Last week Bill Browder went before the Senate Judiciary Committee and provided testimony in regard to his former investigative attorney Sergei Magnitsky. Browder is the financier whose businesses in Russia were stolen from. He had hired Magnitsky to investigate. Unfortunately Magnitisky’s investigation hit to close for Putin’s comfort. He was arrested and died in prison after receiving a severe beating. Browder was one of the leading drivers of the Magnitsky Act and has been a consistent, vocal critic of Putin’s government, Putin’s activities, and the lack of effective institutional responses in both the UK and the US.
Browder’s outspoken criticism is important given both the number of Russians opposed to Putin who have died under strange and/or mysterious circumstances and the lack of effective institutional responses. Buzzfeed has done excellent reporting on this topic dealing with both the fourteen suspicious deaths in Britain, a suspicious death in the US, and the seeming cover ups in both jurisdictions. From Buzzfeed’s most recent report on the death of Mikhail Lesin, the founder of RT, in DC:
After an almost yearlong “comprehensive investigation,” a federal prosecutor announced last October that Lesin died alone in his room due to a series of drunken falls “after days of excessive consumption of alcohol.” His death was ruled an “accident,” and prosecutors closed the case.
But the two FBI agents — as well as a third agent and a serving US intelligence officer — said Lesin was actually bludgeoned to death. None of these officials were directly involved in the government’s investigation, but they said they learned about it from colleagues who were.
“Lesin was beaten to death,” one of the FBI agents said. “I would implore you to say as much. There seems to be an effort here to cover up that fact for reasons I can’t get into.”
He continued: “What I can tell you is that there isn’t a single person inside the bureau who believes this guy got drunk, fell down, and died. Everyone thinks he was whacked and that Putin or the Kremlin were behind it.”
For those that cannot or don’t want to watch Browder’s Senate testimony with Q&A (embedded below), as well as video of Browder testifying before the Home Affairs Committee of Britain’s Parliament, here is a link to the transcript of his prepared statement. I’ll highlight an important excerpt:
For a time this naming and shaming campaign worked remarkably well and led to less corruption and increased share prices in the companies we invested in. Why? Because President Vladimir Putin and I shared the same set of enemies. When Putin was first elected in 2000 he found that the oligarchs had misappropriated much of the president’s power as well. They stole power from him while stealing money from my investors. In Russia your enemy’s enemy is your friend, and even though I’ve never met Putin, he would often step into my battles with the oligarchs and crack down on them.
That all changed in July 2003 when Putin arrested Russia’s biggest oligarch and richest man, Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Putin grabbed Khodorkovsky off his private jet, took him back to Moscow, put him on trial and allowed television cameras to film Khodorkovsky sitting in a cage right in the middle of the courtroom. That image was extremely powerful because none of the other oligarchs wanted to be in the same position. After Khodorkovsky’s conviction the other oligarchs went to Putin and asked him what they needed to do to avoid sitting in the same cage as Khodorkovsky. From what followed, it appeared that Putin’s answer was, “Fifty per cent.” He wasn’t saying 50% for the Russian government or the presidential administration of Russia, but 50% for Vladimir Putin personally. From that moment on Putin became the biggest oligarch in Russia and the richest man in the world, and my anti-corruption activities would no longer be tolerated.