Kremlin Apologizes for Linking Goldman Sachs to Leaks Newspaper

  • Putin had unverified information on Panama Papers, Peskov says
  • Putin said investment bank owned parent of German newspaper

The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin was mistaken when he tied a German newspaper that disclosed the so-called Panama Papers on offshore transactions to Goldman Sachs Group Inc. at his annual call-in show with Russians.

Putin was given unverified information that the investment bank owned the parent company of Sueddeutsche Zeitung, which received the leaked files, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call Friday. “This is my mistake,” Peskov said. “Apologies were given to the newspaper.”

Peskov said the president was wrong only in this particular respect on the leak of documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. Allegations stemming from the files are part of a “disinformation” campaign to destabilize Russia by targeting Putin, the Kremlin said last week.

Putin, a former KGB agent, said during Thursday’s broadcast that information in the files implicating people in his inner circle to offshore transactions was accurate. The leak of more than 11 million documents revealed how politicians, banks, celebrities and criminals across the globe used offshore companies to hide wealth over the past four decades. While the practice can be completely legal, the anonymous ownership of shell companies can enable tax evasion, money laundering, sanctions-dodging and kleptocracy.

The documents show at least $2 billion in transactions involved people and companies with ties to Putin, according to reports published this month by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

Offshore Transactions

The consortium received the files after they were leaked to Sueddeutsche Zeitung. The newspaper is owned by a Munich publishing family and a German media group that has no corporate affiliations to Goldman Sachs, Stefan Hilscher, the paper’s managing director, said in a statement Thursday.

During the call-in show, Putin reiterated his defense of his classical musician friend Sergey Roldugin, who is at the center of the offshore transactions linked to Russia. The cellist has brought unique instruments to Russia including two violins and two cellos, the latest of which cost about $12 million, Putin said.

“Odd as it may seem, they aren’t publishing false information on offshores,” Putin said of the reports. “They’re not accusing anyone of anything specific. They’re just casting a shadow.”

Putin claimed that U.S. institutions will continue to use provocations ahead of Russia’s parliamentary elections in September and the presidential contest in 2018.

‘Total Suspicion’

In 2013, Goldman Sachs signed a three-year agreement to advise the Russian government on burnishing the nation’s image overseas and attracting more institutional investors.

Putin’s ability to think politically is being overwhelmed by “total suspicion” and it makes him more vulnerable to manipulation by those who provide information to him, Gleb Pavlovsky, a former political adviser to Putin, said by phone on Tuesday. “This intensified after Snowden revealed the level of the surveillance on him by the U.S.”

Putin has granted asylum to Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who exposed clandestine data collection by the U.S. in 2013.

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