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FT: Putin's 'Cellist' Friend Hid $2 Billion Using Panama

FT: Putin's 'Cellist' Friend Hid $2 Billion Using Panama
Sergei Roldugin, cellist and minority owner of a Russian bank, with friend Vladimir Putin. (Getty Images)

By    |   Tuesday, 05 April 2016 11:50 AM

Sergei Roldugin, a Russian cellist who introduced President Vladimir Putin to his former wife and is godfather to their eldest daughter, handled more than $2 billion in offshore transactions according to documents leaked from a Panamanian law firm.

How does a classical musician mint that kind of coin?

“It’s obvious that Roldugin couldn’t have earned this himself — he’s a musician,” Alexei Navalny, an anti-corruption activist and political opponent of Putin, told The Financial Times. “It’s not news that Putin is corrupt, but we see that he has this in addition to his famous ‘wallets.'”

The 11.5 million secret documents given to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists have 40 years of records from Mossack Fonseca, a Panamanian law firm that represents wealthy clients. The firm set up more than 300,000 shell companies to help people hide assets, according to the consortium, a Washington-based nonprofit group that supports cross-border reporting.

None of the documents mentions Putin by name, but they bolster the U.S. Treasury’s claims in 2014 that his inner circle of cronies act as “cashiers” by managing money on his behalf.

Dmitry Peskov, a Putin spokesman whose wife is named in the leaked documents as director of an offshore company (in violation of Russian law), responded to the controversy by lashing out at the U.S. government. He said the Central Intelligence Agency and State Department were behind an effort to undermine the Russian president.

Collective Yawn

According to the FT, Russian cellist Roldugin has access to a complicated financial network run by Bank Rossiya, which is known in Moscow as "Putin's wallet." The bank and its owner Yuri Kovalchuk were named in U.S. and European Union sanctions enacted after Russia annexed a section of Ukraine. Roldugin owns 3.2 percent of the bank’s shares, which he claims were given to him as a favor when he needed money.

Russians are said to have reacted to the document leak with a collective yawn.

“Russian media ignored the leaks relating to Russia entirely, and focused instead on stories about offshore companies belonging to Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko,” the FT reported.

“The reaction in Russia is: ‘Ha ha, they only found two billion?’ It’s petty cash for personal expenses,” Navalny told the FT. “Panama isn’t the most popular offshore for Russian officials. If we found information like this about the British Virgin Islands, the sum would be several times higher.”


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Sergei Roldugin, a Russian cellist who introduced President Vladimir Putin to his former wife and is godfather to their eldest daughter, handled more than $2 billion in offshore transactions according to documents leaked from a Panamanian law firm.
Panama Papers, Russian, Putin, cellist
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2016-50-05
Tuesday, 05 April 2016 11:50 AM
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