Cellist Sergei Roldugin was caught moving millions into Swiss accounts, despite admitting he is neither a businessman nor a millionaire. Bankers who did not raise the alarm or try to find out the origin of the money are now in the dock
Sergei Roldugin is a Russian cellist whom President Vladimir Putin has described as a “brilliant musician”, friend and benefactor, having even chosen him as godfather to his eldest daughter, Maria. But according to the Panama Papers investigation released in 2016, Roldugin became known as Putin’s “wallet,” used by the Kremlin to discreetly move the president’s millions.
The case has now reached the Swiss courts: four bankers from the branch of Russian bank Gazprombank, three Russians and one Swiss, went on trial in Zurich on Wednesday for ignoring warning signs and allowing Roldugin to move millions of dollars. without making the necessary checks to determine the origin of the money.
The four defendants could not be identified due to restrictions under Swiss law.
According to The Guardian, cellist Sergei Rolddugin transferred around 50 million to Swiss accounts between 2014 and 2016, without any credible explanation for holding these sums. According to Swiss prosecutors, the four bankers did not do enough to ascertain the true source of the funds.
“All evidence points to the contrary that Sergey Roldugin is the real owner of the assets”Swiss prosecutor Jan Hoffmann told the court. “The bankers did not follow the rules and therefore must be punished.”
The prosecutor asked for a seven-month suspended sentence for each of the bankers.
Rich who was friends with Putin
Defense lawyer Bernhard Lötscher said doubts about the true identity of the owner were not enough from a criminal point of view, pointing out that it was “plausible” that Roldugin was rich only because he was a friend of Putin, benefiting from his position in his inner circle Russian president that will allow him to receive, for example, unsecured loans or other financial benefits.
Reuters has accessed the indictment, which states that, officially, Putin has an annual income of 100,000 francs, but has a huge amount of assets managed by people in his inner circle. The Kremlin, which has not commented publicly on the case, has said on previous occasions that the cellist suffers from “Putinophobia” and that the Russian president’s finances are public.
Rodulgin himself – who was added to the sanctions list by European authorities after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year – has already told The New York Times that he is not a businessman, let alone a millionaire. Putin, for his part, has already said of his cellist friend that he honestly earned some money from a minority stake in a Russian company.
In the account opening documents, the cellist declared only his activity as a musician, an occupation that would not justify the millions that were later moved. According to Swiss law, banks are obliged to terminate or reject business relationships whenever there are doubts about the identity of the other party to the contract.
The sentencing of the four bankers was scheduled for March 30.