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The Pandora Papers

Russians expect their leaders to be corrupt

Sergey Chemezov is alleged to have a superyacht registered through an offshore company. Ali Balli/Anadolu Agency/Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Russians account for 14% of the 27,000 companies named in the Pandora Papers for allegedly avoiding taxes. But it’s hardly surprising, says Mark Galeotti in The Moscow Times – do any Russians really think “these people weren’t fiddling the books”? For instance, few of them are shocked that Sergey Chemezov, CEO of the state defence firm Rostec, is said to have a superyacht registered through an offshore company. Frankly, they’d be less surprised to find out it was moored at “a secret Pacific island hideaway populated by genetically engineered unicorns”. What is suspicious is that the magnates of China and the US are absent from the investigation. 

It’s possible to see why, say, the revelation that Tony and Cherie Blair sidestepped £312,000 in stamp duty on a £6.45m London townhouse might bring “meaningful transparency” to a legal loophole in the UK. But not here in Russia. Which is a big problem for Alexei Navalny and his team. His video of Putin’s palace was a big hit last year, but I suspect many watched it not for the forensic analysis of how the Russian president’s Black Sea retreat was financed, but for its “pole-dance hookah bar”. Where does Team Navalny go from that when there is a widespread assumption in Russia that “everyone is a crook and a thief”? The journalists behind the Pandora Papers should be praised. But unlike Pandora’s box, in Russia “there’s unlikely to be hope at the bottom”. 

Why it matters Putin’s richest friends have enabled the security services to extend their “weaponised corruption” far beyond Russia, says Shay Khatiri in The Bulwark. One example: Victor Pinchuk, a pro-Putin oligarch implicated in covering up the death of a Ukrainian journalist in 2000, has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to the US’s Atlantic Council think tank and donated to the Clinton Foundation.