Luke Harding, journalist and author of “Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win,” explains why he believes Vladimir Putin may secretly be one of the richest people in the world. Following is a transcript of the video.
Luke Harding: My name is Luke Harding. I’m a journalist and a writer, and my new book is called “Collusion,” and it’s about Donald Trump and Russia.
Putin and money, they’re a taboo topic inside Russia. I wrote stories about this in 2007 based on sources inside his presidential administration who were saying, quietly, that he was worth about $US40 billion. That was a decade ago.
The thing is Russia’s a kleptocracy. It’s also the world’s biggest oil producer and the people at the top of the Russian state are all kind of multibillionaires. And Putin is at the head of this pyramid although officially his salary’s $US100 thousand a year.
Putin allegedly controls 37% of Russian oil company Surgutneftegaz
4.5% of natural gas company Gazprom.
He also has holdings in commodities trader Gunvor.
In 2012, estimates of his wealth were upped to $US70 billion.
Luke Harding: Now, everyone in the Russian elite knows he’s the richest guy in town by a long way, but the beauty of the system is that formally nothing belongs to him and everything is held by proxies, some of whom are now under US sanctions.
It’s a kind of clever system, but of course, he’s enormously rich and for Putin, the thing about money is it’s kind of liquid power, and power ultimately is what interests him.