Russia a kleptocracy long before Putin


Revelations from the Panama Papers, one of the great financial scandals of our time, have focused mainly on the law firm that carved the offshore shell firms, the major banks that turned an eye, and of course the politicians—143 of them, including 12 former or current leaders—who dodged taxes by exploiting the arrangements, notes analyst Fred Kaplan.

But one question remains as yet unanswered: Where did some of these politicians get such vast sums of money to begin with? In particular, how did Russian President Vladimir Putin—who isn’t explicitly named in the papers but whose cronies tellingly are—come up with $2 billion? he writes for Slate:

At least since the reign of Leonid Brezhnev in the 1970s, when the state had turned sclerotic and its ideology had gone bankrupt, the main—perhaps the only—reason for joining the Russian government was to get a piece of the country’s resources. Back then, this meant a nice apartment in the center of Moscow, a lakeside dacha on the outskirts, and an entrance pass to the exclusive stores selling Western goods and decent food.


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