Names of powerful Russians often feature in revelations about secret payments. The FinCEN Files are no exception — some of them are President Vladimir Putin’s closest friends.
Secret activities of Russian oligarchs, rich businesspeople with connections to the Kremlin, play a role in the so-called Suspicious Activity Reports (SAR) that form the basis of the FinCEN Files. These reports about suspicious financial dealings are submitted to US authorities by banks from various countries.
A large number of them were leaked to the US website BuzzFeed News and evaluated for 16 months by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). They provide insights into financial transactions whose legality is in doubt, some connected with money laundering. Here is an overview of some of the oligarchs mentioned in the SARs.
Arkady and Boris Rotenberg, Putin’s boyhood friends
If there is one Russian oligarch who could possibly thumb his nose at the sanctions imposed on Russia by the EU over the annexation of Crimea, it is Arkady Rotenberg. This 68-year-old businessman, a close friend of Vladimir Putin, was one of the first influential Russians to be placed on EU and US sanction lists after the annexation.
A short while afterward, Rotenberg’s construction company was given a commission from the state worth billions: to build a bridge from the Russian mainland to the Crimean Peninsula. He carried out the project between 2016 and 2018.
Just at this time, the FinCEN Files suggest, Rotenberg purchased art objects with the help of the British bank Barclays — despite the sanctions. According to the BBC, millions of British pounds were involved; a painting by the Belgian artist Rene Magritte was among the works allegedly bought. A spokesman for the businessman denied the accusations to the Russian media outlet RBC, calling them “baloney.”
Arkady Rotenberg was also a client of Deutsche Bank. His business dealings came under internal investigation in 2015, according to reports by the German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung. The bank found no indications of money laundering. But the FinCEN Files are said to show that there is an indirect connection between Arkady Rotenberg, his brother Boris and so-called mirror transactions, controversial operations in which shares are sold and bought simultaneously at different locations. Arkady denied to the Süddeutsche Zeitung that he had owned companies involved in such deals or that he had exfiltrated money from Russia.
Rotenberg has a special status among Russia’s oligarchs. Arkady and his brother Boris have known Putin since their youth in Leningrad, today’s St. Petersburg. They were in the same judo club. Arkady worked for a long time as a sports trainer before he went into business after the collapse of the USSR and became an entrepreneur. His business interests are wide-ranging, from construction companies and banks to fertilizer manufacturers.
In August 2020, the Russian edition of the finance magazine Forbes declared the Rotenbergs to be the richest family in Russia, with an estimated fortune of some $5.5 billion (€4.73 billion). That sum includes the capital owned by the two brothers and that of Arkady’s two children, Igor and Lilia.
Read more: https://www.dw.com/en/the-russian-oligarchs-of-the-fincen-files/a-55062675