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Swiss Trial Reveals Alleged Financial Schemes Tied to Putin’s Inner Circle

The trial of four former bankers from the Swiss affiliate of Gazprombank, a major Russian bank, has commenced in Zurich district court. The defendants, three Russian-born and one Swiss-born, are accused of failing to properly vet accounts opened in the name of Sergei Roldugin, a childhood friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The allegations stem from the Panama Papers leaks in 2016, which exposed secretive financial flows allegedly linked to Putin’s inner circle.

Roldugin, who has been described by the US Treasury Department as “part of a system that manages President Putin’s offshore wealth”, has been implicated in a scheme to funnel millions of dollars abroad using secret accounts. The indictment suggests that the bank’s documents listed Roldugin’s income as 1 million Swiss francs a year, his assets at 10 million francs, and his occupation as a musician, which prosecutors claim is implausible given his actual wealth.

According to the prosecution, the bank employees deliberately ignored suspicious transactions worth 11.5 million Swiss francs, including an expected transaction of 11.5 million francs. The prosecutors are seeking a seven-month suspended prison sentence for the defendants. The bank employees are accused of failing to investigate the true ownership of the accounts, with Roldugin allegedly being used as a “straw man” to conceal the true beneficiaries of the funds.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (Via Vladimir Putin/Twitter)

The prosecution’s case relies heavily on a 2014 New York Times article, in which Roldugin himself denied having millions of dollars. Roldugin was registered as the beneficial owner of two companies, one based in Panama and the other in Cyprus, which further strengthens the prosecution’s claims.

Putin has denied the allegations, and the Russian government has described the Panama Papers leaks as part of a Western effort to weaken Russia. However, the US Treasury Department has imposed sanctions on Roldugin, citing his involvement in managing offshore wealth on behalf of Putin. Western nations, including the US, have imposed sanctions on oligarchs and individuals with ties to Putin’s government, including Roldugin, since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The trial is seen as a rare opportunity to shed light on the alleged financial misdeeds of Putin’s inner circle, which were implicated in the Panama Papers leaks. The verdict is expected on March 30, and it remains to be seen whether the defendants will be held accountable for their alleged role in facilitating secret transactions.

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