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Putin associates stashed billions in offshore accounts, leaked records from Panamanian law firm reveal

Oct 26 2018

MOSCOW – A St. Petersburg concert cellist has been revealed as the linchpin in an elaborate financial empire that manages billions of dollars apparently connected to Vladimir Putin, papers published Sunday show.

Sergei Roldugin, a director of the St. Petersburg Conservatory and guest conductor at the Mariinsky Theatre, met Putin in the 1970s and is considered one of the Russian president’s closest friends.

But papers leaked from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonesca suggest the musician also holds vast assets apparently used to benefit close associates of the Russian president.

Putin is one of dozens of world leaders, including Syrian President Bashar Assad, and Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko, who have been indirectly or directly linked via friends and family members to offshore companies in the vast leak published by dozens of international media outlets.

The CBC reported Sunday that among the leaked records is information on the offshore assets of several hundred Canadians, including lawyers, mining and oil executives, and other business people. The broadcaster said they are not prominent personalities, however.

While Putin himself is not named in any of the documents, Roldugin is one of several individuals close to the Russian president who appear to manage massive flows of money via shell companies.

Roldugin owned three offshore companies: Sonnette Overseas, International Media Overseas and Raytar Limited. The firms have acquired lucrative assets including a 12.5 per cent stake in Video International, Russia’s largest advertising firm, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, one of the groups that received the leaked documents, said in a summary published Sunday.

Sonnette Overseas and International Media Overseas were created by Bank of Russia, a privately owned St. Petersburg-based bank which the United States sanctioned following the annexation of Crimea because of its close links to Putin’s inner circle.

Other prominent Russian names in the papers include Arkady and Boris Rotenburg, judo-sparring partners of Putin who have amassed fortunes during his 15 years in power and who were also sanctioned by the U.S. as close Putin associates.

The Kremlin has not commented on the revelations. However, in an apparent reference to the leak last week, Putin’s press secretary said western media and secret services were preparing an “information attack” against the Russian president ahead of parliamentary elections in September. “Here we see no intent to conduct objective investigations, we see just an intention to publish a hatchet job,” he said.

Mossack Fonesca did not serve only the Russian elite.

Putin’s arch enemy, Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko, also appears to have made use of the Panamanian law firm.

Poroshenko, a chocolate tycoon who promised to sell most of his assets during his campaign for the presidency, appears to have become sole shareholder of a British Virgin Islands company called Prime Asset Partners Limited in August 2014, as Russian troops swarmed into Eastern Ukraine.

Poroshenko’s spokesman said the move was unrelated to political or military developments and said its establishment was part of a move to prepare Roshen, Poroshenko’s company, for sale.

Also named is the president of Argentina, Mauricio Macri, who was director and vice president of a Bahamas company managed by Mossack Fonseca when he was a businessman and the mayor of Buenos Aires. A spokesman for Macri said the president never personally owned shares in the firm, part of his family’s business.

The children of Nawaz Sharif, the Pakistani prime minister, set up four offshore companies, which owned at least six upmarket properties overlooking London’s Hyde Park. Sharif denies any link to the properties.

Other world leaders named in the leaks include Sigmundur Davið Gunnlaugsson, prime minister of Iceland; Salman bin Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman Al Saud, king of Saudi Arabia; Ayad Allawi, former prime minister of Iraq; Bidzina Ivanishvili, former prime minister of Georgia; Ali Abu al-Ragab, former prime minister of Jordan; Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, former prime minister of Qatar; Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, former emir of Qatar; Ahmad Ali al-Mirghani, former president of Sudan; Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, president of UAE, and Pavlo Lazarenko, former prime minister of Ukraine.

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