Russian oligarchs flouting sanctions
by Vladimir Rozanskij

Thousands of documents have been published on Arkadij and Boris Rotenberg, among those closest to Putin and owners of the 'president's castle' denounced by Naval'nyj. In the network of frontmen in charge of their financial and personal affairs, even a cousin of Queen Elizabeth. Even after the invasion of Ukraine business not touched by sanctions especially in Monaco, Cyprus and Luxembourg.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - A number of news agencies, together with the website Važnye Istorii ("Important Stories"), have conducted an investigation into the phenomena of corruption and organised crime among Russians, focusing among others on the actions of the oligarch brothers Arkadij and Boris Rotenberg, among those closest to President Putin. They have been able to camouflage their companies and properties abroad, real estate, private planes and yachts, circumventing Western sanctions.

An anonymous source provided journalists with a series of documents, called the 'Rotenberg archive', with more than 50,000 files, 30,000 electronic messages and 12,000 papers of various importance. In them, it becomes clear how the Rotenbergs were able to maintain their empire outside of Russia by organising a wide network of trusted persons, the so-called frontmen, in charge of administering the financial and personal affairs of the pimps so as to disguise the real destination of the interests at stake.

One of these frontmen, according to the investigation, is Maksim Viktorov, business partner of a cousin of the late Queen of England, Elizabeth II. A former Soviet KGB collaborator, Viktorov has worked as an advisor to the former Russian defence minister, Anatoly Serdjukov, since 2012, becoming part of the closest entourage around President Putin. In 2014 he began helping the Rotenbergs, who even then ended up in the first US and EU sanctions packages issued after the illegal annexation of Crimea.

The billionaire brothers then got out of the administrative structures of their own companies, hiding a substantial part of the shares in confidential investment funds, administered by the firm Evokorp owned by Viktorov, with whom the Rotenbergs have always denied even simple acquaintance, now denied by the documentation collected. Thanks to the off-shore funds, the Rotenbergs acquired through third parties many properties in Spain, France, Austria and Monaco for over USD 50 million, as well as a USD 42 million Bombardier plane. In an Austrian chalet in Kitzbuhel, Putin's eldest daughter Maria Vorontsova and her Dutch ex-husband Jorrit Faassen were registered.

The wives of the two oligarchs also helped muddy the waters: Boris' wife Karina has US citizenship, and Arkadij's wife Maria Borodunova is a Latvian citizen. The latter is a big accumulator of real estate abroad, starting from the beginning of her relationship with her husband in 2013, and is also co-founder of the French company SCI Dana, to which a sumptuous villa on the French Riviera, in Villefranche-sur Mer, and a 400 sqm flat in the Sun Tower in the centre of Monaco, bought for 65 million euros, are in her name. Karina also owns at least half of her husband's properties, worth more than EUR 70 million.

Until 2022 Karina and Maria ensured their husbands continuous money flows, through credits from the branches of Russian banks abroad, especially from the Cyprus branch of Promsvjazbank. The sanctions piled up further during the invasion of Ukraine, but the parties entrusted to wives and frontmen seem to have remained completely outside the controls and restrictions, especially in Munich, Cyprus and Luxembourg.

The Rotenbergs are among the inner circle of Putin's 'magic circle', and Arkadij himself has declared himself the owner of the scandalous 'Putin castle' in Gelendžik, denounced by Naval'nyj at the height of his confrontation with Kremlin power. In Crimea alone, state funds have been hoarded by the Rotenbergs to the tune of more than 300 billion roubles, more than a quarter of the money invested by the Kremlin for the development of the occupied peninsula for 2020-2025.

Boris Rotenberg is also co-owner and member of the board of directors of the major SMP Bank, vice-president of the Russian Judo Federation, a sport much loved by Putin, founder and director of the Russian motorsport SMP Racing. The whole world relentlessly targets him with sanctions, but he has proven to be a 'black belt' of not only sporting, but also financial reversal.