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Chechnya’s ruler has a stable full of prize-winning race horses, but you’d never know it, looking at his income declarations

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Horse racing for Russia’s presidential prize in 2010. Chechen ruler Ramzan Kadyrov’s horse, Khwarazm, won the grand prize.
Horse racing for Russia’s presidential prize in 2010. Chechen ruler Ramzan Kadyrov’s horse, Khwarazm, won the grand prize.
Alexander Miridonov / Kommersant

Chechen ruler Ramzan Kadyrov owns 128 race horses, and they’ve earned 98 million rubles ($1.5 million) in competitions over the past four years — far more than anything indicated on Kadyrov’s income declarations. According to a new investigative report by the anti-corruption group Transparency International, Chechnya’s leader simply doesn’t declare his winnings.

According to the report, Kadyrov spends at least 46 million rubles ($685,600) to keep all these animals alive, though it’s unknown how much it cost to acquire the horses in the first place (or how many were received as gifts).

Kadyrov’s stallions have raced in Russia, France, the Czech Republic, Germany, and the United Arab Emirates. Since 2014, thanks to sanctions, Kadyrov hasn’t been able to collect prize money from races in the European Union, but the cash hasn’t stopped flowing in Russia and the UAE. Transparency International found that Kadyrov’s horses won a whopping 61.7 million rubles ($919,630) at races in the UAE between 2014 and 2018, plus another 36.4 million rubles ($542,500) in Russia during that same period.

Kadyrov’s official income from 2014 to 2017 was 29.3 million rubles ($436,700) (he still hasn’t filed his income declaration for 2018). In the public version of Kadyrov’s declaration, the structure of his income isn’t specified, but it can be assumed that he only partially declared his horse race winnings, if he declared them at all.

Transparency International says Ramzan Kadyrov's income from horse races can only be approximated. Hippodrom.ru, Russia’s biggest horse racing website, only lists owners’ current horses, and does not track the profits from horse sales or rentals. Transparency International’s report says horses that competed several times in races between 2014 and 2017 for other people and later returned to Kadyrov earned a total of 11.5 million rubles ($171,400).

Federal law doesn’t require Ramzan Kadyrov to declare his horses. Only real estate and vehicles are subject to income declarations, while horses are considered movable property. But Kadyrov is supposed to declare his horses’ winnings, and pay income tax on their prize money.

Transparency International is asking the president’s Anti-Corruption Office to review information that Ramzan Kadyrov both failed to declare his race horses and evaded the subsequent income tax. Researchers are also calling on the Kremlin to declare a “loss of confidence” in Kadyrov, if the evidence holds up, and boot him from office.

Summary by Olga Korelina

Translation by Kevin Rothrock