In a press conference held yesterday by Russian government officials it was revealed that new criminal charges have been filed against UK financier and Hermitage Capital founder, Bill Browder. This is hardly the first time that Russia has gone after him. He’s been convicted twice in absentia; once in 2013 for tax fraud and once in 2017 for “tax evasion and deliberate bankruptcy.” With the new charges that Browder faces Russia has pledged to once again seek an international arrest warrant for the Londoner but as the Financial Times pointed out, Browder has “fought off seven attempts by Russia to have him extradited,” all of which were rejected by Interpol.
Regardless, Browder should have seen the writing on the wall earlier this year after Putin’s statements at the Helsinki Summit,
“For instance, we can bring up Mr. Browder in this particular case. Business associates of Browder have earned over one and half billion dollars in Russia, they never paid any taxes neither in Russia nor the United States and yet the money escaped the country. They were transferred to the United States.
They sent huge amounts of money, four hundred million as contribution to the campaign of Hillary Clinton…It might have been legal, the contribution itself, but the way the money was earned was illegal. So, we have a solid reason to believe that some intelligence officers accompanied and guided these transaction so we have an interest of questioning them.”
The latest allegations coming out of Moscow, however, go well beyond any illegalities Browder or the Ziff brothers took part in with regards to unpaid taxes on illegal Gazprom shares. Russia is now accusing Browder of leading an international crime syndicate and ordering the murder of the very accountant he uses to boost his international prestige as a human rights activist and to dictate U.S. foreign policy.
According to Nikolai Atmonyev, an advisor to Russia’s General Prosecutor, Browder’s criminal organization was established in Russia in 1997, and it “aims to carry out serious economic crimes both on Russian territory and abroad.” Russian authorities are looking into companies located in Cyprus, Latvia, and Switzerland as part of their investigation. But what might be more troubling and reminiscent of the Boston bombings when FBI Director Robert Mueller ignored Russia’s warnings about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, is that Russian authorities contacted U.S. officials about Browder multiple times over the course of the last two years.
“…we hope that the new leadership of the Justice Department will be more professional in assessing the activities of William Browder and will grant our request because besides the crimes that Browder committed here in Russia, we also have information about his crimes [that] Browder and his associates committed in the United States, damaging this country.
In May 2016, in Moscow US embassy staff were informed about the transnational criminal network led by Browder and Ziff brothers’ investments being involved in that criminal network. This meeting was attended…was organized…was attended by Chirstopher Grossman, Kate [unintelligible] and Scott [unintelligible].
In July 2016, we sent over 1,000 pages of materials about tax fraud and other financial crimes committed by Browder and the Ziff fund in Russia and the United States, we sent these, pages and pages of documents to the Justice Department but we have not received any reaction as of yet.
Also, we sent additional materials in Aug 2016. We also reminded that we had sent these materials four times to our American colleagues in Nov 2016 and Jan, March, and May 2017. We discussed these issues with the US Justice Department in a video conference call in 2016 and June 2017. We also relayed this information to Jeff Sessions who was the Attorney General until recently.”
It appears that Bill Browder continues to be protected by the U.S. government (much like how Tamerlan Tsarnaev was) and the question is why? Certainly the Obama administration including former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, knew about Browder’s criminal activity and the Trump administration learned about it at the latest during the infamous Trump tower meeting in June 2016 from Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. Not only that, it appears that the U.S. Department of Justice was definitively in the know as early as 2016, with a gentle Russian reminder taking place via a video conference call in June 2017.
The other thing to note here is that the U.S. embassy staff in Moscow were notified by the Russians about Browder’s alleged criminal network the month before the Trump tower meeting so feel free to dive into that can of worms. It certainly doesn’t prove anything but it does make the month of May 2016 a bit murkier than it already was; Fusion GPS received its first payment from Perkins Coie, Fusion hired Christopher Steele, and Robert Otto’s hacked State Department emails revealed that Bill Browder (or someone else) had been stalking Veselnitskaya’s home days before the Trump tower meeting.
I’d like to know why Browder sent Kyle Parker a photo of the outside of Natalia Veselnitskaya’s house three days before the Trump Jr meeting? Anybody got the inside scoop on that? pic.twitter.com/z676PDT44P
— David Jonathon Blake (@HisBlakeness) July 27, 2018
Some of the material that Russia sent to both the Obama and Trump administration probably included information about the death of three men associated with Browder’s controversial story that Russian officials stole a $230 million tax refund from the Russian government using three of his shell companies as a vehicle for the theft: Octai Gasanov, Valery Kurochkin, and Sergei Korobeinikov.
All three men were accused of taking part in the theft and by 2008 they were all dead. In November 2017, Putin accused Browder of being a “serial killer” and Russian court documents allegedly fingered him as the main suspect behind the killings. Yesterday a Russian official stated, “It is highly likely that they were killed to get rid of accomplices who could give an incriminating testimony against Browder,” and indeed, take for instance Octai Gasanov. He was given power of attorney by Browder’s company, Hermitage Capital, to sell Browder’s shell companies — the same companies that Browder later claimed were stolen and used for the $230 million theft. Now the Russian government is looking at Browder as the main suspect behind two other deaths: Alexander Perepilichnyy and Sergei Magnitsky.
