Monday, April 4, 2016

Putin's Cellist:The World’s Wealthiest Musician

FT reports:
As other close friends of Vladimir Putin amassed fortunes and political power under his rule, Sergei Roldugin, a cellist who introduced the Russian president to his former wife and is godfather to their eldest daughter, eschewed a place in Russia’s new oligarchy for a life devoted to music. “I don’t have millions,” he told the New York Times in 2014.
In fact, Mr Roldugin may be worth a great deal more than that. Leaked documents from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, published on Sunday by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, show that the cellist has shuffled at least $2bn through a web of offshore accounts, making him possibly the world’s wealthiest musician.

Though none of the 11m documents unearthed by ICIJ mention Mr Putin by name, they form the strongest evidence yet in support of longstanding rumours about his supposedly vast personal wealth. In passing the 2014 sanctions, the US Treasury said members of Mr Putin’s inner circle act as his “cashiers” by managing funds and investments on his behalf.
“It’s obvious that Roldugin couldn’t have earned this himself — he’s a musician,” said Alexei Navalny, an anti-corruption activist and political opponent of Mr Putin... 
According to the leaked documents, the key intermediary in the network was Sandalwood, a British Virgin Islands company controlled by Oleg Gordin, a little known businessman described in leaked company documents as having a background in “law enforcement”. The leaks show that Sandalwood took out unsecured loans worth about $800m from RCB Cyprus, a subsidiary of state-run VTB that took few, if any, precautions over its ability to repay them.
The company was also involved in a loan-swapping agreement that assigned interest payments, often at highly favourable terms, the documents show. In one example, Mr Roldugin paid $1 to receive $8m in interest...
The leaks show that Mr Roldugin also owns shares in car manufacturers Kamaz and Avtovaz. They also reveal that other companies linked to the cellist received millions in payments from Russian oligarchs on extremely favourable terms...
The Panamanian documents also show that Levens Trading, a company linked to steel giant Severstal, lent another company linked to Mr Roldugin $6m in 2007 at 2 per cent interest, then forgave the debt for $1 only two months later.

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