The White House has hinted at it for years, but an Obama administration official has finally come out and said it: Russian President Vladimir Putin is corrupt.
In an interview with the BBC, U.S. Treasury official Adam Szubin said that the U.S. government has believed Putin to be corrupt for “many, many years.”
“We’ve seen him enriching his friends, his close allies, and marginalizing those who he doesn’t view as friends using state assets,” said Szubin, the Treasury’s sanctions czar. “Whether that’s Russia’s energy wealth, whether it’s other state contracts, he directs those to whom he believes will serve him and excludes those who don’t. To me, that is a picture of corruption.”
Putin “supposedly draws a state salary of something like $110,000 a year. That is not an accurate statement of the man’s wealth, and he has long time training and practices in terms of how to mask his actual wealth,” he added.
Last year, Putin declared a 2014 income of 7.65 million rubles ($119,000) and ownership of two modest apartments and a share in a car parking garage, even though there are reports that he’s one of the world’s wealthiest individuals.
A 2007 Central Intelligence Agency report that estimated Putin's wealth at $40 billion – a figure that has no doubt grown along with his outsized influence during his time in office.
The point-blank accusation comes after roughly two years after Washington levied its first economic sanctions against Putin and his allies following the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula. At the time, the U.S. hinted the Russian president had secret dealings in the country’s energy sector but never made an outright accusation like Szubin did.
The point-blank charge will likely only worsen relations between the U.S. and Russia, who are at logger-heads at several points around the globe, especially in Syria, where the two Cold War enemies are carrying out separate bombing campaigns with very different targets in mind.
The Russian President’s spokesperson told the BBC that the U.S. Treasury’s claims were “pure fiction.”