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  • My name is Luke Harding.

  • I'm a journalist and a writer,

  • and my new book is calledCollusion,” and it's about Donald Trump and Russia.

  • Putin and money, they're a taboo topic inside Russia.

  • I wrote stories about this in 2007 based on sources inside his presidential administration who were saying, quietly,

  • that he was worth about $40 billion.

  • That was a decade ago.

  • The thing is Russia's a kleptocracy.

  • It's also the world's biggest oil producer,

  • and the people at the top of the Russian state are all kind of multi-billionaires.

  • And Putin is at the head of this pyramid although officially his salary's $100 thousand a year.

  • Putin allegedly controls 37% of Russian oil company Surgutneftegaz, 4.5% of natural gas company Gazprom.

  • He also has holdings in commodities trader Gunvor.

  • In 2012, estimates of his wealth were upped to $70 billion.

  • Now, everyone in the Russian elite knows he's the richest guy in town by a long way,

  • but the beauty of the system is that formally nothing belongs to him and everything is held by proxies,

  • some of whom are now under US sanctions.

  • It's a kind of clever system,

  • but of course he's enormously rich and for Putin,

  • the thing about money is it's kind of liquid power, and power ultimately is what interests him.

My name is Luke Harding.

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