U.S. Treasury claims President Putin is secretly wealthy and corrupt


The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is reporting that the United States (U.S.) has long considered Russian President Vladimir Putin to be secretly wealthy, corrupt, and focused on enriching his friends and allies.

Adam Szubin, the U.S. Treasury’s Acting Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Crimes, said in an interview with BBC Panorama that the Russian President has been amassing wealth outside the public view.

“We’ve seen him enriching his friends, his close allies and marginalizing those who he doesn’t view as friends using state assets. Whether that’s Russia’s energy wealth, whether it’s other State contracts, he directs those to whom he believes will serve him and excludes those who don’t. To me, that is a picture of corruption,” Mr. Szubin told the British broadcaster.

Mr. Szubin declined to comment on a 2007 Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) report that estimated President Putin’s wealth at $40 billion, but he said the Russian leader regularly understates his wealth, and the United States has known this for “many, many years.”

“He supposedly draws a state salary of something like $110,000 a year,” Mr. Szubin told the BBC. “That is not an accurate statement of the man’s wealth, and he has longtime training and practices in terms of how to mask his actual wealth.”

The Kremlin has denied such allegations. President Putin has repeatedly said that he views news reports of his immense wealth as nonsense.

President Putin’s public financial disclosures depict a man of modest means. In April, Putin declared 2014 income of 7.65 million Rubles ($119,000). He listed the ownership of two modest apartments and a share in a car parking garage.

But in March 2014, the U.S. Treasury Department tied President Putin to profits from a long-time acquaintance, Gennady Timchenko, on whom it imposed sanctions in retaliation for Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

Mr. Timchenko was then Co-Owner of Gunvor, a Geneva-based investment firm which trades nearly 3 percent of the world’s oil.

“Timchenko activities in the energy sector have been directly linked to Putin. Putin has investments in Gunvor and may have access to Gunvor funds,” the Department said in announcing the sanctions.

Gunvor, which was not targeted by the sanctions, denied the Treasury’s allegations. “President Putin does not and never has had any ownership, beneficial or otherwise, in Gunvor,” Company Spokesman Seth Thomas Pietras told Reuters News Agency.

The BBC in seeking to establish President Putin’s wealth also interviewed Dimitry Skarga, who used to run Russian State Shipping Company ‘Sovcomflot’.

Mr. Skarga claimed that he managed the transfer of a $35-million yacht to President Putin from Roman Abramovich, Owner of the Chelsea Soccer Club. Mr. Abramovich’s lawyers dismissed those claims as speculation.