Entrepreneurs

Is Vladimir Putin the richest person in the world? This financier says he's worth more than Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos combined

Vladimir Putin
Alexander Zemlianichenko | Pool | Reuters
Vladimir Putin

For a short time Thursday, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos surpassed Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates as the richest person alive. Amazon's stock price then slid, and Bezos went back to the No. 2 spot, according to Forbes' real-time ranking.

But as the Seattle entrepreneurs jockey for the top ranking, Russian President Vladimir Putin is worth more than both Gates and Bezos combined, says one financier.

Putin's net worth is estimated to be $200 billion, according to former Hermitage Capital Management CEO Bill Browder, who testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, according to prepared remarks obtained by The Atlantic.

Currently, Gates is worth almost $90 billion and Bezos is worth almost $85 billion.

"I estimate that he has accumulated $200 billion of ill-gotten gains." -Bill Browder, former CEO of  Hermitage Capital Management

"I estimate that [Putin] has accumulated $200 billion of ill-gotten gains," Browder tells Congress, according to The Atlantic. "He keeps his money in the West and all of his money in the West is potentially exposed to asset freezes and confiscation."

Browder says Putin's wealth is a result of nefarious practices.

"There are approximately 10,000 officials in Russia working for Putin who are given instructions to kill, torture, kidnap, extort money from people and seize their property," continues Browder.

Browder founded and lead Hermitage Capital Management, which from 1996 through 2005 was an investment advisory company in Russia and had as much as $4 billion invested in Russian stocks. In 2005, the financier entrepreneur was labeled a "threat to national security" there and banned from the country. After he was forced out, Russian officials seized Hermitage Capital Management's investment funds and, according to Browder, Putin's officials stole $230 million Hermitage Capital Management had paid in taxes to the Russian state.

Browder was testifying in front of Congress because the Russian lawyer he hired to investigate the seizure of his company, Sergei Magnitsky, was tortured and eventually killed in prison in 2009. Ever since, Browder has been an advocate against corruption in Russia. As such, he was called to testify as part of a congressional investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

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