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As Russians went into debt at record rates in 2022, Putin’s ex-wife made 58 million rubles from her auto-title loan business

Alexander Zemlianichenko / AP / Scanpix / LETA

CarMoney, a microfinance company with ties to Vladimir Putin’s ex-wife, Lyudmila Ocheretnaya, earned a record-setting 391.3 million rubles ($4.8 million) in 2022. According to the Telegram channel Mozhem Obyasnit, which cited the company’s financial reports, the company’s net profit rose 66 percent compared to the previous year.

Additionally, in the first half of 2022, CarMoney became Russia’s fifth highest-profiting microfinance company among those that disclosed their finances, as well as the eighth largest by total microloan portfolio size.

The company issues short-term loans secured by borrowers’ vehicles. It was first created in 2010, but saw little development until Ocheretnaya became one of its owners, Mozhem Obyasnit noted. From 2017 until the end of 2022, a Cyprus-based offshore company called Carmoney CY LTD was listed on official documents as the company’s owner. According to Mozhem Obyasnit, Carmoney CY TD is controlled by a company called Meridian, which is 99 percent owned by Ocheretnaya.

In late December 2022, CarMoney’s ownership was transferred to an entity called Smarttechgroup LLC. According to Mozhem Obyasnit, this shielded the company from Western sanctions by putting it fully within Russian jurisdiction.

At the same time, Ocheretnaya may still be in control of the company, according to journalists. Anton Zinovyev, the general director of CarMoney’s new parent company, is Ocheretnaya’s partner in a smartphone leasing business called Zaprosto, and the microloan company’s office is located in a building on Moscow’s Vozdvizhenka Street that belongs to Ocheretnaya and her husband, Artur Ocheretny.

According to an audit report on CarMoney’s financial report, Ocheretnaya personally received 58 million rubles (about $709,000) from CarMoney in 2022.

Mozhem Obyasnit noted that the company’s profit growth came amid a rise in Russians’ overall debt load during the first year of Russia’s war against Ukraine. According to the Russian Central Bank, as of December 1, 2022, financial companies had issued a record-high 27 trillion rubles (about $330 billion) of loans since the start of the year. Compared to the same period in 2021 (when financial firms issued 24.6 trillion rubles, or about $300.1 billion), that’s an increase of about 10 percent.

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