On paper, Russian President Vladimir Putin seems like a humble statesman with a modest income.
The Kremlin claims that Putin earns an annual salary of $140,000. His publicly disclosed assets include an 800-square foot apartment, a trailer, and three cars.
But according to some experts, he may be the wealthiest man in the world with assets totaling up to $200 billion.
While that is a ridiculous amount of money for anyone to have, this figure may not be so far-fetched for Putin. Here’s why:
Luxury watch collection
Putin is often seen sporting high-end luxury watches that are retailed for multiple times his supposed annual income.
He has been pictured wearing Patek Philippe’s Perpetual Calendar watch worth $60,000 and allegedly owns a $500,000 A. Lange & Sohne Toubograph, as well as other fancy designs.
$1.4 Billion Black Sea mansion
Putin is rumored to be the owner of a beautiful 190,000 square-foot mansion sitting atop a cliff that overlooks the Black Sea. This coastal property is reputed as the largest private residence in the country and serves as his private palace endearingly called “Putin’s Country Cottage”.
The estate is Putin’s playland, boasting frescoed ceilings, a marble swimming pool lined with statues of Greek gods, a 27,000 square-foot guest house, spas with traditional hammams, a musical parlor, dressing rooms for all his staff, an amphitheater, a state-of-the-art ice hockey rink, a Vegas-style casino, a nightclub equipped with stripper poles, a barroom showcasing more than $100,000 of wine and spirits, an underground tasting room overlooking the water, and much more.
Most of the mansion is reportedly decorated by an exclusive luxury Italian brand called Citterio Atena including Louis XIV style sofas, $500,000 in dining room furniture, and a $54,000 bar table. It even has decked-out bathrooms with fancy $850 Italian toilet brushes and $1,250 toilet paper holders.
On top of all the extravagant furnishings, an annual $2 million is spent just to maintain the property’s landscaping by a 40-person staff.
The Black Sea Mansion was designed by Italian architect Lanfranco Cirillo and cost $1.4 billion to construct. According to a Reuters investigation, the money for this extravagant project was supposedly laundered through the country’s 1.3-trillion-ruble national project called “Health” in which the state bought expensive medical equipment from a company owned by Putin’s friends Shamalov and Gorelov at a much higher rate than the market price. Records show that the two men sent around $56 million to Swiss bank accounts of a Belize company. Then the Belize account transferred approximately $48 million to an account controlled by Medea Investment- a company controlled by Cirillo himself. Moscow Times reports that Shamalov, Gorelov, and Cirillo denied all allegations.
The Kremlin denies Putin’s ownership of the palace saying it belongs to a wealthy businessman. But Russian analysts call it a blatant lie, saying that no businessman can have properties guarded by the FSB (Russia’s federal security service) with a no-fly zone over it.
Aircraft, helicopters, and cars
Apart from the Black Sea Mansion and 19 other houses and 700 cars, Putin supposedly has a collection of 58 aircraft and helicopters including a $716 million dollar plane called “The Flying Kremlin” that has a toilet made of gold. Not surprising considering his taste for grandiose, neoclassical architecture.
And to keep his options open by land, air, or sea, he also has a $100-million-dollar megayacht designed by a nuclear submarine maker from the Russian navy.
$200 Billion Dollar Blackmail
The $200 billion figure was estimated by financier Bill Browder who, in a testimony to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in 2017, said that Putin amassed most of his wealth after a Moscow court jailed oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky in 2003 for fraud and tax evasion:
“After Khodorkovsky’s conviction, the other oligarchs went to Putin and asked him what they needed to do to avoid sitting in the same cage as Khodorkovsky. From what followed, it appeared that Putin’s answer was, “50%” He wasn’t saying 50% for the Russian government or the presidential administration of Russia, but 50% for Vladimir Putin personally.”
On top of all this, the famous Panama Papers revealed a network of secret offshore deals and loans worth $2 billion pointing to Putin in 2016.
But of course, Vladimir denies all these allegations, only admitting to a different form of riches:
“I am the wealthiest man, not just in Europe but in the whole world: I collect emotions. I am wealthy in that the people of Russia have twice entrusted me with the leadership of a great nation such as Russia. I believe that is my greatest wealth.”
And despite all the paper trails and testimonies stacked against him, the Russian president continues his charade of being a dutiful bureaucrat with a simple, middle-class lifestyle.
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