriching his friends, his close allies. And marginalising those who he doesn’t view as friends. Using state assets. Whether that is Russia’s energy wealth, whether it is other state contracts, he directs those to whom he believes will serve him and excludes those who don’t. And if you want to make money in Russia, this is the industry, the nation’s greatest riches are in oil and gas. Russia exports well over 1 billion barrels of oil per year. And here too Vladimir Putin has been accused of taking a cut for himself. Putin came and established a system where high rank officials want to control vital strategic assets. What we have now is a bunch of shady guys who barely appear in public, who control vital businesses linked to the state, which makes one wonder whether they are real beneficiaries or somebody superpowerful is behind their back. I have come to New York to meet a man who says Putin took a slice of his oil business. He is yet another Russian who has fled abroad. He says his life has been threatened. This is his first TV interview. Max, I am Richard. Max Friedzon started his business in Saint Petersburg when Putin was the deputy mayor. He gave him a monopoly to supply oil to the local airport, but he says the help came at a price. TRANSLATION: I know from my business partner that Putin asked for a share in the business. Initially, they were asking for 15%. He called them greedy bastards. He managed to put them down to 4%. Obviously this wasn’t registered in any official papers. The Kremlin says Max’s story is untrue. But the Americans have highlighted another energy company that they say Putin has links to. It is called Gunvor. According to the Americans, Putin had secret investments in the company. What exactly do you mean by investment is? We believe it’s a place where he is storing money. How much? I can’t give you an estimate. Gunvor said these frames were illogical and preposterous conspiracy theories, and that President Putin does not and never has had any ownership in Gunvor. The Americans insist they are right. They haven’t provided any evidence. It’s important because Gunvor has traded much of Russia’s state oil. It has made big profits, and nearly half of the company was owned by this man, Gennady Timchenko, one of Putin’s friends. He has now sold his stake. It is said he is worth $10 billion. And he is on the US sanctions list. The Americans claim his activities in the energy sector have been directed by President Putin. Has Gennady Timchenko been holding well for Vladimir Putin, do you think? I don’t know if I would put it that way in terms of holding his wealth, I would say he has been tremendous Lien Richard personally by Vladimir Putin, as have another handful of people in his inner circle. There are allegations that he holds tremendous amounts of Putin’s well. Gennady Timchenko’s lawyers say the US has never produced any evidence and that the claims are propaganda in which their client is a collateral target. Mr Timchenko categorically denies that President Putin has controlled his assets or enriched him, but to our sources say Mr Timchenko was very much under the control of Vladimir Putin. — two of our sources. TRANSLATION: From the very start, Putin understood that money which Timchenko was managing, or one way or another without any doubt, belonged to Putin. It was never a secret. Mr Timchenko’s lawyers say that our two main sources are not credible and may have axes to grind. President Putin denies all the allegations in this programme. His spokesman declined to answer our absurd questions because the issues we had raised were pure fiction. This all matters because President Putin is one of the most powerful people on the planet. But he has been accused of using that power to enrich himself on a vast scale. TRANSLATION: I started arguing with Shamalov and he said to me, who do you think you are? You are a series prefixerf. The tsar made a decision, your job is that of a surf to deliver. — a serf. People say that Putin can demand anything he wants, so that any figure on his wealth is meaningless. Everything that can be converted into cash can be his own. How would you describe that kind of wealth? Putin has been accused of corruption on an extraordinary scale. The modern tsar who plundered his own empire.

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About the Author: Oren Garnes


  1. Half the "dislikes" on this Youtube channel demonstrate how lame and incompetent The Russian Trolls are.

    Only lamers need to pay Russian Trolls and use automated "bots" to make themselves seem popular.

    Real people like me have real friends, without the need to pay them to like me. That's because I'm not a Winner like Putin's Yes Men. You can't pay me enough to be an idiot. My imtegrity is priceless and not for sale or rent.

    I'm not _you_, and never will be. Wallow in your rubels, you stupid Russian Communist Troll.

    You need to try a lot harder, or Putin needs to recruit a lot smarter than people like you.

  2. How can this be secret if it's been nationally broadcast by the BBC?

    It looks to be nothing more than another anti-Russian propaganda bit in the hands of our masters, who are determined to foment WW 3 as the only way to kick-start exhausted capitalist economies.

  3. He drinking coffee when she said he is living above billionaires in the west. I drank coffee this morning, I must be living the billionaire lifestyle

  4. Vladimir Putin is a thug and a war criminal in Syria and Ukraine and Georgia. He must go. Màny Russian trolls and agents are writing comments here

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