Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday rejected corruption allegations over offshore funds documented in an unprecedented leak of financial data known as the Panama Papers.
"Hey, there's some friend of Russia's president and he did something over there. Probably this has an aspect of corruption. But what aspect? Actually, there is none," Putin said in comments carried by the Interfax news agency.
Recent Western media reports speculated that confidants of Putin used offshore companies to hide billions of dollars. The reports were based on documents leaked from a Panamanian law firm that specializes in setting up purported shell companies in the Central American tax haven.
Putin made the comments on Thursday at a media forum in St Petersburg, during which he denounced the Panama Papers reports as a concerted effort by Western media to undermine Russia's government.
Putin said he was proud to be friends with one of the reputed confidants, Sergei Roldugin, a renowned Russian cellist linked to offshore funds in the Panama Papers.
Putin said Roldugin has had some success as a businessman but "certainly not billions of dollars. That's nonsense."
Following the initial media reports about the Panama Papers, a top Russian anti-corruption official condemned them as an "informational attack."
"The number of these informational attacks against the president of Russia and the simplicity of their fabricated subjects are like a needle injecting poison numerous times in the hope that at least one dose will work," Irina Yarovaya, head of the anti-corruption committee in Russia's lower house of parliament, said Monday.
Putin was not directly named in the reported leak of information from the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, and the alleged offshore companies did not appear illegal.
However, reports speculated that the deals enabled Putin's confidants to hide fortunes made possible through his patronage.