Pandora papers: Why Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin is the richest person in the world?

Vladimir Putin may be the wealthiest man in the world. Forbes won’t even estimate his net worth, because it can’t verify his financial assets. The Russian president does indulge in some displays of immense wealth, however. Putin is reported to own luxury watches, a fleet of yachts, and multiple expensive properties, including a $1 billion palace. American financier Bill Browder estimated that Putin had “accumulated $200 billion of ill-gotten gains, according to the Atlantic.

Vladimir Putin very well may be the richest man in the world. But it’s impossible to say for sure. According to the Kremlin, the Russian president earns around $133,000 a year and lives in a small apartment.

Thanks to documents in the Pandora papers, the Guardian newspaper identify a buyer – a woman, 28 years old in 2003, and at the time unknown, but now disclosed, Svetlana Krivonogikh. In the space of a few years, around the turn of the millennium, Krivonogikh became extremely wealthy. She acquired a flat in a prestigious compound in her home city of St Petersburg, properties in Moscow, a yacht, and other assets, worth an estimated $100m.

How to explain her fairytale rise? According to media reports, Krivonogikh’s background is modest. She grew up in a communal apartment, sharing a kitchen and bathroom with five families.

Krivonogikh was a business student and worked as a cleaner in a store. Then, in the late 1990s, she appears to have acquired a benefactor, Vladimir Putin.

That description doesn’t jive with most accounts of Putin’s lifestyle. Former Russian government adviser Stanislav Belkovsky estimated his fortune is worth $70 billion. Hedge fund manager Bill Browder, a noted critic of Putin, claimed it was more like $200 billion. A fortune that enormous would propel him straight past Amazon founder and richest man in the world Jeff Bezos, who Forbes estimates has $150.2 billion to his name.

So why can’t journelist pin down Putin’s net worth with any certainty? The 2015 Panama Papers revealed that Putin may obscure and bolster his fortune through proxies.

We’ve put together a list of all the clues that indicate Putin is likely one of the richest people on the planet:
As president of Russia, Putin’s official residence is the Moscow Kremlin. However, he spends most of his time at a suburban government residence outside of the city called Novo-Ogaryovo.

Putin reportedly has access to 20 different palaces and villas in Russia. Official records published in 2016 by the Kremlin would have us believe that Putin has a very modest real estate portfolio. The report said he owned a small plot of land and an apartment with a garage.

Putin and his puppet Dimitri Medvedev

But over the years, Putin has been linked to other properties. The most controversial of which is the so-called “secret palace.” This was reportedly built for Putin using illegal state funds.

Putin mansion under construction.

This epic mansion reportedly cost $1 billion to build. It has a private theater and landing pad with room for three helicopters.

The bedrooms are suitably grandiose.

And the wall art is just as opulent.

Snapshots of the then-under-construction mansion leaked in 2011.

And the following year, opposition leader and Putin critic Boris Nemtsov produced a dossier claiming that Putin owned multiple private jets, helicopters, and yachts.

Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

Nemtsov alleged that, out of the 20 state residences Putin had access to, nine were built during his tenure as president. The president was also accused of owning 58 different types of aircraft, including a Dassault Falcon, which seats 19.

Several Dassault Falcon private jets owned by Vladimir Putin.

One of his planes was said to have an $11 million cabin fitted out by jewelers and that toilet which cost close to $100,000. This plane has room for up to 186 passengers. Putin is accused of owning five of these.

This is not Putin’s plane but an example of what his plane would look like.AP/Alexander Zemlianichenko
The dossier claimed Putin has a collection of four yachts, each costing thousands of dollars to maintain. Rossiya, one of his yachts, was upgraded in 2005. It reportedly cost $1.2 billion to do. “The Graceful,” another of his yachts, (shown below) reportedly sleeps 14 people and has six bedrooms.

SuperYachtFan Source: Time

Then there’s Olympia. He was reportedly given this 57-meter luxury yacht, worth $35 million, as a gift from Chelsea football club owner and oligarch Roman Abramovich. According to a former head of a state shipping company in Russia, Putin runs the yacht using state money.

Roman Abramovich.Clive Mason/Getty Images

Putin also likes to take pride in his appearance. The 2012 dossier claimed it Putin has 11 watches worth an estimated $687,000.

According to the Russian government-owned paper “Russia Beyond the Headlines,” Putin owns an A. Lange & Söhne Tourbograph Perpetual ‘Pour Le Mérite,’ which costs half a million dollars.
According to the Russian government-owned paper “Russia Beyond the Headlines,” Putin owns an A. Lange & Söhne Tourbograph Perpetual ‘Pour Le Mérite,’ which costs half a million dollars.

