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Russian businessman Alexander Ponomarenko is no longer the official owner of ‘Putin’s palace’

Source: Forbes

Russian businessman Alexander Ponomarenko, who anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny named as the official owner of a billion-dollar “palace” supposedly built for Vladimir Putin on the Black Sea, hasn’t had any ties to the property for several years, his spokespeople told Forbes on Tuesday, January 26.

According to Ponomarenko’s press service, he withdrew from the project in March 2016 and doesn’t have any information on its current status. 

Ponomarenko told Kommersant that he bought the luxury property back in 2011. He described the purchase as a real estate venture. Though he didn’t disclose the total cost of the property, he said that the reported price of $350 million was “close to the truth.” 

In the Anti-Corruption Foundation’s investigation into the residence, Navalny’s team said they discovered records showing that Ponomarenko only paid $350,000 for the property. Navalny argued that this sum indicates that the deal was actually a sham.

Navalny also claimed that Ponomarenko remains the official owner of the palace. The property is currently registered to the Russian firm “Binom.” The company’s owners aren’t named in the Spark business database, though it confirms that they are Russian citizens. That said, in November 2020, the BBC Russian Service reported that according to the Spark database Alexander Ponomarenko is Binom’s sole owner. 

Alexey Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) published its “Putin’s Palace” investigation on January 19, 2021. As of January 26, the video version of the report has nearly 92 million views on YouTube.

The investigation maintains that a $1.35-billion luxury residence was built for Russian President Vladimir Putin near the Black Sea resort town of Gelendzhik. According to the FBK, the palace’s construction was financed through a corruption scheme linked to members of Putin’s inner circle.

On Monday, January 25, Putin said that the palace doesn’t belong to him or his family members. The next day, presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the property’s owners are “obviously businessmen” and emphasized that the Kremlin “has no right” to disclose their names. 

In response, the FBK noted that the investigation didn’t actually name Putin as the property’s owner. Navalny’s team also emphasized that “there aren’t no-fly zones over the homes of businessmen, they aren’t built by FSO [Secret Service] officers, and they aren’t guarded by the FSB.” Peskov advised journalists to address questions about the closed-off areas around the “palace” to the FSB and FSO directly. 

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