Italian tax police have seized $144 million worth of artwork and other assets from the architect who designed ‘Putin’s palace’

Italy’s tax police, the Guardia di Finanza, say they have seized more than 141 million euros ($144 million) in assets from architect Lanfranco Cirillo, who designed the estate known as ‘Palace of Putin” on the Black Sea in Russia.

Cirillo’s lawyer confirmed his client was the “well-known professional” from Brescia, Italy, whom officials accused of tax offenses in a statement, but insisted Cirillo was only guilty “of ‘no wrongdoing regarding Italian taxes’. He added that his Italian client has been based in Russia since President Vladimir Putin, with whom Cirillo is a longtime associate, granted him citizenship in 2014.

Artwork, jewelry, cash, luxury properties and a helicopter were among the seized items. In response to the allegations, Cirillo’s lawyer said in a statement that “the architect, who is in Moscow, is very disappointed that having purchased prestigious properties and works of art in Italy, and having supported his wife and daughter, are used to claim that he faked his move abroad.

This is not the first time that Cirillo has been targeted by Italian authorities. In February, officials raided the architect’s villa in Roncadelle, near Brescia, for allegedly failing to pay a 50 million euro ($51 million) tax bill, then seized a cache works by artists such as Pablo Picasso, Lucio Fontana, Paul Cézanne and Wassily Kandinsky on site. The raid was part of ongoing investigations into Cirillo’s alleged financial malfeasance from 2013 to 2019, and the discovery that many top-notch paintings were not registered with authorities in accordance with Italian law, adding another charge against the ‘architect.

Digital reconstruction of the courtyard of “Putin’s palace”, as seen in a January 17 YouTube video posted by Alexei Navalny.

According to information published in the Italian newspaper Giornal of BresciaCirillo’s lawyers have argued that the architect made his fortune in Russia, where he claims to have completed projects for 43 billionaires as well as prominent state companies Gazprom and Novatek, and is therefore not not required to pay taxes in Italy.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny first broke news of Putin’s so-called ‘New Versailles’, designed by Cirillo, last year when he posted a video essay on YouTube showcasing the luxurious mansion allegedly held by Putin, and called for protests against government corruption.

The viral video, which has now been viewed more than 124 million times, is titled ‘Putin’s Palace: The Story of the World’s Biggest Bribe’ and documents the lavish estate, which is around four times the size from Gelendzhik, a nearby resort town with a population of 50,000. The resort also has a no-fly zone around it to maintain security. The flowery park is hemmed with a gate surmounted by a two-headed golden eagle, similar to the gates of the Hermitage Museum. Sights inside the house include a retractable strip pole, personal casino, arcade, and “aqua-disco.”

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