The latest international political scandal was unearthed last week by the Panama Papers: a massive leak of financial documents from the database of Mossack Fonseca, an offshore law firm that happens to be the fourth largest firm in the world. This leak of financial documents includes multiple world leaders, the most prominent being Vladimir Putin.
Although Putin’s name is not directly on any of the documents, many people close to him are listed directly. NBC News quoted ICIJ’S Jake Bernstein who claimed, “We’ve found a network of people around Vladimir Putin.” Further, according to The Guardian, “His friends have earned millions from deals that seemingly could not have been secured without his patronage.”
One of the most curious things about this entire scandal is that one of Putin’s closest friends, Sergei Roldugin, is found in the Panama Papers as the head of many corporations that Vladimir Putin has denied owning. Sergei Roldugin is a cellist and has no prior experience in the world of business – making the fact that he’s heading many corporations even more suspect. It would appear that Putin used Roldugin’s name to accumulate more money under the world’s nose. Despite this, Roldugin has always denied benefiting financially from Putin, and was once quoted saying, “I’ve got an apartment, a car and a dacha. I don’t have millions.” Obviously, something doesn’t add up.
Although these offshore deals aren’t exactly “illegal,” they bring to light that Putin hid the money and substantially downplayed his capital power. Putin’s reported income in 2012 was around $113,000, which is completely different from the multi-billion dollar net worth he has secretly accumulated according to the Panama Papers. The most glaring truth of this entire charade is that he has hidden his wealth from the entire nation he presides over as president, and that is corrupt and unfair to the people of Russia.
Somehow, this damning evidence has not harmed Putin as much as some other world leaders. Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson, another world leader with offshore accounts leaked by the Panama Papers, was forced to announce his resignation last Tuesday. The public of Iceland was outraged primarily due to the fact that the country had a large financial crisis in 2008, and this brought back bad memories. The notion that a large representative of the people put himself and his own gain before the good of the people was horrific to everyone who understood what was happening. Ultimately while none of this is technically illegal (although many criminal organizations use such shell corporations to launder money), it is still detrimental to the image of world leaders on ethical grounds. Or so one would think. NBC News states that “a poll on Russia’s VCIOM website shows that 68 percent of respondents would still vote for Putin if presidential election were held next Sunday.” This leaves us with the question: how many immoral situations can Putin be a part of before he loses support from the people of Russia?