Palaces, yachts and vineyards reportedly provided to Vladimir Putin by friends and oligarchs can now be linked to what appears to be an informal network holding assets worth more than $4.5bn (£3.7bn).
A digital paper trail appears to suggest that an array of holiday homes and other assets reportedly used by the Russian president, which according to available records belong to or have been owned by separate individuals, companies and charities, are linked through a common email domain name, LLCInvest.ru.
A snapshot of leaked email exchanges from last September further suggests directors and administrators associated with some of the separate entities that hold and manage these assets have discussed day-to-day business problems as if they were part of a single organisation.
An anti-corruption expert in Russia, who requested anonymity given the political situation in Moscow, said the findings raised questions as to whether there was a level of “common management”.
“LLCInvest looks most of all like a cooperative, or an association, in which its members can exchange benefits and property,” they suggested.
For nearly two decades, Putin has been accused of secretly accumulating vast wealth through proxies, fuelled by a series of disclosures in leaks such as the Pandora papers about the fortunes of those closest to him.
Sergey Kolesnikov, a businessman, claimed 10 years ago that he had been behind a scheme that allowed a group of Russia’s top oligarchs to pool billions of rubles into a type of “investment fund” for the benefit of Putin, who was then serving as prime minister. The claims were denied and Kolesnikov fled from Russia.
Last month the UK government contrasted Putin’s “lavish lifestyle” with official Russian records which listed “modest assets” including a small flat in St Petersburg, two Soviet-era cars from the 1950s, a trailer and a small garage.
After a year-long investigation, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and the Russian-language news site Meduza have identified 86 companies and not-for-profit organisations whose representatives appear to use the common LLCinvest domain name, often alongside corporate email accounts.
Claims of a secret presidential fortune are denied and a chain of ownership leading to Putin has not been identified. A Kremlin spokesperson said: “The president of the Russian Federation is in no way connected or affiliated with the objects and organisations you named.”
According to OCCRP and Meduza, assets linked to organisations or the corporate structures around them in which the LLCinvest.ru email domain appears to have been in use, include:
A £1bn palace which Alexei Navalny has claimed was built for Putin’s personal use in Gelendzhik on the Black Sea. The billionaire oligarch Arkady Rotenberg, who is under EU and US sanctions, has claimed ownership of the property. Corporate records held by the Spark database in Russia…