If you've ever wondered about the size of Russian President Vladimir Putin's private fortune, allow me to offer a clue: He doesn’t need one.
Look up 'Putin's personal fortune'' on Google, and you'll find estimates of between $40bn and $70bn.
The media reports, which often cite one another, ultimately tend to rely on one primary source: a November 2007 interview given by a prominent member of Moscow's chattering classes, Stanislav Belkovsky, to the German daily Die Welt.
In the interview, he claimed that Putin 'controlled' 37% of the oil company Surgutneftegaz and 4.5 percent of natural gas monopoly Gazprom. The $40bn estimate of Putin's fortune was simply the 2007 market price of these stakes.
Belkovsky's game may be mainly literary. A former computer programmer turned political consultant, he has written several books about Putin and a humorous play featuring Russian political figures.
Belkovsky's charm, easygoing style and keen sense of the absurd have made him a popular columnist. Even when he suggests that Russia has become a constitutional monarchy headed by Michael of Kent or Prince Harry, people listen to him as though he is partly serious.
It has since turned out that Putin was not intending to give up power at all. His third presidential term runs out in 2018, and he will be eligible for another one after that if he feels up to it at age 65.
He has plenty of time to convert his vast power and the favors he has done his friends and family into actual cash and assets. At this point, it is simply unnecessary. The country's 'capitalists' are merely holding and exploiting property on behalf of the state - meaning, ultimately, on behalf of Putin, the collector of votes and emotions.
Hit the link below to access the complete Bloomberg article:
image: © World Economic Forum