Moscow: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday denied any “element of corruption” after the Panama Papers claimed his cellist friend Sergei Roldugin ran a USD 2-billion offshore empire, adding that his own name is not in the documents. Putin also claimed that United States officials were behind the journalistic investigation, citing a tweet from WikiLeaks. He boasted that the investigation had tried and failed to find any compromising information on his own financial dealings.
“They combed through these offshore accounts. Your humble servant is not there. What is there to talk about?” Putin said, referring to himself, speaking at a televised forum for regional media held in Saint Petersburg. Those working on the Panama Papers instead took “some friend of the Russian president” and suggested his activities have “an element of corruption,” Putin said.
“What element of corruption? There is none at all,” he insisted. “WikiLeaks has shown us now the fact that officials and official organs of the United States stand behind this,” Putin added.
WikiLeaks wrote on Twitter yesterday that “US govt funded #PanamaPapers attack story on Putin via USAID.” Putin warmly defended his friend Roldugin as a “brilliant musician” and philanthropist.
Roldugin is a minority shareholder “in one of our companies,” Putin said, apparently referring to Bank Rossiya where the cellist is a shareholder, adding that his earnings were exaggerated by the reports.
“He earns some money there, not billions of dollars of course. That’s rubbish, nothing of the sort,” Putin said.
“Almost all the money he earned he spent on buying musical instruments abroad and brought them to Russia” to donate to state musical institutions, Putin said.
“I am proud to have people like Sergei Pavlovich among my friends,” he added, calling Roldugin by his patronymic.
“The more of such people we have, the better, I am proud I have such friends,” he concluded defiantly, to applause from the audience. (AFP)