Vladimir Putin ‘blames the West’ after Panama leak exposes links to hidden billions
Vladimir Putin is attempting to blame the West after he was implicated in a financial corruption scandal.
A number of countries have been rocked this month by the leak of the Panama Papers – 11.5 million confidential documents about the 214,000 offshore companies operating with help from Panamanian corporate service provider Mossack Fonseca, including the identities of shareholders and directors of the companies.
Russian President Vladimir Putin – who has been dogged by corruption rumours and allegations of mobster ties in the past – is one of the world leaders caught up in the scandal, with over $2 billion in hidden funds leading back to the Kremlin.
Though Putin is not directly named in the papers, a number of members of his inner circle are – most notably his best friend Sergei Roldugin, who holds the keys to an intricate web of shell companies worth billions.
Putin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov is another of the figures implicated – with Peskov’s wife listed as a beneficiary of a secret offshore firm.
The worldwide scandal had been given a wide berth by much of the ever-diligent Russian press, but President Putin has now addressed the leaks himself.
Speaking to reporters, he insisted the leaks were masterminded by Western opponents and Russian dissidents attempting to destabilise his leadership.
According to Reuters, he said: “Our opponents are above all concerned by the unity and consolidation of the Russian nation, our multi-national Russian people.
“They are attempting to rock our us from within, to make us more obedient, so they’ve created an information product.”
The President continued: “There is a certain friend of the president of Russia, he did such and such a thing, and there is probably a corruption element there.
“But there isn’t any [element of corruption] within the government.”
Peskov previously dismissed the claims as “Putinphobia”, claiming investigative journalists had “found out little new”.
He claimed the leak was designed to “destabilise the situation in Russia ahead of elections”, adding: “It’s clear that the level of Putinphobia has reached a level at which it is impossible a priori to speak well of Russia, and it’s required to speak ill of Russia.”
Other world leaders implicated include Icelandic PM Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson – who has resigned.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron has strongly denied benefiting from offshore funds, after his late father Ian Donald Cameron was named in documents.