A team of International Journalists, working with leaked documents from a Panamanian Law Firm, has concluded that associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin have moved as much as $ 2 billion through offshore bank accounts over a nearly 40-year period. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, allied with the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung and more than 100 other news organizations, said in a report Sunday that the 11.5 million records from Panama’s Mossack Fonseca law firm show dozens of transactions “involving people or companies linked to Putin” that extended from 1977 through the end of last year. Parking money in offshore accounts is not necessarily illegal, and can be used to establish legal tax shelters or ease international business deals. But the report said “the documents show that banks, law firms and other offshore players have often failed to follow legal requirements that they make sure their clients are not involved in criminal enterprises, tax dodging or political corruption.” The Kremlin last week did not answer questions about the transactions posed by the journalists, and it publicly accused the group of preparing a misleading “information attack” on the Russian leader and people close to him. Mossack Fonseca, which specializes in setting up companies that allow businesses and individuals to move money into offshore accounts, told The Washington Post it follows “both the letter and spirit” of financial laws, which vary throughout the world. It said that in nearly 40 years of operation it has never been charged with criminal wrongdoing. Aside from the links to Putin, the journalists’ report sheds new light on a 1983 British gold heist that has been called the “Crime of the Century.” Robbers stole nearly 7,000 gold bars from the Brink’s-Mat warehouse at London’s Heathrow Airport, along with cash and diamonds. But the gold was smelted and sold, and much of the money was never recovered. The report said a Mossack Fonseca document shows that an official at a company the law firm created 16 months after the robbery was “apparently involved in the management of the money from the famous theft from Brink’s-Mat in London. The company itself has not been used illegally, but it could be that the company invested money through the bank accounts and properties that was illegitimately sourced.” The law firm denied it helped conceal the proceeds of the London theft.
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