Days after several associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin were implicated in the use of Panamanian shell companies to hide money offshore, Mr. Putin dismissed the Panama Papers altogether, claiming that they were produced by America to undermine his credibility and political power in Russia.
Thus far, no documents from the release of the Panama Papers have tied Putin directly to any of the shell companies. Many of his close friends and associates, however, have been included in the list of those that apparently used Panama as a tax haven. Among those who have been listed is Sergei Roldugin, a noted Russian cellist and one of President Putin’s closest friends. Roldugin allegedly was a participant in the moving of more than $2 billion into various shell companies and held some $100 million in personal assets under the shell companies that were linked directly to him. While Putin has continued to point out that his name does not appear on any of the documents thus far released, he has defended Roldugin’s holdings as legitimate. “He is a minority shareholder in one of our companies and makes some money out of it…almost all the money he earned he spent on musical instruments that he bought abroad,” said Putin during a press event in St. Petersburg during which he addressed the Panama Papers. The Russian president himself, however, continued to point out that his name does not appear on any of the leaked documents, stating, “Your humble servant is not there.”
Mr. Putin has also dismissed the papers as an attempt by the United States and other Western interests to attack his government. In this claim, he is at least somewhat supported by noted transparency advocate and document leak provider WikiLeaks. The organization’s Twitter feed on April 5th prominently featured the following two messages:
#PanamaPapers, Putin attack was produced by OCCRP which targets Russia & former USSR and was funded by USAID & Soros.
The US OCCRP can do good work, but for the US govt to directly fund the #PanamaPapers attack on Putin seriously undermines its intergrity
For clarification, the OCCRP refers to the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, a group of journalists and media outlets that independently monitors and reports on criminal activity and corruption in world governments. USAID refers to the United States Agency for International Development, the primary administrative body overseeing the distribution of foreign aid money from the United States. Soros refers to hedge-fund magnate George Soros, who provides funding to OCCRP. WikiLeaks later somewhat modified its stance on the Panama Papers as relating to Mr. Putin, posting the following on April 6th:
Claims that #PanamaPapers themselves are a “plot” against Russia are nonsense. However hoarding, DC organization & USAID money tilt coverage
The reference to hoarding in the final post refers to the lack of full release of the documents, of which less than one percent have been disclosed. WikiLeaks, among other media organizations, has been critical of the withholding of the bulk of the documents in question.
Mr. Putin, in defending his position and those of his associates, cited the former two messages from WikiLeaks on the matter, stating that, “We now know from WikiLeaks that officials and state agencies in the United States are behind all this.” Though WikiLeaks has made the claim that United States money and interests were behind the release of the documents and the subsequent fallout that has affected many world leaders, it should be noted that neither documented evidence nor any other form of confirmation has been offered by the watchdog organization to support the claims.
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