Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Russian politicians reject Paradise Papers leaks


MOSCOW: Russian politicians on Monday downplayed leaks in the Paradise Papers concerning Russian officials and state companies, insisting the deals were legal and not politically motivated.

The head of the foreign affairs committee of the Russian senate, Konstantin Kosachev, charged that the leaks were “stirring emotions and muddled wording,” speaking to RIA Novosti state news agency early Monday.

The papers leaked from offshore law firm Appleby reveal that VTB Bank, Russia’s second largest bank and now under US sanctions, funded an investment in Twitter.

In addition, a branch of Gazprom energy giant through an offshore company financed an investment vehicle that owned Facebook shares.

Both these deals are linked to Russian billionaire investor Yuri Milner.

Kosachev said the way this was presented in the papers was a “fantastic, phantasmagorical text.”

“When it is boiled down, what is described here is standard and legal commercial activity,” Kosachev insisted.

He added that “through stirring up emotions and murky wording” the deals are “presented as practically a plot against the foundations of Western democracy.”

The findings emerged as part of the Paradise Papers released by the US-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which was behind the Panama Papers made public last year.

– ‘This is business’ –

Speaking about the VTB and Gazprom deals, the deputy head of the international affairs commmittee of Russia’s lower house, Alexei Chepa, told RIA Novosti that “This has nothing to do with politics — this is business, commerce.”

Russian media has not yet obtained any comment from Sibur petrochemicals giant, which is partially owned by Putin’s reported son-in-law Kirill Shamalov, over the papers’ findings that US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has ties to a shipping firm which has a contract with Sibur.

Shamalov sold most of his stake in Sibur this year and now owns 3.9 percent, Vedomosti business daily reported. Russian Forbes magazine estimated his wealth at $1.3 billion this year.

Russia’s opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta was the only Russian media to take part in analysing the leaked materials. It reported that it looked at 13.4 million documents over the course of a year.

The newspaper said the leaks did not principally concern Russians, saying this was possibly because Appleby, “asked questions about the origins of funds more often” than the company that leaked the Panama Papers, Mossack Fonseca.

“Russia is not even in the top 10 countries whose citizens used Appleby’s services,” it wrote.

Novaya Gazeta found the names of two current lawmakers in the papers: Alexei Yezubov of the ruling party and Vladimir Blotsky of the Communist Party. Yezubov told RIA Novosti he had “heard nothing” of the leaks.

The former wife of powerful Rosneft chief and Putin ally Igor Sechin, Marina Sechina, also figures. She registered a property investment company in 2012, soon after their divorce.

Sechin’s declarations previously showed she had no earnings for several years.

Novaya Gazeta said Appleby was aware of Sechina’s significant political ties. – Agencies



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