Putin’s Wealth: No ‘smoking gun’ but some ‘smoking watches’

Certificate showing that the wife of the Russian first deputy prime minister is the sole shareholder of a British Virgin Islands company that made millions from a “loan” it gave to a Russian steel conglomerate.

Last month, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism in London and the Al Jazeera program, People and Power, released the provocatively titled investigation, “Putin: The Richest Man on Earth?”

The report examined Putin’s assets and allegations that he had amassed vast amounts of wealth. The Bureau employed a tried and tested way of uncovering the hidden assets of politicians: its reporters used asset declarations as a starting point and then unearthed proof that other, hidden, and more substantial assets had been acquired through questionable means. This method has been used with some success elsewhere, notably in the Philippines, where journalistic investigation into the assets of the president led to his ouster and by prosecutors in the ongoing trial of the Supreme Court chief justice, who was found to have had millions of dollars in undeclared bank accounts. In Thailand, reporters have used then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s asset declarations to show that he had violated divestment laws, an exposé that came close to forcing him out of office in 2001. Up to now, Thaksin is still facing lawsuits alleging he had falsified his asset disclosures. Read the rest of this entry »