Vlad, sitting on a huge fortune
Putin, the Kremlin power struggle and the $40bn fortune
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.
I highlight “for the first time”: certainly Putin’s not the first Russian ruler to have socked away millions here and there, and used Zug, Switzerland as a business base. What is interesting is that this is being revealed at all.
Is it because of the amounts involved?
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.”
I doubt that the investigation has to do with the oil-for-food connection:
>Now just where would Putin come in such wealth? The Senate investigated the Oil for Food Scandal back in 2005 and found direct ties to Saddam and Putin – among other world leaders – a relationship which enriched both despots.
But back to the Guardian article and why there is an investigation at all, is it because of a power struggle?
Discussion of Putin’s wealth has previously been taboo. But the claims have leaked out against the backdrop of a fight inside the Kremlin between a group led by Igor Sechin, Putin’s influential deputy chief of staff, and a “liberal” clan that includes Medvedev.
The Sechin group is made up of siloviki – Kremlin officials with security/military backgrounds. It is said to include Nikolai Patrushev, the head of the Federal Security Service (FSB), Russia’s KGB successor agency, his deputy Alexander Bortnikov, and Putin’s aide Viktor Ivanov.
Those associated with the liberal camp include Roman Abramovich, the Russian oligarch and owner of Chelsea football club who is close to Putin and the Yeltsin family. Other members are Viktor Cherkesov, the head of the federal drug control service, and Alisher Usmanov, an Uzbek-born billionaire.
Ideology has been ruled out:
Insiders say the struggle has little to do with ideology. They characterise it as a war between business competitors.
But Putin, like Fidel (and like Hugo, if he lives long enough) has a practical problem:
“There’s no point in having all this money if you can’t travel to the Maldives or Paris and spend it,” Elena Panfilova, the director of Transparency International in Russia said.