Leaked docs reveal Abramovich linked to secret £26million deal with two Russian oligarchs known as Putin’s ‘wallets’

Leaked docs reveal Abramovich linked to secret £26million deal with two Russian oligarchs known as Putin’s ‘wallets’

LEAKED documents have revealed a multi million-pound trail linking oligarch Roman Abramovich to two men dubbed “wallets” of Vladimir Putin, a BBC investigation has claimed.

The ex-Chelsea FC owner, 55, has been sanctioned by the UK and the EU but has previously denied any financial relationship with the Russian president.

ReutersRussian oligarch Roman Abramovich is allegedly linked to a secret £26million deal with Putin’s close allies, a BBC investigation claims[/caption]

AFPLeaked documents claim to reveal a multi million-pound trail linking the ex-Chelsea FC boss to two men dubbed ‘wallets’ of Vladimir Putin[/caption]

The BBC investigation claims to have found leaked documents from Cyprus that reveal new evidence linking the Russian oligarch to a secret £26 million ($40m) deal in 2010.

The alleged covert deal saw transferred shares in Video International, a highly-profitable Russian advertising company, for less than they appeared to be worth.

The transactions were allegedly made by companies ultimately owned by a trust connected with Mr Abramovich, to two members of Putin’s inner circle, who in return received millions of dollars in dividends.

A complex web of companies in Cyprus and the British Virgin Islands – as well as a trust – would have allegedly concealed the football tycoon’s involvement in the transaction, the BBC investigation claims.

Leaked documents claim to reveal the former Chelsea boss’s relationship with two companies that bought a combined 25% stake in Video International in 2003.

The two companies – Finoto Holdings and Grosora Holdings – were created in early 2003.

Through a series of shell companies, they were ultimately owned by the Sara Trust Settlement – a trust of which Mr Abramovich was an ultimate beneficiary, the BBC reports.

Each company bought a 12.5% stake in Video International in September 2003 for about £80,000 each.

These were then sold to Med Media Network and Namiral Trading.

Vladimir Milov, a former energy minister in Putin’s first term and now a vocal opposition leader, said the price paid was “ridiculous”.

“That stake was clearly worth much more, by many orders of magnitude,” he told the BBC.

Mr Abramovich has not responded to requests for comment from the BBC.

The oligarch, who was accused of supplying steel for Russian tanks, has also downplayed his relationship with Putin.

He has challenged suggestions of a close financial relationship or that he has acted on behalf of the Russian president.

One of the men allegedly involved was one of Putin’s close friends Sergei Roldugin, the investigation claimed.

Mr Roldugin is a cellist and the artistic director of the St Petersburg Music House, who has known Vladimir Putin since they were young men in St Petersburg.

He has reportedly introduced the then-future president to Lyudmila Shkrebneva, whom he married in 1983 then divorced, the BBC says.

Mr Roldugin is the godfather of Putin’s first daughter, Maria.

Financial links between President Putin and Mr Roldugin were uncovered in 2016 as part of the Panama Papers, which involved the leak of millions of confidential documents from the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca.

Mr Roldugin The New York Times at that time that he was not a businessman and did not “have millions”. However, at least on paper, he appeared to have an offshore fortune of over £61million.

Also a close associate of Putin, the second man involved in the secret deal is said to be biochemist-turned-businessman Alexander Plekhov, the investigation alleges.

Both Mr Roldugin and Mr Plekhov have been accused of being “wallets” for the Russian president for allegedly secretly holding money and assets on his behalf.

The investigation alleged that Med Media Network is a company nominally owned by Sergei Roldugin and Namiral Trading Ltd is a company later linked to Aleksandr Plekhov.

But earlier this year, Swiss prosecutors alleged they were “straw men”, and not the real owners of assets in bank accounts set up in connection with the Video International deal, the BBC reported.

The court did not identify anyone as the true ultimate beneficial owner of the accounts.

Mr Plekhov was sanctioned by the UK government as well as Mr Roldugin, who was also sanctioned by the EU and the US.

The BBC investigation goes on to report how Putin’s stated salary in 2021 was just over £72,700 yet his fortune is rumoured to be worth anywhere between £102 billion and £164 billion.

The Russian president’s fortune could be hidden away in a network of shell companies and the accounts of friends, the investigation claims.

BBC Newsnight, BBC Verify and Panorama partnered with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism to uncover the revelations as part of Cyprus Confidential – a global investigation led by reporters at the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and Paper Trail Media.

The Cyprus Confidential investigation is based on 3.6 million confidential corporate records from companies providing offshore services in the country.

It has focused on Cyprus‘ close financial relationship with Russia and its now-sanctioned oligarchs, many of whom have used the island to manage their covert offshore holdings.

Cyprus Confidential includes documents from corporate service provider MeritServus, which also reportedly worked with Mr Abramovich’s companies in Cyprus, according to the BBC.

The oligarch’s wealth totals more than £7.3 billion and he has made numerous public investments in ultra-lux properties and sports, such as buying Chelsea FC in 2003.

Getty – ContributorThe BBC investigation alleges that Russian cellist Sergei Roldugin is one of the men involved in the scheme[/caption]

EPAMr Roldugin has reportedly been close friends with Putin for many years[/caption]

War & SanctionsAlso a close associate of Putin, the second man allegedly involved in the secret deal is biochemist-turned-businessman Alexander Plekhov[/caption]

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