It may be the biggest global political scandal in history
If Russian strongman Vladimir Putin looks as if he has a major case of indigestion, there is good reason, courtesy of The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, who posted this to their web site in the early hours of Sunday:
A massive leak of documents exposes the offshore holdings of 12 current and former world leaders and reveals how associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin secretly shuffled as much as $2 billion through banks and shadow companies.
The leak also provides details of the hidden financial dealings of 128 more politicians and public officials around the world.
The cache of 11.5 million records shows how a global industry of law firms and big banks sells financial secrecy to politicians, fraudsters and drug traffickers as well as billionaires, celebrities and sports stars.
These are among the findings of a yearlong investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and more than 100 other news organizations.
- Files reveal the offshore holdings of 140 politicians and public officials from around the world
- Current and former world leaders in the data include prime ministers of Iceland and Pakistan, the president of Ukraine, and the king of Saudi Arabia
- More than 214,000 offshore entities appear in the leak, connected to people in more than 200 countries and territories
- Major banks have driven the creation of hard-to-trace companies in offshore havens
The New York Times suggests that the playas should have seen it coming:
The leak followed a series of high-profile breaches in recent years in which individuals working for governments or companies have amassed internal files and then given them to media organizations. In 2014, Edward J. Snowden, a contractor for the National Security Agency, gave reporters what intelligence officials have estimated was at least 1.5 million documents from the agency. Hundreds of articles have been published based on those documents.
The media organizations looking into Mossack Fonseca are expected to publish many more articles based on the new documents in the coming days.
Some of the most damning information involves the afore-mentioned dyspeptic strongman from Moscow:
Vladimir Putin and Sergey Roldugin forged a bond as young men. Fast friends, almost like brothers, they cruised the streets of Leningrad, singing and, in Putin’s case, occasionally getting into fistfights.
As Putin rose to power as Russia’s supreme leader and Roldugin made a name for himself as a classical cellist and conductor, the two remained close. Roldugin has performed for Putin and high-profile guests at the president’s official residence and has given media interviews that softened Putin’s fearsome image.
Now a leak of secret documents reveals another, hidden side of their friendship.
The records show Roldugin is a behind-the-scenes player in a clandestine network operated by Putin associates that has shuffled at least $2 billion through banks and offshore companies, an investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung and other media partners has found.
In the documents, Roldugin is listed as the owner of offshore companies that have obtained payments from other companies worth tens of millions of dollars. A company linked to the cellist also grabbed secret influence over Russia’s largest truck maker, another snagged a big slice of Russia’s TV advertising industry.
It’s possible Roldugin, who has publicly claimed not to be a businessman, is not the true beneficiary of these riches. Instead, the evidence in the files suggests Roldugin is acting as a front man for a network of Putin loyalists – and perhaps for Putin himself.
Roldugin did not respond to detailed questions.
You wouldn’t either, otherwise there might be a little bit of polonium along with the creamer in your morning coffee!
Naturally, the “mainstream media” will continue to be fascinated by that big shiny object with the ginger tribble on his head, but make no mistake: this is shaping up to be one of the biggest, if not the biggest, international political scandal of them all. ‘Nuff said.