- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Russia’s attorney general’s office on Tuesday said federal prosecutors will open an investigation after recently leaked documents linked President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle to billions of dollars held in offshore bank accounts.

“The Russian Attorney General will review the information published by the Russian and foreign media about a number of Russian individuals and entities that allegedly hold offshore companies and accounts,” a spokesman for the office told Russia’s Interfax news agency this week, according to an English-language translation.

The purpose of the probe, said the spokesperson, would be to ensure Russian citizens named in this week’s leak of the so-called Panama Papers are compliant with federal and international law, as well as Russia’s “obligations” to prevent corruption and combat illegal financial operations.

Documents obtained by journalists working with the leaked documents — a massive cache of records concerning clients of Mossack Fonseca, a Panamanian law firm and financial services provider — have already implicated several influential international figures and their associates, including Mr. Putin’s allies, since reports began being published by news agencies earlier this week.

On Tuesday, Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson said resigned from office after the leak linked him to a previously unknown bank account in the British Virgin Islands.

Although the Russian president’s name has not explicitly appeared in the document trove, reports suggest a paper trail ties several of Mr. Putin’s friends to offshore bank accounts managed by the firm.

Sergey Roldugin, a cellist and long-time friend of the president, has been called the “behind-the-scenes player in a clandestine network operated by Putin associates that has shuffled at least $2 billion through banks and offshore companies” by the the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a global network of reporters working with the documents.

“It’s possible Roldugin, who has publicly claimed not to be a businessman, is not the true beneficiary of these riches. Instead, the evidence in the files suggests Roldugin is acting as a front man for a network of Putin loyalists — and perhaps for Putin himself,” the consortium suggested in a report published on Monday.

Yet while the attorney general’s office promised on Tuesday to investigate Russians implicated in the leak, Moscow has otherwise largely rejected the subsequent reports as part of a coordinated attack on the Kremlin.

Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for the Russian president, claimed this week that the group of journalists investigating the Panama Papers leak is made up of “former representatives of the [US] State Department and the CIA,” and epitomizes the West’s alleged “Putinophobia.”

Victor Zvagelsky, a lawmaker in the State Duma, meanwhile threatened to file a libel lawsuit this week against a Russian newspaper involved in the reporting, Interfax stated. 

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