A $1 million Patek Phillippe going up for auction in July 2017 was also said to be owned by Putin. Accompanying documentation claimed he was the owner. The Kremlin denied these claims.

Monaco Legend Auctions Source: Business Insider

In the past, Putin has even given away his watches. The president reportedly owned five Blancpain watches at one time but gave away one to a Siberian boy while on vacation and another to a factory worker who asked for a keepsake. The watches were reportedly worth $10,500 each.

Then there’s his clothing. Newsweek’s Ben Judah spent three years researching Putin for his book and claimed that Putin prefers bespoke suits and “dour” Valentino ties over anything else.

Russian government-owned paper “Russia Beyond the Headlines” confirmed Putin’s expensive taste for tailored suits. In 2015, it published an article claiming that the president’s preferred brand of suits was Kiton and Brioni, “Such suits are made from start to finish by one tailor, take dozens of hours to complete, and have a starting price tag of $5500,” the article said.

According to “Russia Beyond the Headlines”, Putin also has a stylist who has been dressing him for over 10 years. “The stylist rips off all the labels from his clothes, so these do not accidentally catch the eyes of journalists.”

In 2015, Putin was photographed working out with Russian Prime Minister Dimitri Medvedev. Quartz reported that his Loro Piana silk and cashmere-blend sweatpants cost $1,425. Putin teamed this with a matching top, making the outfit cost a whopping $3,200 in total.

In 2007, ex-Kremlin official Stanislav Belkovsky claimed that Putin had a $40 billion fortune hidden away in Switzerland and Liechtenstein. At the time, that would have made him the fourth wealthiest person in the world, between business magnate Carlos Slim and late IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad.

Kirill Kudryavtsev/Pool Photo via AP

At the time, Belkovsy said Putin secretly controlled 37% of the shares of Surgutneftegaz and 4.5% of Gazprom, two giant Russian oil companies. He also said he controlled “at least 75%” of Swiss oil trader Gunvor, the Guardian reported, but added, “I suspect there are some businesses I know nothing about.” Gunvor has refuted these claims, however. “President Putin does not and never has had any ownership, beneficial or otherwise in Gunvor,” a Gunvor spokesperson said in a statement to Business Insider. “He is not a beneficiary of Gunvor or its activities.”

Estimates of Putin’s net worth have only risen over time. Browder, the CEO of Hermitage Capital Management, believes that Putin has access to a secret fortune of $200 billion. Browder had invested in Russia in the 1990s, but ultimately came into conflict with Putin.

Bill Browder.Getty Images/ AFP/ Bertrand Guay

After Browder’s lawyer Sergei Magnitsky was jailed and brutally killed while investigation corruption, Browder advocated for the passage of the “Magnitsky Act” in 2012, leading to US sanctions against Russian oligarchs.

Putin’s inner circle is actually the reason why no one can seem to pin down Putin’s exact worth with any certainty. The Guardian reported that in 2010, “US diplomatic cables suggested Putin held his wealth via proxies,” including his best friend Sergei Roldugin and banker Yuri Kovalchuk.

Some of those connections were exposed in the 2015 Panama Papers. The massive leak didn’t include any files directly pertaining to Putin, but they did reveal that “his friends have earned millions from deals that seemingly could not have been secured without his patronage,” the Guardian reported.

Russian journalists Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan have said that, as a result, the Panama Papers leak was “seen as an attack on personal friends of Putin, his immediate circle.” But Putin and the Kremlin have denied allegations that he’s used his role to enrich himself and his friends.

Myers wrote that the Russian leader said, “I am the wealthiest man, not just in Europe but in the whole world: I collect emotions. I am wealthy in that the people of Russia have twice entrusted me with the leadership of a great nation such as Russia. I believe that is my greatest wealth.”

The repeated rebuttals have done nothing to dispel the scrutiny on Putin’s alleged riches. “In a country where 20  million people can barely make ends meet, the luxurious life of the president is a brazen and cynical challenge to society from a high-handed potentate,” Nemstov wrote in one 2012 white paper. The politician, a longtime and vocal critic of Putin, was assassinated in 2015.

Boris Nemtsov.Alex Wong / Getty Images


New York Times,The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin

The Washington Post, ““The Red Web: The Struggle Between Russia’s Digital Dictators and the New Online Revolutionaries”

FortuneThe Washington Post


Business Insider

New York Times

The Telegraph

Newsweek reported

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