By Andy Bloxham for The Tepegraph 6:00AM GMT 02 Dec 2010
Ms Rice said she had been told by opposition figures in Russia that Mr Putin had attempted to engineer a safe transition when he stepped down as president in 2008 because he wanted to avoid “law enforcement investigations”.
The cable recorded a conversation between David Kramar, then the US deputy assistant secretary of state for Eurasian affairs, and an unidentified opposition leader during a visit to Washington.
Mr Kramar was told that Mr Putin was “nervously seeking to secure his future immunity from potential law enforcement investigations into his alleged illicit proceeds”.
The most likely candidate to take over from him was Sergei Ivanov, a charming, polyglot former KGB officer, who had experience of dealing with the west.
However, the eventual successor, and incumbent, was Dmitry Medvedev, who was described in other leaked cables as the “Robin to Putin’s Batman”.
Cables linked Mr Putin’s wealth to a “secretive Swiss-based oil trading firm” called Gunvor.
John Beyrle, the US ambassador to Moscow, said close connections existed between the firm and the Russian government and reported “its secretive ownership is rumoured to include prime minister Putin”.
Mr Putin has previously faced speculation about the extent and source of his wealth. One estimate put his personal fortune at £25billion. Critics of the president have claimed he is Europe’s richest man.
However, Gunvor has totally refuted the existence of any links between them and Mr Putin, and the politician has rubbished reports of a vast secret fortune wealth.
A spokesman for Gunvor has said: “It is plain wrong to state that [then] President Putin owns any part of Gunvor or is a beneficiary of its activities.”
Mr Putin said the reports of his wealth were “rubbish picked out of someone’s nose and smeared on bits of paper”.