66 billion won in the cellist’s account known as ‘Putin’s wallet’

Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a speech on the 8th. /EPA Yonhap News

Tens of millions of dollars of unknown origin have been found in the bank account of a cellist said to be a long-time friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Swiss prosecutors believe that a large amount of money was laundered through him, which is also known as ‘Putin’s wallet’.

According to Reuters and the British Guardian on the 8th (local time), Swiss prosecutors recently identified four former executives who worked at the Swiss branch of Russia’s state-owned Gazprom Bank on charges of helping the cellist and Russian businessman, Sergei Roldugin, to launder money. Three are Russian nationals and one is Swiss.

Roldugin is the person identified as protecting President Putin’s foreign assets. He was also placed on the US government’s personal sanctions list. Roldugin said in an interview with a reporter from this magazine before his concert in Korea in 2004 that he and Putin had been close for more than 40 years and that they were close enough to consider each other as ‘life partners’.

Assistant to President Vladimir Putin Sergei Roldugin./EPA Yonhap News

Roldugin is known to have deposited 50 million dollars (about 66 billion won) of unknown origin into his bank account between 2014 and 2016. Swiss prosecutors suspect that bank executives did not verify a transfer large sums of questionable money are fine although Roldugin was not openly involved in profitable activities as a musician or businessman during the period. Local law requires banks to suspend transactions or close accounts when they have doubts about the account holder or the source of the funds. During this period, Roldugin made a statement to the press that he was not earning much as a cellist and that he was neither a businessman nor a millionaire.

Swiss prosecutors drew particular attention to Roldugin’s ties to President Putin. In the indictment, the prosecution said, “It is a well-known fact that Putin officially has only 100,000 Swiss francs (about 140 million won) in income, but in reality he has huge assets controlled by his close companions.”

The four accused had denied the charges. Their lawyer refused, saying, “Roldugin may have a lot of wealth because he is a friend of Putin.”

The Kremlin Palace commented on the case as “Roldugin is a great musician and patron who earned his money honestly through his shares in Russian companies.” He continued, “Associating Roldugin’s money with the Russian leader is nothing but ‘Putinphobia’.”

The judge is expected to hold a trial again on the 30th and make a verdict of not guilty.


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