A yacht 'gift' from Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich to Russian president Putin is cited as one of many instances of alleged corruption.

A “Russian insider” has gone on record saying that Chelsea football club owner and Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich gave a $35m yacht to Russia’s president Vladimir Putin and that the yacht was operated using state funds.

The allegations came as part of BBC news documentary programme Panorama which also included allegations of corruption against Putin made by a US Treasury official.

In one alleged example, Dmitry Skarga, former boss of Russia’s state shipping company Sovcomflot, told the BBC he knew of a transfer of the 57m yacht, Olympia, estimated to be worth $35m, from Abramovich to Mr Putin.

“It’s a fact that Mr Abramovich, through his employee, transferred a yacht to Mr Putin,” he said. “I was on board of this yacht at the end of March 2002, in Amsterdam. And there was a representative of Mr Abramovich … he said that Roman is the owner of this yacht,” Skarga told the BBC.

Mr Skarga said the Olympia was given to the Russian president via an offshore company. Skarga said he oversaw the management of the yacht for Vladimir Putin and prepared reports on the boat’s running costs.

He alleged that the yacht was maintained and running costs paid for out of government coffers and that the yacht was kept secret because it belonged personally to Vladimir Putin, rather than the state.

The BBC programme cited a CIA report estimating Putin’s wealth at £40bn and interviewed a US Treasury official who said Putin had used state assets to benefit friends and allies, saying the Russian president had hidden riches.

Adam Szubin, who oversees US Treasury sanctions, said: “[Putin] supposedly draws a state salary of something like $110,000 a year. That is not an accurate statement of the man’s wealth, and he has long time training and practices in terms of how to mask his actual wealth,” Szubin said.

Lawyers and representatives for both Abramovich and President Putin have dismissed the claims as fiction, speculation and rumour.

The allegations come a week after a UK public inquiry said Putin had “probably” approved the murder of the deceased spy Alexander Litvinenko.

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