NEW YORK – One trillion dollars: That’s so much money that famous investor Bill Browder believes Vladimir Putin and Russian oligarchs have stolen from the Russian people since the fall of the Soviet Union.
“And that was money to be spent on health care and education, roads and services,” Browder said at an event in Manhattan to celebrate the release of his second book, “Freezing Order,” which tells of how he became a Putin found. as a result of his attempts to expose Kremlin corruption. These efforts led to the death of Browder’s lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who was tortured in a Russian prison and whose name bears the sanctions laws passed by Congress.
Experiencing Magnitsky’s death was “the most heartbreaking, traumatic and devastating moment of my life,” Browder writes – and a sign of how committed Putin was to pursuing perceived enemies of the state. The grandson of American Communist leader Earl Browder, Bill Browder, had earned billions through Hermitage Capital Management, the fund he started in 1996, during the chaotic period of full-contact Russian capitalism.
As Browder increased control of some of the companies he invested in – especially the energy giant Gazprom – he encountered a Kremlin that, under Putin, has declared such issues off limits as they would go to the very heart of the kleptocracy that had ruled Russia. since the nation’s industry was sold off and plundered in the early 1990s.
“Everyone is trying to think of Russia as a sovereign state and Putin as a leader acting in the national interest,” Browder told Yahoo News, describing that view as a fundamental misunderstanding. “You think you can apply political science to Russia. You have to apply forensic science. You have to be a criminologist to understand Russia. People do not go into government to serve the country. They go into government to steal money.”
Browder was banned from entering Russia in 2005 and has since seen a number of US presidents try to improve relations with the Kremlin. He now lives in London, a city favored by the oligarchs he despises.
“We basically said, ‘It’s okay. We want your money. We want your oil,'” Browder told Yahoo News in an interview with Century Club ahead of Tuesday’s book release party.
Today, it is uncontroversial to call Putin a war criminal. But the man who bombed Kharkiv is the same one who did the Chechen capital, Grozny, with the ground in 2000, invaded Georgia in 2008 and conquered Ukrainian territory for the first time in 2014. “When I went into the offices of government ministers in Europe, or “The United States, back in the early days when we were talking about sanctioning Russia – it’s like I went in with a giant turn on my head,” Browder said.
Today, Browder is less well known as an investor than as a human rights activist and a Putin critic. Tuesday’s party thus included an eclectic mix: professional basketball player Enes Kanter Freedom, former federal prosecutor Preet Bharara, private equity giant Stephen Schwarzman and National Review journalist Jay Nordlinger, who in 2017 highlighted the federal authorities’ refusal to allow Browder to come into the United States. the decision was reversed.
Browder, in particular, is withering when it comes to Western lawyers, bankers and publicists who help Putin’s oligarchs hide their ill-gotten gains, sue investigative journalists for submission and polish their bloodthirsty records with favorable coverage.
There could only be one motive for Western companies to do business with the Kremlin, Browder believes. “They are just a bunch of greedy bastards trying to make as much money as possible,” he said, alluding to the legal efforts of British journalist Catherine Belton, who was sued for reporting on Kremlin corruption. “They do not care who they work for.”
Last week, Browder testified in Washington during a hearing on the Enablers Act, which would tighten existing rules on money laundering and, in effect, provide more government control over the secret movement of funds from countries like China and Russia.
“If we get banks to report dirty money but allow law, real estate and auditing firms to look the other way, it creates a loophole through which crooks and kleptocrats can sail a yacht,” the rep said. Tom Malinowski, DN.J., last. fall with the introduction of legislation. While targeting any institution or person involved in money laundering, the measure has assumed a new urgency since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.
Browder has also called for foreign accomplices of Russia to be deprived of access to the United States, a proposal that clearly targets Kremlin allies living in the British capital, which has been given the unflattering nickname “Londongrad.” He laments the notion that high-profile seizures of oligarchs’ yachts give the impression of fatal blows, when in reality they are only minor difficulties or men worth billions.
“The real money is stored in very complex trusts and structures,” Browder said in offshore havens such as Jersey and the Cayman Islands.
Sanctions are a way to fight Putin. Weapons are another. “The Ukrainians say they need a no-fly zone,” he pointed out, dismissing the idea that such a move would immediately lead to nuclear war. “At what point,” he wondered, “are you finally up against Russia?”
And much as he would like to see Putin defeated, he hopes to return to Russia one day when it is a free country, a country that does not threaten him with imprisonment or murder.
“It’s fascinating. It’s interesting. It’s unforgettable. It’s awful,” Browder told Yahoo News. “It’s ugly, brutal. It has everything. “If Putin were not in power and there was a democratic government, I would love to return there.”