The results are in, and the title of highest-earning spouse of a Russian official -- according to official declarations, at least -- goes to the wife of the head of the oil-rich region of Tatarstan.
Gulsina Minnikhanova, married to Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov, topped the list published on August 28 by the Russian business publication Forbes Woman with an income of 2.35 billion rubles ($40.1 million) in 2016 -- outearning her husband by more than three-hundredfold.
The Russian magazine said it analyzed the 2016 public income declarations of Russian officials and lawmakers, which include declarations of their spouses, “at all levels” of power.
Aside from Minnikhanova, the owner of an elite spa and hotel complex in Tatarstan’s capital, Kazan, the top 10 earners among Russian officials' spouses last year included the wife of another regional head, as well as the spouses of federal, regional, and local lawmakers.
Opponents of Russian President Vladimir Putin have long pointed to the wealth of officials’ relatives as evidence of a system of corruption and cronyism that they accuse him of fostering during his 17 years in power. The Kremlin has repeatedly brushed off such criticism.
The runner-up to Minnikhanova was the wife of businessman Vadim Bredny, a city lawmaker with Putin’s ruling United Russia party in Ulan-Ude, capital of the Siberian region of Buryatia.
Raisa Bredny, managing director of the retail and food company founded by her husband, earned 1.92 billion rubles ($32.9 million) last year, according to Forbes Woman.
Coming in at No. 4 was Yekaterina Ignatova, the wife of Sergei Chemezov, head of the state-owned Russian conglomerate Rostec. Ignatova earned 848.5 million rubles ($14.5 million) last year, according to Chemezov’s declaration. She is a shareholder of the International Finance Club bank, known by the Russian acronym MFK. The other shareholder is Russian tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov.
Chemezov, who is widely seen as being close to Putin, was slapped with U.S. sanctions in 2014 over Russia’s backing of separatists in eastern Ukraine. He declared 212 million rubles ($3.6 million) in income last year.
Minnikhanova, whose husband has led the mainly Muslim region of Tatarstan since 2010, secured a large windfall in 2016 from the sale of a stake in the company that owns the Luciano spa and hotel complex in Kazan.
That sale earned her 2.2 billion rubles ($37.6 million), according to her husband’s declaration.
The Tatarstan president’s office said in May that the deal involved a 49-percent stake being sold to a “strategic investor” -- a Cyprus-based firm called Santerna Holdings Limited, the Kommersant newspaper reported. That firm’s ultimate beneficiary is unclear.