According to a report from the Washington Post, on the February day that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his army into Ukraine, he summoned some of Russia's wealthiest tycoons together to alert not only them but also to warn them about what they would face.
The report notes that approximately 36 businessmen involved in the oil gas, banking and chemical industries -- 14 of them identified as billionaires -- heard Putin tell them invading their neighbor was a "necessary measure" before suggesting they should expect economic sanctions to follow.
According to the Post, he told them: "We all understand the world we live in.”
The report adds that many of those attending have had a long history of hiding and offshoring their riches, with the Post comparing their names to businessmen named in the leaked Pandora Papers and Paradise Papers.
"Of the 37 attendees, more than half are linked directly or through a close relative to offshore companies that handled transactions worth hundreds of millions of dollars, making financial investments, issuing loans and forming family trusts," the Post is reporting, adding, "At least 21 of the participants in the Kremlin meeting or their close family members had holdings in the British Virgin Islands, Cyprus or other island jurisdictions known for financial secrecy and tax advantages."
Noting that Putin has previously objected to “offshorization” by linking it to "the use of offshore companies to tax avoidance and money laundering," the report claims he saw good reason for it and likely also took advantage according to some financial experts.
With the Post's Peter Whoriskey, writing, "The prevalence of offshore holdings among those invited by Putin reflects the extent to which businessmen at the pinnacle of the Russian economy have transferred wealth out of the country and come to rely on secret arrangements that make transactions difficult to track," former CIA analyst Julia Friedlander, explained, "Putin allows his close circle to tap the financial resources of state companies and the state itself. The money often ends up offshore.”
Whoriskey added, "Several of those at the Feb. 24 meeting benefited from the privatization of government assets that began with the fall of the Soviet Union, a tumultuous transfer of wealth that created a gaggle of billionaires."
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