BBC: US Treasury Officials Allege Putin is Corrupt

Published: 26 January 2016

Vladimir PutinVladimir Putin

By Stella Roque

Adam Szubin, acting US Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, says that Russian President Vladimir Putin has been amassing secret wealth and that the United States considers him to be corrupt, reported Reuters.

Only days after the release of the Litvinenko Inquiry report concluding Putin ‘probably’ ordered the poisoning of former Russian Federal Security Service officer Alexander Litvinenko, BBC Panorama released a new documentary on Putin’s secret wealth. They interviewed Szubin as part of their investigation.

The US government has never directly accused Putin of corruption, reported the BBC, and Szubin did not supply evidence of Putin’s corruption.

Szubin supervises US Treasury sanctions. The US government imposed a series of sanctions on Kremlin officials in 2014 in addition to those imposed on Russian officials believed to have taken part in the murder of Sergei Magnitsky. The sanctions were imposed on Russia under the 2012 Magnitsky Act in response to its intervention in Ukraine.

"We've seen him enriching his friends, his close allies and marginalizing those who he doesn't view as friends using state assets,” Szubin told BBC Panorama. “He directs [public wealth] to those to whom he believes will serve him and excludes those who don't. To me, that is a picture of corruption."

Szubin declined to comment on a 2007 Central Intelligence Agency report estimating Putin's wealth at US$ 40 billion, but he said Putin’s publicly stated wealth is an underestimation.

Szubin said that Putin “draws a state salary of something like US$ 110,000 a year," but that is was not “an accurate statement of the man's wealth.” He further alleged Putin “has longtime training and practices in terms of how to mask his actual wealth."

Putin declared his 2014 annual income as 7.65 million roubles (US$ 119,000), according to Reuters, and claimed ownership of two apartments and a share in a parking garage. He has repeatedly denied allegations of having more wealth than his publicly disclosed income.

BBC Panorama, however, spoke to Dmitry Skarga, who used to run Russian state shipping company Sovcomflot. Skarga claimed he oversaw the transfer of a US$ 35 million yacht to Putin through an offshore company. The 57 meter-long Olympia was allegedly a gift from Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich.

BBC Panorama asked Abramovich about the yacht. His lawyers denied the transfer and called the allegations about him speculation and rumour.

Putin declined to be interviewed by Panorama.