If you’re not familiar with Alexander Perepilichnyy, he’s another shadowy figure in Browder’s highly contested story. According to Browder, a year after Magnitsky died in a Russian prison, Perepilichnyy reached out to Jamie Firestone, owner of Firestone Duncan where Magnitsky worked, claiming he had “proof that a woman at Moscow Tax Office Number Twenty-eight got millions from the [tax return] fraud.”
“He [Perepilichnyy] sent me some Swiss bank statements and some offshore company documents in his email…They show a bunch of wire transfers going to bank accounts that seem to belong to the husband of Olga Stepanova, the lady at the tax office who signed the refund check.”
Perepilichnyy then provided Hermitage Capital with Swiss banking documents that allegedly proved a Russian crime network (the “Klyuev Gang”) and Russian officials had stolen the $230 million despite the fact that Perepilichnyy’s documents implicated himself in the crime. And yeah, we’re getting to that. The chart below is the money trail that Perepilichnyy’s documents allegedly revealed.
That was at the end of 2010. On November 10, 2012, Perepilichnyy, a “whistleblower” as Browder likes to describe him, dropped dead while jogging in London and when the UK conducted an inquest into his death in 2017, Perepilichnyy’s wife stated that he either owned or was taking funds from Baikonur Worlwide Limited, a company conveniently listed on Browder’s chart above. According to early police reports, she also “repeatedly stressed there is danger around the Hermitage saga…,” and one reason that she may have been concerned was the fact that Browder burned Perepilichnyy as a source without batting an eye.
A few months after Perepilichnyy allegedly handed over the banking statements to Firestone Duncan and Hermitage Capital, Hermitage’s law firm, Browne Ruddnick, “initiated a criminal complaint in Switzerland” using the documents that he gave them. At this point in time, Octai Gasanov, Valery Kurochkin, Sergei Korobeinkov, and Sergei Magnitsky were all dead and likely murdered so if anyone knew the danger that Perepilichnyy had put himself in by handing over documents that purportedly showed a $230 million theft laundered by Russian officials through Swiss accounts, it was Browder. Not surprisingly, he didn’t care. The following is part of the transcript from the 2017 UK inquest,
Q: Up until this point, Mr. Perepilichnny from your perspective had had involvement with you and your company and, through your company, involvement with the Swiss prosecutors because they had got material which he had given to you?
Q: At that stage were the Swiss authorities aware of the provenance of the material from him.
Q: Who told them that?
Browder: I gave evidence to them.
Although Browder went on to claim that Perepilichnyy gave his permission to out him as a source (which I doubt), moments later he feigned indignation at the publicity Perepilichnyy had received,
Q: What was your reaction when you saw this article, saw the letter and heard about the media appearance?
Browder: Well I was a bit upset that Perepilichnny, who we had been trying to protect from public exposure, had been so quickly sucked into this whole thing in a public way.
Trying to protect? Please. Half of Browder’s testimony was about how Perepilichnyy’s safety was of no concern to him and that he and his colleagues took no steps whatsoever to protect their source despite the fact that Browder knew he had received death threats in November 2011 and that, according to authorities at the time, he had been placed on a Russian hitman’s list.
Q: Did it occur to you for example that by publicising the story again within a few weeks, bringing it again to public attention, that it could endanger Mr. Perepilichnny?
Browder: No more than — I don’t believe it endangered him any more than he was already endangered by becoming public in the first place.”
Q: Did you consider that issue at the time?
Browder’s callousness and disregard for his sources, some of whom he himself calls “whistleblowers” speaks volumes to his character but it’s not the first time he’s short-changed those he claim blew the whistle on corruption. Take for instance his former partner at Hermitage Capital, Edmond Safra. Some sources claim, including Browder, that Safra blew the whistle in 1998 on a massive money laundering network working out the Bank of New York. The following year he was murdered in his Monaco home after HSBC gained control of his bank, Republic Bank of New York, and became the trustee and manager of Browder’s Hermitage Capital. Now I ask you, how often do you hear Browder talk about Edmond Safra? That’s right. Never.
Going back to the inquest, Browder claimed that he had never met with Perepilichnyy personally and that no one, including any of his fellow associates at Hermitage Capital or Firestone Duncan, took notes or recorded the twenty or so meetings they allegedly had with him because that’s wildly convenient. In fact, according to Browder they didn’t even make a copy of the hit list where Perepilichnyy’s name appeared nor did they ask who else was on the list because why would you want to make sure that you or your employees weren’t on it, am I right? But you probably don’t have to worry about being on a hit list when you wrote the list yourself.
More recently, Browder has been vocal about the Danske Bank scandal and how they were using mirror trades to “launder money for clients of a Russian company owned by Alexander Perepilichnyy.” Back in June 2017, Browder also tweeted that “Money flowed from Kluyev’s bank to Perepilichnyy’s company acct in Switzerland to Cyprus acct of person linked to Syrian chemical weapons,” and then later added, “Dead Russian whistleblower in Magnitsky case, Alexander Perepilichnyy, was involved in Deutsche Bank mirror trades.”
