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U.S. Treasury accuses Russia's Vladimir Putin of serious 'corruption'

Last week, British government investigators accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of "probably" ordering the murder of critic and one-time KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006. The U.S. isn't going that far, but a high-ranking U.S. Treasury official is calling Putin corrupt, on the record with BBC Panorama, for its show on "Putin's Secret Riches"

"We've seen him enriching his friends, his close allies, and marginalizing those who he doesn't view as friends using state assets," said Adam Szubin, the acting U.S. Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, in charge of U.S. sanctions. "Whether that's Russia's energy wealth, whether it's other state contracts, he directs those to whom he believes will serve him and excludes those who don't. To me, that is a picture of corruption." Putin "supposedly draws a state salary of something like $110,000 a year," Szubin added. "That is not an accurate statement of the man's wealth, and he has long time training and practices in terms of how to mask his actual wealth."

So just how wealthy is Putin? That's one of the closest guarded secrets in Russia. Szubin declined to comment on an apparently secret 2007 CIA report that estimated Putin's worth at $40 billion, but in the video below, Russian journalist Stanislav Belkovsky gave Panorama that same number, $40 billion in assets, a number he says he drew from his "confidential sources." "I'm still sure Putin is the richest man in Europe, one of the richest men in the world," Belkovsky said.

In 2008, Putin colorfully dismissed the claim that he was Europe's wealthiest man, saying "it's simply rubbish. They just picked all of it out of someone's nose and smeared it across their little papers." Regarding the new allegations, Putin's spokesman told the BBC that "none of these questions or issues needs to be answered, as they are pure fiction." The BBC also noted that "President Putin declined to be interviewed for Panorama."