Bill Browder Of The Magnitsky Act Is No Hero

August 4, 2017

Hedge Fund Operator Bill Browder

Hedge fund operator William Browder has been a media sensation over the last few weeks due to the Russia investigations and his motivation to help create what is called “The Magnitsky Act”. Indeed, Browder weaves a powerful tale about the Russian financial corruption that “his lawyer” Sergei Magnitsky uncovered while Browder was pocketing funds from the collapsing Russian economy. And yes, Magnitsky was thrown into a Russian prison and died in 2009 from abuse and beatings. Robert Parry, who broke the Iran-Contra story, writes in Consortium News:

How Russia-gate Met the Magnitsky Myth
July 13, 2017


“The Russian lawyer, Natalie Veselnitskaya, who met with Trump Jr. and other advisers to Donald Trump Sr.’s campaign, represented a company that had run afoul of a U.S. investigation into money-laundering allegedly connected to the Magnitsky case and his death in a Russian prison in 2009. His death sparked a campaign spearheaded by Browder, who used his wealth and clout to lobby the U.S. Congress in 2012 to enact the Magnitsky Act to punish alleged human rights abusers in Russia. The law became what might be called the first shot in the New Cold War.

According to Browder’s narrative, companies ostensibly under his control had been hijacked by corrupt Russian officials in furtherance of a $230 million tax-fraud scheme; he then dispatched his “lawyer” Magnitsky to investigate and – after supposedly uncovering evidence of the fraud – Magnitsky blew the whistle only to be arrested by the same corrupt officials who then had him locked up in prison where he died of heart failure from physical abuse.

Despite Russian denials – and the “dog ate my homework” quality of Browder’s self-serving narrative – the dramatic tale became a cause celebre in the West. The story eventually attracted the attention of Russian filmmaker Andrei Nekrasov, a known critic of President Vladimir Putin. Nekrasov decided to produce a docu-drama that would present Browder’s narrative to a wider public. Nekrasov even said he hoped that he might recruit Browder as the narrator of the tale.

However, the project took an unexpected turn when Nekrasov’s research kept turning up contradictions to Browder’s storyline, which began to look more and more like a corporate cover story. Nekrasov discovered that a woman working in Browder’s company was the actual whistleblower and that Magnitsky – rather than a crusading lawyer – was an accountant who was implicated in the scheme.

So, the planned docudrama suddenly was transformed into a documentary with a dramatic reversal as Nekrasov struggles with what he knows will be a dangerous decision to confront Browder with what appear to be deceptions. In the film, you see Browder go from a friendly collaborator into an angry adversary who tries to bully Nekrasov into backing down.”


As early as 2015, Mark Ames reported on Browder and his schemes in Pando. Ames is a Russia expert who had to leave that country after his alternative newspaper was shut down, and is an authority on the case:


“The real giveaway for me, which got me looking into who Pomerantsev works for, was his choice of heroes in the scary Kremlin information wars: western investors, and western global financial institutions. People like billionaire vulture capitalist Bill Browder, the bloodless grandson of former US Communist Party leader Earl Browder, who served as Putin’s most loyal attack dog while he was raking in his billions, but then transformed himself into the Andrei Sakharov of vulture capitalism as soon as Putin’s KGB tossed Browder out of their circle and decided to keep his share of the take for themselves.

Pomerantsev is so close to Browder, we learn from his book, that he even serves as one of Browder’s lobbyists before the British parliament to push through an anti-Kremlin sanctions bill, the Magnitsky Act, bankrolled by Browder’s ill-begotten stash.

I don’t have enough room here to give you a full picture of Bill Browder. But here are a few things to keep in mind:

•In a 1997 New York Times profile, Browder, who at the time aligned his investments with Yukos oil oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, defended the way Yukos stripped investors into one of its subsidiaries to enrich the Yukos parent company. Browder crowed: “When a company does terrible things to the subsidiary, I would rather be on the side with the power.”

•In 2003, Browder backed Putin’s authoritarian power and his decision to arrest Khodorkovsky, saying, “A nice, well-run authoritarian regime is better than an oligarchic mafia regime — and those are the choices on offer.”

•The day after Khodorkovsky’s arrest, Browder scoffed: “People will forget in six months that Khodorkovsky is still sitting in jail.”

•When Putin put Khodorkovsky on trial 2005, Browder attacked the jailed oligarch for the same asset-stripping Browder supported and profited from, telling the BBC: “Mr Khodorkovsky is no martyr. He has left in his wake aggrieved investors too numerous to count and is widely credited with masterminding much of the financial trickery that plagued the Russian capital markets throughout the 1990s.”

•That same year, Browder told the New York Times, “Putin cares about foreign investors; he just doesn’t care about them enough to allow one oligarch to use his ill-gotten gains to hijack the state for his own economic purposes.”

That’s the Bill Browder I remember. And ever since his KGB pals decided they’d had enough of him and chased him out to London a very rich vulture capitalist, Browder has styled himself as the Mother Theresa of global vulture capitalism—and he’s thrown untold millions into promoting that public relations/lobbying effort, whose goal is to use human rights abuses he once covered for and profited from as a cudgel to force the Kremlin to become investor-friendly to vulture capitalists like Bill Browder again. To do that, he’s exploited to the hilt the truly horrific murder of one of his lawyers, Sergei Magnitsky, at the hands of Russia’s brutal police. Magnitsky’s death appears to be the first Russian death Browder ever cared about in his 15 years of milking the country dry during the tragically deadly 1990s and beyond.

That’s the Browder I and every other journalist who worked in Russia I know remembers him.”


Browder appears to be a “cats-paw” in the new cold war with Russia, this time amazingly led by Democrats. The first salvo was when the Democratic Party tried to explain Clinton’s presidential loss as the result of Russian hacking of the election system. There is a stunning reversal of the Red-baiting era of the 1950’s which was led by Republicans. In a clear example of how both political parties answer to the same master, it is the Democrats this time leading the new cold war, poking the Bear with sharp sticks. In Browder’s case, he’s just pissed off that he lost out on the opportunity to skim more blood money out of Russia. But he’s just a pawn too. The bigger picture is the stage being set to drive a wedge between Russia and China with the battlefields being Ukraine, the middle east, and the Balkans.

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