Putin’s Wealthy Friends

Yulia Latynina writes in the Moscow Times: The most serious economic consequence of Putin’s presidency is that many of his friends have acquired tremendous wealth over the past seven years. If, for example, oil pumped by Yuganskneftegaz was previously exported by Yukos or one of its offshore subsidiaries, now the same oil is exported by Gunvor, which has capital reserves that are estimated to be about $20 billion. Gunvor is a Geneva-based oil-trading company co-founded by Russian businessman Gennady Timchenko, who is reportedly Putin’s close friend. Putin’s reputation in the West took a serious blow after Yukos was dismantled and its CEO, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, was jailed. This means that either Putin generously let his reputation suffer in order to help Timchenko strike it rich, or else he jailed Khodorkovsky in order to channel Yukos oil to another friend. After the cut, Anders Aslund argues that the Putin administration’s theft of Yukos makes it more corrupt than Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines and Zaire’s Mobutu.

From Anders Aslund: “Unmasking President Putin’s Grandiose Myth“In a sensational interview in Germany’s Die Welt on Nov. 12, Stanislav Belkovsky, the well-connected insider who initiated the Kremlin campaign against Yukos in 2003, made specific claims about Putin’s wealth. He alleged that Putin owned 37 percent of Surgutneftegaz (worth $18 billion), 4.5 percent of Gazprom ($13 billion) and half of Timchenko’s company, Gunvor (possibly $10 billion). If this information is true, Putin’s total personal fortune would amount to no less than $41 billion, placing him among the 10 richest in the world.These shareholdings have been rumored for years, but now a prominent international newspaper has published such allegations made by a well-informed source. If these numbers contain any truth, Putin would be the most corrupt political leader in world history, easily surpassing Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines and Zaire’s Mobutu.