Monday, April 28, 2014

Is Vladimir Putin the Richest Man on Earth?

Right now it’s all fiction, but it is a remarkable question to think about. Could President Putin feel immune from all criticism and attacks?
by Charlie Leck
It sounds like a Daniel Silva novel – or perhaps Alan Furst – or, better yet, John le Carre – this story about Vladimir Putin’s fortune. For years people have speculated about a vast fortune (forty to sixty billion dollars) that Putin had secretly stashed somewhere, but most people have taken the speculation with a grain of salt. Not Silva! On Facebook, this morning, with fire in his eyes, he pointed me toward the story. Oh my, what a novelist could do with this plot!
This morning, sometime, the Obama administration should announce new sanctions on Russia in an effort to get Putin and his nation to back off from the pressure they are putting on the Ukraine.
The NY Times is reporting that a secret assessment of Putin’s wealth was put together by the CIA in 2007. In the end, after working through a lot of the gossip and various responses to the report, a number of “people in the know” think that Putin has approximately 40 billion dollars involved in three different financial firms with some legal registration in the United States.
There seemed to be some hints about further pressure on Russia from President Obama last night. From Manilla, he indicated that more sanctions will be placed on both Russian “individuals and entities.” The European Union is also expected to announce sanctions sometime today or tomorrow.
President Obama iterated that the sanctions are not designed to go after President Putin.
“The goal is not go after Mr. Putin personally; the goal is to change his calculus…”
There is a Bloomberg story (BloombergView) from way back in last September that speculates that Putin may be the richest man on earth. In the story, BloombergView indicates there is no way to substantiate the estimates of Mr. Putin’s wealth. The publication concludes its account this way, however…
“His (Putin’s) third presidential term runs out in 2018, and he will be eligible for another one after that if he feels up to it at age 65. He has plenty of time to convert his vast power and the favors he has done his friends and family into actual cash and assets. At this point, it is simply unnecessary. The country's ‘capitalists’ are merely holding and exploiting property on behalf of the state -- meaning, ultimately, on behalf of Putin, the collector of votes and emotions.”
I go back to Daniel Silva. He could do wonders with this story.


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