— -- A spokesman for Vladimir Putin today claimed the Russian president was the victim of a foreign conspiracy after a massive leak of legal documents showed some of his closest associates were allegedly involved in an extensive use of off-shore tax havens.
On Sunday, a consortium of media outlets, including the Guardian and BBC, published a year-long investigation based on 11.5 million documents leaked from an opaque Panama-based law firm, Mossack Fonseca. The unprecedented leak, referred to as the "Panama Papers" and shared by the International Consortium of Journalists (ICIJ), appears to lay bare the sometimes dubious financial dealings of many elite figures around the globe. According to the Guardian, the documents indicate that more than 140 politicians, as well as family members and other relations, use off-shore tax havens. The use of tax havens can be perfectly legal and have many legitimate purposes. But some transactions raise serious questions.
According to the ICIJ, the documents place one of Putin’s oldest and closest friends at the center of an alleged off-shore scheme that allowed figures from the Kremlin’s inner circle to enrich themselves, often using apparently fake financial transactions and many involving state funds. The ICIJ says the documents reveal a web of companies registered in the British Virgin Islands and Panama that Putin's friends used to secretly handle around $2 billion in a deliberately complicated system that facilitated financial malpractice.