Dhe Kremlin was once built to a large extent by Italian master builders. Whether that also animated Vladimir Putin is speculation. But an Italian architect is also assigned to him, Lanfranco Cirillo from Brescia. The 63-year-old architect built Putin’s controversial palace on the Black Sea coast. Cirillo lived in Russia for a long time, where he worked for the super-rich. But now Italy has him back – at least in the sense that the public prosecutor’s office in his hometown of Brescia is hot on his heels for alleged tax evasion.
The 63-year-old is said to have steered around 50 million euros past the Italian tax authorities between 2013 and 2019. The financial police Guardia di Finanza recently searched his luxurious property in Brescia and confiscated more than 140 art objects, according to Italian press reports. Among them were works by Picasso, Cezanne, Kandinsky and de Chirico. Cirillo also no longer has access to his helicopter, which he liked to pilot himself.
Cirillo became known for his work on the bombastic palace on the Black Sea, which the Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny first reported on in a widely acclaimed video. Who is the owner of the mysterious building remains in the dark, Putin does not want to be. The massive building is probably not finished yet. It is not his best work, but “aesthetically correct” and full of “fantastic materials”, Cirillo recently told the “Spiegel”. “In the end I was proud of my work. That’s good ‘Made in Italy’”.
The Italian also built estates in London and Paris – mostly for the 44 Russian billionaires (in Western currency) he counted among his clients. Critics deny that he is an architect at all, at best calling him an interior designer or a dealer in Italian designer furniture. It was in this capacity that he came to Moscow in the 1990s. Little by little he won the favor of the oligarchs and offered them fully furnished luxury properties with an Italian flair. In 2014, on the instructions of Putin, he received Russian citizenship. A year later, however, he left Russia because his daughter was said to have cancer.
Italian prosecutors are not always above political interference; a link between the investigations and Putin’s invasion of Ukraine may not be coincidental. But the Italian tax authorities are convinced that part of the Italian’s lavish income is due to him. The allegations are false income tax returns, money laundering and violation of the Cultural Property Protection Act. Cirillo, meanwhile, is surprised by the allegations “after I really lived in Russia for more than 20 years”. He will clarify things, he announced.