A charity run by Prince Charles received donations from an offshore company that was used to funnel vast amounts of cash from Russia in a scheme that is under investigation by prosecutors, the Guardian can reveal.
Money flowing through the network included cash that can be linked to some of the most notorious frauds committed during Vladimir Putin’s presidency.
In all, it is estimated that $4.6bn (£3.5bn) was sent to Europe and the US from a Russian-operated network of 70 offshore companies with accounts in Lithuania.
Shared with media partners including the Guardian, the data represents one of the largest ever banking leaks.
There is no suggestion that end recipients of funds were aware of the original source of the money, which arrived via a disguised route. However, the documents indicate that criminal and legitimate money may have been mixed together, making it impossible to trace the original source, before passing through screen companies into the global banking system.
The cash was then used legally to pay for private jets, custom-built yachts, luxury properties, holidays, football tickets and fees at top English private schools.
“This is the pipe through which the proceeds of kleptocracy flow from Russia to the west,” said the anti-corruption campaigner Bill Browder.
For years, Browder has been trying to trace what happened to $230m stolen from the Moscow tax office by a gang that took control of subsidiaries of his investment fund, Hermitage Capital. Evidence from the leak suggests some of the proceeds moved through this network.
The findings will be likely to add to concerns expressed by UK ministers who have vowed to crack down on those facilitating the transfer of fortunes out of Russia by elites seeking to spend their money in the west. Ministers have demanded better due diligence by British institutions before accepting money from offshore companies.
The leak focuses on Troika Dialog, a leading Russian investment bank now merged with the country’s biggest high street bank. Emails reveal how certain managers at Troika kept money flowing through the pipeline for more than eight years, starting in 2004.