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Bill Browder on Putin, the Magnitsky Act, and unmasking Russian cash laundering

Bycbs editor

Apr 11, 2022

Bill Browder, an American-born, U.K.-primarily based totally businessman, says the battle in Ukraine is sprucing the arena’s attention on Russian President Vladimir Putin. “All of a sudden, the arena cares approximately Vladimir Putin’s evil,” he advised correspondent Seth Doane.

But it truly is lengthy been clean to Browder, a Putin goal himself. It become even as taking walks in a London park that he obtained an alarming telecellsmartphone call: U.S. intelligence had discovered Browder is probably abducted and brought to Russia.

He recalled, “My secure international in London simply evaporated.”

Browder’s decades-lengthy odyssey with the pinnacle ranges of Russian energy commenced after he moved to Russia withinside the Nineteen Nineties to make the most of its privatization following the autumn of the Soviet Union. Browder’s Hermitage Fund quickly have become the biggest overseas funding fund withinside the country. They researched Russian organizations, to begin with to make investments:

“What we found become that the oligarchs and corrupt officers who managed those organizations have been stealing all of the profits, all of the assets, out of the organizations,” Browder stated. “And so, the simplest manner that I felt like I should responsibly make investments is that if I should determine out how they have been doing the stealing after which seeking to prevent them.”

“Not a manner to make your self very welcome in Russia?” requested Doane.

“Well, it become exciting due to the fact at the start of this moment, Vladimir Putin become preventing with the identical men that I become preventing with. But it seems that he wasn’t seeking to quit the oligarch era; he simply desired to emerge as the largest oligarch himself.”

Browder confirmed Doane charts laying out the net of difficult cash-laundering operations they helped to uncover. “The cash flowed from the Russian treasury thru Moldova, to Latvia, then to Switzerland,” stated Browder. “The entire concept of cash laundering is to make it so complex that efficiently no one should prepare a chart like this.”

Doane requested, “It takes an funding man who is moved to Russia to do this?”

“It takes an funding man whose legal professional and pal become brutally murdered, and has made it his undertaking for the relaxation of his existence to move after the murderers, to do this,” he replied.

That legal professional and pal become Sergei Magnitsky, who’d been investigating a tax fraud scheme on Browder’s behalf. “My corporation paid taxes to the Russian government,” stated Browder. “A bunch of Russian officers seized my documents, after which prepared an pick out robbery of my organizations, after which prepared for a $230-million tax refund of taxes that we paid again to the ones stolen organizations so they might revel in the cash. Sergei become the individual that found out the entire $230 million tax rebate fraud.”

Magnitsky then furnished testimony to the Russian nation investigative committee: “But 5 weeks after Sergei testified, the identical officers whom he testified towards arrested him, placed him in pre-trial detention in Russia, wherein he become then tortured to get him to withdraw his testimony.”

Sergei Magnitsky died in a Russian prison in 2009. He become 37 years old.

“Do you experience chargeable for his death?” Doane requested.

“I do.”

“How do you address that?”

“I made a vow to his memory, to his family, to myself that I become going to dedicate all of my time, all of my energy, and all of my assets to move after the folks who killed him, [to] ensure they confronted justice,” Browder replied.

He lobbied for a landmark piece of law referred to as the Magnitsky Act. It initially sanctioned humans related to that tax fraud and Sergei Magnitsky’s death. Signed into regulation in 2012, it centered interest at the type of corruption they had uncovered. Some of the cash from that tax scheme wound up in houses bought in London, New York and Dubai.

Browder’s look for justice become the idea of a bestselling book, “Red Notice.” Now, out this week, is his latest, “Freezing Order” (posted through Simon & Schuster, a department of Paramount Global, which owns CBS). It’s the story of what occurred next, a real tale of “cash laundering, murder, and surviving Vladimir Putin’s wrath.”

Doane requested, “Some of this appears like some thing out of a mob, mafia movie?”

“Vladimir Putin is the mafia boss,” stated Browder. “All of his ministers are actually, in case you appearance at ‘The Sopranos,’ just like the New Jersey Mafia and the Brooklyn Mafia, the Philadelphia mafia. They can all take as a whole lot cash as they are able to steal, and they have got to pay a tribute as much as the mafia boss, that’s Vladimir Putin.”

Browder alleges that a number of that stolen $230 million ended up withinside the palms of Putin, a frontrunner notorious for his shadowy wealth. The Russian president’s professional earnings is approximately $140,000 annually, which increases a few apparent questions on his $1.four billion residence, his $seven hundred million yacht, and his million-greenback watch collection.

Putin has lengthy maintained Sergei Magnitsky died of a coronary heart attack. His animus closer to Browder become clean in his 2018 joint presidential press convention in Helsinki, while he advised to U.S. President Donald Trump that Moscow is probably inclined to “swap” 12 indicted Russian army intelligence officials if the Trump management might flip over Bill Browder to him.

“I become in shock,” Browder stated.

He has correctly campaigned for different international locations to undertake the Magnitsky Act, to goal corrupt officers and human rights abusers, and Browder is proud that now it is a number of the sanctions getting used to punish Russia due to the fact its invasion of Ukraine.

“The tale of Sergei Magnitsky is a tiny microcosm of what is now been elevated through 1,000,000 times,” he stated. “The humans of Ukraine are bearing the crook brunt of Vladimir Putin withinside the identical manner as we did in a totally small manner. And I experience heartbroken, due to the fact if humans had listened extra to what I become pronouncing during the last ten years, possibly we would not be on this situation.”