Putin’s Former Supervisor Mines a Fortune in Shares
Published: April 6, 2011 (Issue # 1650)
Vladimir Litvinenko is a well-connected man.
The rector of the St. Petersburg Mining Institute oversaw Vladimir Putin’s dissertation, which in 1996 earned the current prime minister a doctorate in economics.
Last year, Litvinenko became chairman of the board of PhosAgro, the country’s largest producer of phosphate-based fertilizers.
Now he is a multimillionaire, worth an estimated $350 million to $450 million after an investor prospectus filed by PhosAgro last week showed he holds 5 percent of the company’s shares.
The fortune is raising eyebrows because Litvinenko, who has headed the state mining institute since 1994, was not previously known as a businessman. Litvinenko’s apparently rapid rise to riches speaks volumes in a country where who you know can be as important as what you know — if not more so.
Litvinenko seems to owe his luck to being the right man in the right place at the right time.
“He is an expert in that sector, and he has direct links with Vladimir Putin — what more can you ask for?” said Georgy Ivanin, a senior analyst with Alfa Bank.
Asked how Litvinenko became a shareholder, PhosAgro spokesman Timur Belov said by telephone that the company has a policy of not commenting on its shareholders beyond what is published officially.
The mining institute did not reply to written questions sent to Litvinenko’s office last week. One of his aides, who identified himself only by his first name and patronymic, Viktor Mikhailovich, said by telephone that the institute’s press service would look into the questions.
Litvinenko has proved his political allegiance to Putin more than once. In 2000 and 2004, he headed the St. Petersburg campaign team for Putin’s election as president.
His role in supervising Putin’s doctorate has been questioned since 2006, when Clifford Gaddy, a scholar at the Brookings Institution in Washington, demonstrated that key parts of the dissertation, which discusses resources planning in St. Petersburg and the neighboring Leningrad Oblast, appeared to have been plagiarized from a 1978 U.S. business school textbook.
Litvinenko has denied the allegations of plagiarism, and Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told The St. Petersburg Times that they were “slanderous.”
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