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Russian emails appear to show ‘network’ holding $4.5 billion in assets linked to Putin | Russia

Palaces, yachts and vineyards allegedly supplied to Vladimir Putin by friends and oligarchs may now be linked to what appears to be an informal network holding assets worth over $4.5 billion (3, £7 billion).

A digital paper trail appears to suggest that an array of vacation homes and other assets believed to have been used by the Russian president, which available documents show are or were owned by separate individuals, businesses and charities , are linked through a common email domain name. , LLCInvest.ru.

Putin Diagram

A snapshot of leaked email exchanges last September further suggests that directors and administrators associated with some of the separate entities that own and manage these assets discussed day-to-day business issues as if they were part of a single organization.

An anti-corruption expert in Russia, who requested anonymity given the political situation in Moscow, said the findings raised questions about whether there was a level of “joint management”.

“LLCInvest is first and foremost like a cooperative, or an association, in which its members can exchange profits and goods,” they suggested.

For nearly two decades, Putin has been accused of secretly amassing vast wealth through powers of attorney, fueled by a series of revelations in leaks such as the Pandora Diaries about the fortunes of those close to him.

Sergey Kolesnikov, a businessman, claimed 10 years ago that he was behind a scheme that allowed a group of Russia’s top oligarchs to pool billions of rubles into a kind of “death fund”. ‘investment’ for the benefit of Putin, who then served as a leader. minister. The requests were denied, and Kolesnikov fled Russia.

Last month, the British government compared Putin’s “lavish lifestyle” to official Russian records that list “modest assets” including a small flat in St Petersburg, two 1950s Soviet-era cars, a trailer and a small garage.

Alexei Navalny has claimed the £1billion palace was built for Putin’s personal use in Gelendzhik on the Black Sea. Photography: AP

After a year-long investigation, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and Russian-language news site Meduza identified 86 companies and nonprofits whose representatives appear to use the common domain name LLCinvest, often alongside companies. email accounts.

Claims of a secret presidential fortune are denied and a chain of ownership leading to Putin has not been identified. A Kremlin spokesman said: “The President of the Russian Federation is in no way connected or affiliated with the objects and organizations you named.”

Villa Sellgren
Villa Sellgren belongs to Sergey Rudnov, the son of a childhood friend of Putin. Photography: Navalny.com

According to OCCRP and Meduza, assets related to surrounding organizations or corporate structures in which the LLCinvest.ru email domain appears to have been used include:

  • A billion-pound palace, according to Alexei Navalny, has been built for Putin’s personal use in Gelendzhik on the Black Sea. Billionaire oligarch Arkady Rotenberg, who faces EU and US sanctions, has claimed ownership of the property. Company records held by the Spark database in Russia indicated in June that the property was owned by a company called Kompleks whose parent company is Binom. The director of the company at Binom until July last year seems to have a registered LLCInvest.ru mail domain. The LLCinvest.ru address remains listed on Spark, Russia’s largest business database, as a contact.

  • Acres of vineyards around Gelendzhik Palace. Navalny claimed wineries were Putin’s “hobby” spiraling out of control. The vineyards surrounding the palace are owned by a nonprofit founded by two Putin associates, Gennady Timchenko and Vladimir Kolbin, both also under Western sanctions. Kolbin and other winery associates appear to have LLCInvest.ru email accounts.

  • The ski resort of Igora in Leningrad Oblast where Putin’s daughter’s wedding took place in 2013. According to land records, it is owned by Ozon, a company in which Putin’s friend, the president and Bank Rossiya’s biggest shareholder, Yuri Kovalchuk, who is under western sanctions, had a big stake. The LLCInvest.ru email account is a contact on the Spark records of Ozon’s parent company Relax. Ozon has no connection with the Nasdaq-listed e-commerce giant of the same name.

  • A villa north of Saint Petersburg, known to locals as “Putin’s Dacha”. Villa Sellgren was owned by Oleg Rudnov, a childhood friend of Putin, and inherited by his son Sergey Rudnov, through a company called North. Rudnov appears to be using email addresses from LLCinvest.ru, according to Spark’s records.

  • A wood-clad building north of St. Petersburg known as the Fisherman’s Hut. Emails leaked from a construction company suggest that three different companies using the domain name owned different plots of land around the resort, while a fourth entity LLCInvest – a non-profit organization named Revival of Maritime Traditions – has managed the construction. This same foundation, recently placed under Western sanctions, owns two yachts, Shellest and Nega, declared by the US Treasury to be linked to Putin.

Russia Assets Map

The $4.5 billion in assets held by LLCInvest entities include significant cash deposits. Two non-profit foundations, co-founded by Timchenko and Kolbin, which according to Spark’s records appear to use the domain name, have significant funds.

Development of Agrarian Initiatives had 17 billion rubles (£248 million) in its holding account at the end of 2020, while Development of an Effective Investment Market held more than 20 billion rubles (292 million pounds sterling) in long-term deposits and almost 5 billion rubles (73 million pounds sterling). ) in short-term deposits at the end of 2020, according to public records.

Most seashell yacht
The Shellest yacht is owned by the non-profit organization Revival of Maritime Traditions.

LLCinvest is not a standard publicly available email provider like Yahoo, but a domain on a server owned by Moskomsvyaz, a telecommunications company closely tied to Bank Rossiya. The St. Petersburg bank is under Western sanctions and described by the US Treasury as “the personal bank of senior officials of the Russian Federation”.

Rossiya has also been described as ‘Putin’s bank’ for its role in the alleged execution of the Russian leader’s auction. The Kremlin has denied any such links or influences.

The discovery of the common email domain was made through the analysis of leaked metadata from Moskomsvyaz servers, which appears to indicate the names of senders and recipients of emails from LLCinvest.ru, the subject and time of correspondence . This has been cross-checked with open source records and a separate leak of some full message content.

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Moskomsvyaz and all but one person who appears to have used LLCInvest.ru email addresses did not respond to requests for comment. It is unclear as to the purpose of the common email service or the motivation for the apparent cooperation on staffing and logistics issues.

There is no suggestion that all LLCInvest.ru users are involved in the management of assets that have been linked in reports to Putin. Only one man who uses an LLCinvest.ru email account in his role as an administrator of several companies, spoke on the phone when called. He pretended not to know the nature of his work.

“I am a humble employee and mind my own business,” he said when questioned. “I’m just signing papers. You know that sometimes homeless people are registered as directors of a company. I’m not homeless but I sign the papers like them without going into details.

“If my company was part of a large holding company, I wouldn’t know about it,” he added. The man’s identity is withheld for his own safety.