MOSCOW — The Kremlin responded angrily on Monday to reports alleging that close associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin were involved in secret offshore transactions totaling about $2 billion.
The reports, published Sunday, are based on a leak of millions of documents from a Panamanian law firm that over decades helped set up offshore bank accounts and shell companies for some of the world’s most prominent leaders and businesspeople.
The reporting by an international consortium of journalists spans the globe, touching the father of British Prime Minister David Cameron, the prime minister of Iceland and one of Putin’s oldest friends, Sergei Roldugin. In many instances, the reports do not allege law-breaking, but the mere possession of offshore accounts can prove politically embarrassing.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed the allegations as part of an international campaign to smear Russia and to distract from what he deemed the success of its military operations in Syria. Putin was not connected to any of the alleged accounts, Peskov said in remarks carried by Russian news agencies.
“There is nothing concrete, nothing new, no details about Putin,” Peskov said. “All the rest is built on arguments and speculations.”
The spokesman warned last week that Western news outlets were planning an “information attack against Vladimir Putin,” and he said Monday that he expects further reports along the same lines.
The German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung said that it had received the documents from an unnamed source and that they covered decades of work by the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. Süddeutsche Zeitung shared the data with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and more than 100 news outlets worldwide.
Mossack Fonseca told Britain’s Guardian newspaper on Sunday that “we are responsible members of the global financial and business community,” that the firm had broken no laws and that it had conducted due diligence on its clients in line with international regulations.
Some of the reports focused on Roldugin, a childhood friend of Putin who is the godfather of the Russian leader’s eldest daughter. Roldugin was said to be at the center of transactions totaling about $2 billion that involved Bank Rossiya. The bank is under sanctions imposed by the U.S. Treasury Department, which describes it as “the personal bank for senior officials of the Russian Federation.”
Roldugin, a prominent cellist in St. Petersburg, told reporters from Russia’s Novaya Gazeta investigative newspaper last week that he could not comment on the allegations. He said he was connected to some of the businesses “long ago.”
The reports have also reverberated elsewhere in the world. Iceland’s Parliament on Monday was considering whether to ask Prime Minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson for a snap election after allegations that he had owned an offshore company, with his wife, that he had not included in his financial disclosures. Gunnlaugsson has denied wrongdoing, and the Guardian and other news outlets did not find any evidence of tax evasion.
In Ukraine, President Petro Poroshenko was coming under criticism from allies in parliament after the revelation that he had set up an offshore company after his May 2014 election to hold the assets of his substantial business interests, including a candy conglomerate. He has said that the offshore structure was necessary to prepare his Roshen company for sale. The offshore company was set up in August 2014, but Poroshenko has not yet sold his business holdings. A spokesman declined to comment.