Vladimir Putin possibly earned half a billion dollars from a Russian vodka brand named after him, it has been reported. Putinka vodka, still available today in parts of Western Europe and the US, was launched in 2002 by a company called Winexim and quickly became a best-seller. But between 2014 and 2020, Putin secretly owned the company through a subsidiary of one of his companies, according to an investigation by independent outlet Proekt. It is now understood to be owned by one of Putin’s closest confidants.
Despite the vast sanctions on Russian businesses, the brand appears to still be stocked in Italy and the US.
Express.co.uk did not find it available in the UK but according to wine-searcher.com, it is still stocked at several stores in the US, including in New York City.
Putinka vodka is also retailed at some stores in Rome, according to the website.
Putin allegedly first got involved with the brand when co-owner of Winexim, Oleg Plakhuta asked his close confidant Arkady Rotenberg permission to use Putin’s name, reported Proekt.
In return for using the despot’s name, Plakhuta had to share the business with the two men.
Over the years, the ownership of Putinka changed around, reported the publication. But by 2014, it was in Putin’s hands.
Between 2004 and 2019, the brand made an estimated $400 to $500 million, according to the outlet.
In 2014, it was acquired by Ermira Consultants, a company registed in Cyprus owned by a lawyer from St Petersburg called Vladislav Kopylov. But the company’s true owner was allegedly Vladimir Putin.
Distributors reportedly would pay vast amounts of cash to get permission to sell the drink brand. A source close to Putin’s subsidiary said some of that cash was “always intended for Putin”.
The source who provided the claims is allegedly the manager of a network of companies, including Putin’s subsidiary.
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In 2020, Putinka was passed to Baikal-Invest, a company believed to be owned by Rotenberg and his associates, according to the publication.
If the claims are true, it is unclear exactly how much money Putin made from the business or whether he continues to earn from the brand.
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