The Putin circle’s use of offshore companies contrasts with the president’s call for "deoffshoreisation”, urging Russians to bring cash hidden abroad home. Others who make use of offshore companies include oil trader Gennady Timchenko, Putin’s friend of 30 years. The US imposed sanctions on him in 2014. Others in the data are Arkady and Boris Rotenberg, Putin’s childhood friends and former judo partners. They are now billionaire construction tycoons. The Arsenal FC shareholder Alisher Usmanov also appears. He has at least six companies registered in the Isle of Man. There is no suggestion this is illegal.
Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s official spokesman, declined to comment on specific allegations against the president. Speaking last week, Peskov said western spy agencies were behind an all-out "information attack” against him to destabilise Russia before elections. Peskov dismissed the investigation by the Guardian and others as an "undisguised, paid-for hack job”. He said Russia had "legal means” to defend Putin’s dignity and honour.
RCB Cyprus said it could not disclose information about its clients. It said that in October 2013 it had "refined its strategy”. It had opened a branch in Luxembourg, received a new investor, and was now under direct European Central Bank supervision. Given this, it was "utterly unfounded” to suggest the bank was a "pocket” for top Russian officials. The bank said it had voluntarily submitted the allegations to Cyprus’s money-laundering authority. The auditor PwC Cyprus said it had audited RCB’s accounts but that it did not provide services to Sandalwood.
Lawyers for Kovalchuk said information about Bank Rossiya was publicly available. "We do not understand why you address these questions to Mr Kovalchuk.”
US political scientist Karen Dawisha said it was inconceivable that Putin’s friends had become rich without his patronage. "He takes what he wants. When you are president of Russia, you don’t need a written contract. You are the law.”
Panama Papers reporting team: Juliette Garside, Luke Harding, Holly Watt, David Pegg, Helena Bengtsson, Simon Bowers, Owen Gibson and Nick Hopkins