The Rotenberg Files

Credit: David Istvan
Published: June 20, 2023

Vladimir Putin has spent his presidency crushing dissent, jailing journalists and opposition leaders, and waging a relentless war against Ukraine.

Throughout the increasingly dark years of his rule, some of his most loyal enablers have been Russian oligarchs — above all, his childhood friends Boris and Arkady Rotenberg.

The two brothers became key allies of the Russian state as their vast enterprises executed megaprojects including the Sochi Olympics and the bridge to annexed Crimea. In return, Putin’s government helped make them billionaires.

Though they were sanctioned by the West in 2014, little seemed to change in the Rotenbergs’ world-spanning, ultra-wealthy lifestyle. They managed to hang onto yachts, mansions, and other luxury assets — and even today, they’re still worth billions.

How is this possible?

The Rotenberg Files, an investigative series based on a new leak of over 50,000 emails and documents from a Russian management firm that worked for the brothers, provides unique insight.

Dozens of journalists from 17 outlets spent months analyzing and reporting on the archive, obtained by IStories and OCCRP from a source who cannot be identified for their safety.

This unprecedented access reveals the complex strategies the Rotenbergs used to preserve their holdings — and pulls back the curtain on the Western lawyers, bankers, and corporate service providers without whom they would have been helpless.

The rare glimpse provided by this project serves as a warning: All the sanctions in the world will accomplish little when there are willing enablers in every Western capital.


Leaked Emails Reveal How Putin’s Friends Dodged Sanctions With Help of Western Enablers

Boris and Arkady Rotenberg were two of the most prominent Russian oligarchs to be sanctioned after the Kremlin’s 2014 annexation of Crimea. Never-before-seen insider documents now offer unprecedented insight into how they shielded their fortune — and who helped them do it.

20 June 2023 Read the article

U.K. Royal’s Russian Allies Helped Putin Crony Rotenberg Dodge Western Sanctions

Queen Elizabeth II’s cousin, Prince Michael, distanced himself from earlier ties to the Putin regime in the wake of the 2022 invasion of Ukraine. But leaked emails and corporate records show he co-owns a company with two Russian businessmen who helped billionaire oligarch and Putin ally Boris Rotenberg dodge Western sanctions.

20 June 2023 Read the article

Documents Suggest Billionaire Oligarch Financed Purchase of Austrian Chalet Used by Putin’s Daughter

A holiday property in an exclusive skiing destination was frequented by Vladimir Putin’s eldest daughter, locals say. New documents suggest the house was purchased using a loan financed by Arkady Rotenberg, a sanctioned billionaire and childhood friend of the Russian president.

20 June 2023 Read the article

Russian Oligarch Boris Rotenberg Spent Years Trying to Hide His Spanish Villa. The Authorities Froze it Anyway.

Leaked emails show how a series of lawyers and corporate service providers executed a series of complex schemes to seemingly try to disguise Rotenberg’s connection to the villa. Despite their efforts, the Spanish authorities froze the villa last year.

20 June 2023 Read the article

Sanctioned Russian Oligarch’s Wife Had U.S. Passport

When Russian billionaire Boris Rotenberg was sanctioned by the U.S., his wife Karina was left in an awkward position. Leaked records show his blacklisting led to complications, including banks blocking their joint accounts.

21 June 2023 Read the article

When a Rotenberg Is Your Client

Leaked emails reveal the wide range of services — from fighting the tax authorities to preparing a PR campaign to writing complaint letters — that Russian oligarch Boris Rotenberg required from a distinguished Monaco lawyer. Not everything went smoothly.

22 June 2023 Read the article

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

A new leak, dubbed the Rotenberg Files, has shed light on how two of Russia’s most infamous oligarchs dodged Western sanctions. Who are the Rotenbergs, what is in the leak, how was it verified, and why should we care? Find the answers in our FAQ.

21 June 2023 Read the article

The Project Team

Journalists: Cecilia Anesi (IrpiMedia), Raffaele Angius (IrpiMedia), Roman Anin (IStories), Daniel Balint-Kurti (OCCRP), Lorenzo Bagnoli (IrpiMedia), Antonio Baquero (OCCRP), Christian Brönnimann (Tamedia), Luc Caregari (Reporter.Lu), Šarūnas Černiauskas (Siena), Ben Cowdock (Transparency International, UK), Jan Daalder (Follow The Money), Robert Denis (OCCRP), Lara Dihmis (OCCRP), Irina Dolinina (IStories), Alex Dziadosz (OCCRP), Abdelhak El Idrissi (Le Monde), Jared Ferrie (OCCRP), Brian Fitzpatrick (OCCRP), Misha Gagarin (OCCRP), Kevin G. Hall (OCCRP), George Greenwood (The Times), Jyri Hänninen (YLE), Caroline Henshaw (OCCRP), Nacho Herrero (Infolibre), Carina Huppertz (Paper Trail Media), Sanita Jemberga (Re:Baltica), Peter Jones (OCCRP), Will Jordan (OCCRP), Minna Knus-Galan (YLE), Ilya Lozovsky (OCCRP), Alesya Marokhovskaya (IStories), Frederik Obermaier (Paper Trail Media), Bastian Obermayer (Paper Trail Media), Miranda Patrucic (OCCRP), Hugo Rasch (Follow The Money), Maria Retter (Der Standard), Manuel Rico (Infolibre), Roman Romanovskiy (IStories), Holger Roonemaa (Delfi Meedia), Sana Sbouai (OCCRP), Fabian Schmid (Der Standard), Timo Schober (Paper Trail Media), Ekaterina Selivanova (OCCRP), Karina Shedrofsky (OCCRP), Maxim Solius (IStories), Inga Springe (Re:Baltica), Graham Stack (OCCRP), Tom Stocks (OCCRP), Drew Sullivan (OCCRP), Ludovico Tallarita (IrpiMedia), Tatiana Tkachenko (OCCRP), Giacomo Tognini (Forbes), Elizaveta Tsybulina (Transparency International, Russia), Dmitry Velikovsky (IStories), Julia Wallace (OCCRP), Maria Zholobova (IStories), and Oliver Zihlmann (Tamedia)

Data: Oksana Stavniichuk, Jan Strozyk and Eric Barrett

Fact-Checking: Birgit Brauer, Sergiu Ipatii, Olena LaFoy, and Dima Stoianov

Promotion: Charlie Turner

Project Coordination: OCCRP and IStories

Media and Research Partners:

Translation: Alyona Korolyova

Art Direction and Design: James O’Brien

Graphics and Visuals: Edin Pašović and Katie McCraw

Interactive and Web: Mark Nightingale

Illustrations: David Istvan

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