June 30, 2022

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Russian emails appear to show the “network” has $4.5 billion in assets tied to Putin | Russia

Palaces, yachts and vineyards were reportedly provided Russian President Vladimir Putin Through friends and oligarchs they can now be linked into what appears to be an informal network with assets worth over $4.5 billion (£3.7 billion).

The digital paper trail appears to indicate that a group of vacation homes and other assets allegedly used by the Russian president, which according to available records belong or are owned by separate individuals, companies and charities, are linked through a common email domain name, LLCInvest.ru.

Putin’s scheme

A snapshot of leaked email exchanges from last September indicates that managers and administrators associated with some of the separate entities that maintain and manage these assets have discussed day-to-day business issues as if they were part of a single organization.

An expert on anti-corruption in Russia, who asked not to be named given the political situation in Moscow, said the findings raised questions about whether there was a level of “common management”.

They suggested that “LLCInvest mostly looks like a cooperative, or association, in which its members can exchange benefits and property.”

Nearly two decades ago, Putin was accused of secretly amassing vast fortune through proxies, fueled by a series of disclosures in leaks like the Pandora Papers about the fortunes of those closest to him.

Sergei Kolesnikov, a businessman, claimed 10 years ago that he was behind a scheme that allowed a group of Russia’s top oligarchs to accumulate billions of rubles in a kind of “investment fund” for Putin, who was then prime minister. Minister. These allegations were denied, and Kolesnikov fled Russia.

The UK government last month compared Putin’s “lavish lifestyle” to official Russian records which mentioned “modest origins” including a small apartment in St Petersburg, two Soviet-era cars from the 1950s, a trailer and a small garage.

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House in Gelendzhik on the Black Sea
Alexei Navalny claimed that this £1 billion mansion was built for Putin’s personal use in Gelendzhik on the Black Sea. Photo: AP

After a year-long investigation, Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) And the Meduza news site in Russian It identified 86 companies and non-profit organizations whose representatives appear to use the common LLCinvest domain name, often in conjunction with corporate email accounts.

Allegations of a secret presidential fortune have been dismissed and no royal chain of command leading to Putin has been identified. A Kremlin spokesman said: “The president of the Russian Federation is in no way affiliated with or affiliated with the things and organizations you mentioned.”

Villa Sellagren
Selgren’s villa is owned by Sergei Rudnov, the son of Putin’s childhood friend. Photo: Navalny.com

According to OCCRP and Meduza, assets associated with organizations or institutional structures around them for which the LLCinvest.ru email domain appears to be in use include:

  • A £1 billion mansion that Alexei Navalny claimed was built for Putin’s personal use in Gelendzhik on the Black Sea. Billionaire Arkady Rothenberg, who is under EU and US sanctions, claimed ownership of the drug. Company records held by Russia’s Spark database as of June said the drug belongs to a company called Kompleks and whose parent company is Binom. It seems that the company director of Binom until July of last year had a registered email domain LLCInvest.ru. The LLCinvest.ru address is still mentioned in Spark, the largest database of companies in Russia, as a contact.

  • Acres of vineyards around Gelendzhik Palace. Navalny claimed that wineries were Putin’s “hobby” that got out of hand. The vineyards surrounding the palace belong to a non-profit foundation founded by two Putin aides, Gennady Timchenko and Vladimir Kolbin, both of whom are also subject to Western sanctions. It appears that Kolbin and others associated with the vineyards have LLCInvest.ru email accounts.

  • Igora ski resort in the Leningrad region where the wedding of Putin’s daughter took place in 2013. According to land records, it is owned by Ozon, the company of Yuri Kovalchuk, Putin’s friend and chairman and largest shareholder of the Bank of Russia, Sanctions, had a significant stake. The LLCInvest.ru email account is a contact in Spark Records for Ozon’s parent company, Relax. Ozon is not affiliated in any way with the Nasdaq-listed e-commerce giant of the same name.

  • Villa north of Saint Petersburg, known to locals as “Putin Dacha”. Selgren’s villa was owned by Oleg Rudnov, Putin’s childhood friend, inherited by his son, Sergei Rudnov, through a company called North. Rudnov appears to be using LLCinvest.ru email addresses, according to Spark records.

  • A wood-clad building north of Saint Petersburg known as Fisherman’s Hut. Leaked emails from a construction company indicate that three different companies using the domain name own different plots of land around the complex, while a fourth entity LLCInvest — a non-profit organization called Reviving Marine Traditions — operates the construction. This same establishment, which was recently placed under Western sanctions, owns two yachts, the Shellst and the Nega, Told by the US Treasury to associate with Putin.

Russia asset map

The $4.5 billion in assets held by LLCInvest entities include large cash deposits. There are two not-for-profits, co-founded by Timchenko and Kolbin, which appear to be using the domain name according to Spark records, and have significant funds at their disposal.

The Agricultural Initiatives Development Project had 17 billion rubles (£248 million) in its deposit account at the end of 2020 while the development of an efficient investment market held more than 20 billion rubles (£292 million) in long-term deposits and nearly 5 billion rubles (£73m) in short-term deposits at the end of 2020, according to publicly available accounts.

yacht
The Shellest yacht is owned by the non-profit organization Reviving Marine Traditions.

LLCinvest is not a standard publicly available email provider like Yahoo but a domain on a server owned by Moskomsvyaz, a telecommunications company with close ties to the Bank of Russia. St Petersburg Bank is subject to Western sanctions and has been described by the US Treasury as “the personal bank of senior officials of the Russian Federation”.

Russia has also been described as “Putin’s Bank” for its alleged role in carrying out the Russian leader’s bid. The Kremlin has denied any such links or influence.

The shared email domain was discovered by analyzing leaked metadata from Moskomsvyaz servers, which appears to show the names of the senders and recipients of LLCinvest.ru emails, subject and time of correspondence. This was verified with open source logs and a separate leak of the content of some full messages.

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Moskomsvyaz and all but one of the individuals who appear to have used the LLCInvest.ru email addresses did not respond to requests for comment. It is not clear as to the purpose of the shared email service, or the motivation behind the apparent collaboration on staffing and logistical issues.

There is no indication that all LLCInvest.ru users are involved in managing the assets that were linked in the reports to Putin. Only one man using an LLCinvest.ru email account in his role as a manager of multiple companies, spoke on the phone when called. He claimed ignorance of the nature of his work.

When asked, he said, “I am a humble employee and care about my own business.” I only sign papers. You know how homeless people are sometimes registered as directors of a company. I’m not homeless but I sign papers as they do without going into details.”

“If my company was part of a large holding company, I wouldn’t know,” he added. The man’s identity has been withheld for his safety.