The man who was once known as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s banker, Sergei Pugachev, filed a claim for $10 billion against Russia Monday, Reuters reported. Pugachev saw his business empire crumble after he fell out of favor with Putin following the 2008 financial crisis.
Pugachev left Russia in 2011 and has alleged Putin and his inner circle dismantled his business empire and took the assets they wanted including a Siberian coal deposit and two major shipyards. He filed his claim against Russia at the Hague’s permanent court of arbitration. Lawyers were expected to explain Pugachev’s claim Tuesday, a source told Reuters.
The Russian government for its part has said Pugachev participated in embezzlement and improperly used assets from Russia’s central bank after his own bank, Mezhprombank, collapsed. Pugachev has denied the charges.
“The state steals something then has to defend its theft,” said Pugachev in an interview with the Guardian. “In my case the scale is huge, but in other respects this is a normal contemporary practice in Russia.”
Pugachev was living in London before he fled to France in 2015 against British court orders. He told the Guardian his move was legal.
“I can’t go into details. I didn’t swim the English Channel,” Pugachev said. “It was all absolutely legal.”
Pugachev had asked British authorities for protection after finding suspicious devices on his cars, the Financial Times reported.
Pugachev said he firmly believes the campaign against him has come down from the very top, from Putin himself. “How could Putin behave like this?” Pugachev asked. “I did everything for him. I even made him president.”
Pugachev helped Putin during his rise to power in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Other former Kremlin insiders and oligarchs have fallen out of favor with Putin, most notably Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was detained in 2003 and watched as his oil empire, Yukos, was taken away. Both Khodorkovsky and Pugachev have become critics of the Kremlin in exile.