Putin's puttin' it away and Vlad the investor is worth $31b
THE combined wealth of Russian President Vladimir Putin's inner circle stands at nearly $A31 billion, a new investigation has claimed.
In 2016, Mr Putin's official income was reported at just $A172,000 and he has repeatedly denied he is one of the world's wealthiest men.
But a joint investigation by Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta and the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project has valued him at considerably more, although it suggests his wealth may be tied up in a series of "proxies”.
Some of Mr Putin's inner ring have "no obvious explanation for their hidden wealth”, the report says.
"These proxies' wealth may be accounted for by the simplest explanation: it may really be Putin's money. But in Russia, nothing is simple,” the authors wrote.
One alleged "proxy” is Mikhail Shelomov, a relative of Mr Putin, who works at a Russian shipping company in a job that would usually pay about $11,000 a year.
Mr Shelomov is a major investor in a new race track near St Petersburg and has a personal wealth of $A744million according to OCCRP, as well as links to state energy giant Gazprom.
A childhood friend of the President, Pyotr Kolbin, a former butcher, has amassed a personal fortune of $A713million - despite telling the Russian press he is "not a businessman”.
William Browder, a US-born anti-Putin campaigner, told OCCRP that Mr Shelomov, Mr Kolbin and other cronies were "nominees” who formally owned assets while really holding them in trust for Mr Putin.
While Mr Kolbin has been sanctioned by the US, Mr Shelomov, who keeps such a low profile the OCCRP could not find any photograph of him, has so far escaped the penalties.
The investigation has not been widely reported in Russia, which is ranked 148 out of 180 countries on the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index.