THE LEADER: President Vladimir Putin, here in the Kremlin in late March, stabilised Russia’s economy and re-established its regional power. But corruption remains widespread. REUTERS/Alexei Druzhinin/RIA Novosti/Kremlin
Part 1: Two associates of President Vladimir Putin profited from a state scheme to buy expensive medical equipment – and sent money to Swiss bank accounts linked to a property known as “Putin’s palace”
Русский язык (Russian translation)
MOSCOW – In 2005, President Vladimir Putin personally ordered up a vast programme to improve Russia’s poor healthcare facilities. Five years later, authorities found that suppliers were charging some hospitals two or even three times too much for vital gear such as high-tech medical scanners.
Dmitry Medvedev, serving as Putin’s hand-picked successor at the time, went on national television to denounce the alleged scam. The perpetrators, he said, had engaged in “absolutely cynical, loutish theft of state money.” Medvedev instructed Russia’s top law enforcement agencies to make sure that “everyone who participated in this is seriously and sternly punished.”
Suspects were rounded up in far-flung places, and in 2012 the police ministry said 104 people had been charged in connection with overpriced scanners. Several local officials and business executives were convicted of fraud and sent to prison.
But a Reuters investigation has found that two wealthy associates of Putin engaged in the same profiteering and suffered no penalty.
They sold medical equipment for at least $195 million to Russia and sent a total of $84 million in proceeds to Swiss bank accounts, according to bank records reviewed by Reuters. The records also indicate that at least 35 million euros ($48 million) from those accounts were funnelled to a company that then helped construct a luxury property near the Black Sea known as “Putin’s palace” – a nickname earned after a businessman alleged that the estate was built for Putin. The Russian leader has denied any connection to the property.
These findings are part of a Reuters investigation into how associates of the Kremlin profit from state contracts in the Putin era. This and a later article examine what became of the president’s grand hospital undertaking. Another story, drawing on a confidential database of Russian bank records, will explore billions of dollars in spending on state railway contracts.