A massive document leak apparently shows how friends of Vladimir Putin hid about $2 billion in secret, offshore accounts—money that likely ended up benefiting Putin's family, the Guardian reports. The documents from Mossack Fonseca, an offshore law firm in Panama, show wealthy Russians moving money through Russia, Switzerland, and Cyprus in ways that generated vague "consultancy" charges and other payments worth millions of dollars. "This is not business, this is creating the appearance of business in order to continually move and hide assets," says a money-laundering expert. The deals also involve Putin's best friend, cellist Sergei Roldugin—who seems to control at least $100 million in assets—and the Igora ski resort, where Putin is said to reside.
The scheme revolves around a bank that's closely linked to Putin and his allies. The bank, Bank Rossiya, apparently received huge, unsecured loans from Russian state-owned banks and funneled billions into offshore transactions. About $1 billion went through a shell company created by Mossack Fonseca; among other things, the company bought a $6 million yacht and loaned $11.3 million to the owner of the Igora resort. But none of the alleged players have admitted to anything. "Guys, to be honest I am not ready to give comments now," says Roldugin, who mysteriously owns 3.2% of Bank Rossiya. "These are delicate issues." The so-called "Panama Papers" also link other world leaders to Mossack Fonseca shell companies, including Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, and Icelandic PM Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, Gawker reports. (Read more Vladimir Putin stories.)