But how much money does he have?
They say money equals power, and Vladimir Putin has plenty of power of right now.
He’s not telling.
Figuring out the Russian president’s net worth has long been the holy grail of spooks and hacks around the world. But the personal wealth of Putin—a former KGB agent—is nearly impossible to decipher, and is likely distributed across a secret web of company holdings, real estate, and other people’s accounts. In fact, at a time when his political motivations are under scrutiny across the world, the struggle to pin down Putin’s riches reveals something about the covert ways in which he wields his authority over Russia.
Here’s what we know.
The most often cited estimate comes from a former mid-level Kremlin adviser named Stanislav Belkovsky. In 2007, he claimed Putin had a fortune worth at least $40 billion—a figure that would put him in the top 10 of Forbes magazine’s ranking of billionaires.
(Forbes, the premier chronicler of the world’s wealthiest, doesn’t include Putin on its list of billionaires. In 2015, the magazine said it couldn’t verify enough assets.)
The Kremlin source based his estimate on Putin’s alleged stakes in several companies, mostly in the oil sector. He said the Russian president controlled 37% of the oil company Surgutneftegaz, 4.5% of natural gas company Gazprom, and had substantial holdings in a commodities trader called Gunvor.
“At least $40 billion,” Belkovsy told the Guardian at the time.“Maximum we cannot know. I suspect there are some businesses I know nothing about.”
The American government has linked Putin to Gunvor, too. “Putin has investments in Gunvor and may have access to Gunvor funds,” the U.S. Treasury said in a statement in 2014 as it announced sanctions.
Gunvor—which reportedly made $93 billion in revenue in 2012—denies Putin has ever had any ownership in the company.