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Is Vladimir Putin The World’s Richest Man?

The US President Joe Biden met the premier of Russia Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin on June 26, this year. Putin who has been the Russian premier since 1999 is the second longest-serving European leader after the Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko. The former KGB operative is also the second longest-serving Russian leader since the ruthless dictator Joseph Stalin.

Putin had disclosed a surprisingly modest wealth in 2019. His annual income is reported to be $135,000 and his listed assets include a $900 tent trailer, a $6000 Lada Niva SUV, $30,000 vintage Russian GZ M21 sedans, a 1600 square foot and 830 square foot apartments in St. Petersberg and Moscow, respectively. This means Russian’s premier wealth is about half a million dollars. In fact, Putin had reported a net wealth of $500,000 during his divorce with Lyudmila in 2012.

But many critics are skeptical of the disclosed wealth of Putin, who has been the Russian premier for over two decades. A lot of people think that he is actually the richest person in the world today.

Allegations of a Secret Fortune

Many people don’t believe that the Russian premier has a net worth less than that of the current US president Joe Biden, whose net worth is expected to be about $8 million.

Discussions about the secret fortune of Putin have been going on for more than a decade. Critics say that the pseudo-capitalistic oligarchy makes Putin in the best position to amass great wealth.

The former world chess champion Gary Kasparov had claimed that the Russian premier has amassed the greatest wealth compared to any other individual in the history of the world.

Putin has been spotted wearing expensive watches such as the Patek Phillipe Perpetual Calendar worth $60,000 and the A. Lange & Sohne Toubograph worth a whopping $500,000.

The most highly publicized power struggle took place in 2003 when Mikhail Khodorkovsky who was worth $15 billion at the time was literally pulled from his private plane, handcuffed, and then sent to jail. He was charged with tax evasion but critics say that he was thrown in jail due to giving funds to the opposition. The oil baron spent more than 10 years in the Siberian jail and was released in 2013.

A hedge fund manager named Bill Browder, who was exiled from Russia in 2005 had alleged that all billionaires in Russia had gone to Moscow to know what they should do to avoid the same fate as Khodorkovsky.

In 2017, Browder had given a testimony to the US Senate Committee alleging that Putin appeared to have answered ‘fifty percent’ to billionaire oligarchs’ question on how to avoid sitting in the same cell as Khodorkovsky. According to the testimony, the fifty percent wasn’t for the presidential administration or government but personally for Putin.

Browder had stated in his testimony that the real wealth of the Russian premier was about $200 billion, which was obtained over 17 years in power. This means that Putin is allegedly the richest person in the world, exceeding Jeff Bezos’ wealth by $1 billion.

Some critics have stated a much lower number than Browder. A former Russian advisor, Stanislav Belovsky, had estimated that the wealth of Putin must be about $70 billion.  He had said in 2017 that the Russian premier had stashed $40 billion in Liechtenstein and Switzerland. Moreover, he also had stakes of 4.5 percent and 37 percent in Russia-based oil companies, Gazprom and Surgutneftegaz, respectively.

A Palatial Palace

Russian activists claimed in 2012 that Putin was building a palatial home on a cliff above the Black Sea. They had flown a drone over the secret construction project of 190,000 sq. ft. mansion. The palatial mansion is said to be located on a 170-acre land. The drone footage showed that the palace had an ice hockey rink, amphitheater, nightclub, casino, and an underground room that overlooks the water. There is also a 27,000 square foot guest house and classical music playing on the vineyards of the property. Moreover, the mansion that was built on government property had three helipads and a separate road built from state funds.

Activists have released a document that showed the property was 39 times the size of Monaco and cost about $1.35 billion to build.

A former business partner of Putin, Sergei Kolesnikov had stated in a BBC interview that he was ordered to build the palace by Igor Sechin who was the Deputy Prime Minister at the time. He alleged that the mansion was guarded by government guards and the palace for built as a personal residence of Putin.

According to the opposition politicians, Putin owns stakes in different companies that have not been disclosed. It is claimed that the Russian premier owns 20 palaces and villas that are not shown in the books.

Alexei Navalny who has been in the news lately for being imprisoned by the Russian authorities had published an investigation report in coordination with the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) that claimed Putin had fraudulently obtained state funds to build estates for himself.

The US Central Investigation Agency (CIA) had estimated that the wealth of Putin to be $40 billion in 2007. A report by Andres Aslund had claimed that the real wealth of the Russian premier is between $100 and $160 billion.

Final Remarks

The Kremlin had stated that talks about the Russian Premier’s wealth are all rumors. The Russian premier had denied claims of being a billionaire saying that the allegations do not even warrant a response.

“The Russian premier had once admitted to a journalist to being the wealthiest man – not just in Russia but in the world. His wealth was not in terms of money but the emotions of the Russian people as they had elected him twice to be the premier of Russia,” said Scott J. Cooper.

Talks about Putin being the richest person in the world may not be true. He may not even be a billionaire. But it is certainly hard to believe that Putin’s wealth is just $500,000. He must be either bad with money or hiding a secret fortune behind a modest façade.


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