Vladimir Putin has said the revelations from the Panama Papers published in the Guardian concerning an old friend of his are true.
However, the Russian president went on to say that the files demonstrate no illegal activity on his part. The papers link the cellist Sergei Roldugin to a number of offshore companies with cash flows of up to $2bn (£1.4bn).
During his annual phone-in with the nation, Putin discussed the documents with an irate caller who asked why he had not sued western media for spreading lies concerning the unprecedented leak of 11.5m files from the database of the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca.
“However strange it may seem, the information is correct,” he said. “I have the feeling that it was prepared not by journalists but by lawyers, given the way it is presented. And it doesn’t actually accuse anyone of anything, and that’s the whole point. They are just trying to cause confusion, saying that some of my friends are involved in business, and suggesting that some of the money from these offshore accounts finds its way to officials, including the president.”
Using a Russian expression meaning roughly “to take a wild guess”, Putin added: “They were just waving their fingers in the sky, but maybe ended up sticking them somewhere unexpected.”
Putin did not touch on allegations in the Panama Papers relating to his spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, whose wife, Tatiana Navka, was the registered beneficial owner of a secret offshore firm. Peskov has claimed that Navka, a former Olympic ice skater, “does not and has never” owned any offshore companies.
Roldugin, who runs the Music House in St Petersburg, told state television earlier this week that he had spent all the money on musical instruments for talented young Russians. Without directly answering allegations that he personally controls a series of assets worth at least $100m, Roldugin dismissed any suggestion that he was fabulously wealthy or was safeguarding money or assets for Putin.
-More at TheGuardian