More than $17 billion (£13 billion) in global assets – including offshore bank accounts, yachts, private jets and luxury properties in London, Tuscany and the French Riviera – have been linked to 35 oligarchs and Russian officials who are said to have close ties with Vladimir Putin.
Today, The Guardian, in partnership with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, Süddeutsche Zeitung and other international news organizations, unveils the first investigation in an ongoing project to track the wealth of Russia’s most powerful operators.
The Russian asset tracker project will begin with a list of 35 men and women named by imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny last year as Putin’s alleged enablers. It will register assets outside of Russia where the reporting partners have seen evidence linking them to these individuals.
Navalny’s organization wrote to Western governments asking them to consider the names on the list for sanctions, and all but two of them have been blacklisted by the US, EU, UK or Canada.
The names include four of the wealthiest oligarchs, plus heads of state-controlled companies, prominent broadcasters, heads of spy bureaus, ministers, political advisers and regional governors. They have been read in the US Congress by lawmakers who want tougher sentences for the Russian elite, and in the British Parliament by Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Layla Moran.
Moran told the Commons: “Putin’s cronies must now be subjected to the harshest sanctions possible, because it is through them that Putin and his inner circle keep their wealth. If we go after his companions, we go after him. Actually, we’re quite uniquely placed to do that, because they’ve chosen London. They live here: it’s ‘Londongrad’ to them.”
The Russian asset tracker has identified British properties or plots of land – collectively worth more than half a billion dollars – linked through companies, trusts or family members to four leading figures on Navalny’s list: Roman Abramovich, Alisher Usmanov, Oleg Deripaska and Igor Shuvalov . The Guardian will report on these findings in the coming days.
The investigation so far has revealed clues, most dating from 2020 to the present, that the names are linked to more than 145 assets, comprising 35 townhouses, 43 apartments and 27 other pieces of real estate. Seven yachts, plus 11 private jets and helicopters, worth a total of $2 billion, have been identified as linked to just six people.
Some of the assets in the tracker are in the public domain, including the Belgrave Square mansion in central London’s Deripaska, which was acquired by squatters last week, as well as the superyachts Dilbar, Lena and Amore Vero, linked to oligarchs Usmanov, Gennady. Timchenko and Igor Sechin respectively.
Other possessions have gone largely unnoticed, or at times existed in almost total secrecy. Last month, the US Treasury Department highlighted the issues of opaque ownership, stating, “Sanctioned oligarchs and powerful Russian elites have used relatives to move assets and hide their immense wealth.”
Outside of the UK, the Russian asset tracker has discovered:
Twenty-six assets apparently related to Deripaska, who is said to be Putin’s favorite industrialist. These include billions of dollars in equities, a hotel in the Austrian Alps, a superyacht, a 60-meter support ship with helipad and luxury properties in London, Paris, Washington DC and New York, and four villas in Sardinia.
Two private jets — a $65 million Gulfstream G650 and a Bombardier Global Express — linked with Shuvalov, Russia’s former First Deputy Prime Minister and now chairman of the state development company. Shuvalov is also linked to three luxury properties with a combined value of approximately $35 million in Salzkammergut, Austria, Tuscany in Italy and Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Real estate holdings linked to the families of Nikolay Tokarev, the chairman of the state-controlled pipeline company Transneft, as well as the presidential press secretary, Dmitry Peskov. The Tokarev Companies appear to own luxury properties on the Croatian island of Lošinj, a well-known hotspot for wealthy Russians, while the firm Peskov is associated with an expensive apartment in Paris.
Many of the lesser-known assets are held through shell companies based in offshore secret jurisdictions and trust funds, making them more difficult to trace. Others are owned by relatives or associates of those on the Navalny list, raising questions about the source of funds used to acquire those assets.
They have been checked against evidence ranging from publicly available sources, data from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ offshore leak databases, the FinCEN files containing reports of suspicious banking transactions, and human intelligence sources.
The tracker serves as a snapshot and only includes assets where reporters have seen evidence or other reliable information linking them to the Navalny 35. Some assets widely associated with certain oligarchs have yet to be confirmed.
Abramovich, Tokarev, Peskov and Shuvalov have not yet responded to requests for comment.
A spokesman for Deripaska said: “It is unclear how publishing this kind of ‘asset inventory’ could serve the public interest. Unless, of course, by ‘public interest’ you mean encouraging squatters to occupy private property, as they did a London home of relatives of Mr Deripaska.
“All property and assets he owns have been acquired fairly. The ongoing media frenzy, regrettable as it is, certainly does not give anyone the right to call Mr Deripaska a kleptocrat. The Russian witch-hunt that Mr. Deripaska has fallen victim to is driven entirely by political motives.”
A spokesman for Usmanov added: “Mr. Usmanov’s entire capital has been built up through successful, sometimes risky investments, as well as through the effective management of his assets, which is the essence of business. Therefore, characterizing the source of his money as ‘non-transparent’ is inherently flawed and damages Mr. Usmanov’s reputation as an honest entrepreneur and philanthropist.”