And yes, you probably know where I’m going with this. Browder’s setting up a dead guy to take the fall for money he himself laundered through Swiss (and other) bank accounts and I’m happy to place money on that. As for the Russian government, they believe Browder may have murdered him in order to eliminate yet another witness. According to Atmonyev, Perepilichnyy may have been killed “in order to eliminate a participant in a regular provocation organized by Browder,” and as such,
“In this connection, on November 14 the Russian Prosecutor General’s office sent to the Russian Investigative Committee a resolution to address the issue of initiating a criminal case on suspicion of Browder organizing the murder of Perepilichnny.”
This takes us to Russia’s other allegation that he killed his own accountant, Sergei Magnitsky. If you’ve never seen the documentary, “The Magnitsky Act: Behind the Scenes,” do it. Director Andrei Nekrasov and producer Torstein Grude of Piraya Film put together an extraordinary film about the anomalies in the Hermitage Capital/$230 million tax refund theft case, Magnitsky’s death in a Russian prison, and Browder’s almost fantastical PR machine that he has used in countless countries to pass the Magnitsky Act. Then read Alex Krainer’s Grand Deception and come to your own conclusions as to whether or not Mr. Browder had any interest in keeping Magnitsky alive.
And new information released by the Russian government has only added to the mystery of Magnitsky’s death. Remember those three men I mentioned earlier? All of them, including Sergei Magnitsky, showed signs of a myocardial issue which can be caused by chemicals containing aluminum. Yup, they’re saying now that Magnitsky may have been poisoned. According to Mikhail Alexandrov, spokesman for the Prosecutor General’s office,
“Gasanov, Kurochkin and Magnitsky had precisely these symptoms in their final moment before death. Traces of toxic aluminum compounds were also found in Korobeinikov’s liver. In light of that, the Investigative Committee is investigating the murder of Gasanov, Kurochkin and Korobeinikov, that is under Part 2 of Section 105 of Russia’s Criminal Code.”
And as a side note, it has never been reported that traces of aluminum were found in Perepilichnyy’s system but they did discover that he had “traces of a rare plant poison in his stomach.” So just to recap the trail of bodies behind Browder so far:
- Edmond Safra (alleged whistleblower)
- Octai Gasanov
- Valery Kurochkin
- Sergei Korobeinikov.
- Alexander Perepilichnyy (alleged whistleblower)
- Sergei Magnitsky (alleged whistleblower)
Of course none of this covers Browder’s other questionable if not criminal activity like taking part in rigged Russian auctions during the 1990s, playing ball with Edmond Safra, his partner at Hermitage Capital who was literally funneling billions of U.S. dollar bills from the U.S. treasury to the Russian mafia, his ties to $4.8 million in missing IMF funds, the buying and selling of Gazprom shares, the Avisma debacle, and his close association with the U.S. government, Brexit, Beny Steinmetz, HSBC, Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and Thor Halvorssen, just to name a few.
Naturally, Browder has always denied any wrong doing and called Russia’s latest allegations “Putin’s ‘fever dream'” and “Kafkaeske” (but did he actually deny anything?). And in what was an obvious effort to counter Russia’s charges, he appeared in a press conference today with former Russian oligarch and financial crime lord Mikhail Khodorkovsky under the guise of lobbying against Russia’s Major General Aleksandr Prokopchuk becoming the new president of Interpol.
In case you missed it, Interpol held their 87th General Assembly in Dubai this past week because according to the New York Times, Interpol’s former President, Meng Hongwei, “was abruptly arrested by China on corruption charges…after he went missing in September while on a trip to China.” Thus, they are holding a vote tomorrow on who will become the new president of Interpol. Interestingly, the only time China came up in Browder and Khodorkovsky’s press conference was during the Q&A and even then the subject was quickly steered back to Russia.
One account on Twitter, @realKyleOlbert, also noted that it was “Very revealing that fugitive mob banker & murderer-hirer Bill Browder – along w/ benefactor & fellow illicit financier Khodorkovsky – schedule their INTERPOL press conference to overshadow the Bannon/GuoWengui…press conference.” He added that Browder was running interference for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and what he brings up is actually an interesting point because you have the former Chinese president of Interpol, Meng Hongwei, who repeatedly rejected Red Notice requests for both Browder and Chinese billionaire and asylum seeker, Guo Wengui, going missing and subsequently arrested by China.
As for the actual press conference, Browder wasn’t just lobbying against Prokopchuk, he wants to prevent Russia from using the Interpol system entirely. As Browder put it, “Interpol is a club,” and apparently he doesn’t want Russia in it. The rest of the conference was entirely what you would expect. Browder cried about Putin, complained that the goons in Moscow want him dead, moaned about how Russia was trying to get Prokopchuk elected without literally anyone knowing about it, and then he blamed the Motherland for the Skripal poisonings, the downing of MH17, and the 2016 U.S. election. What was interesting was what former UN Rappateur Ben Emmerson said about Interpol and international arrest warrants,
“The whole system becomes essentially an instrument of State policy. When an international organization which furthers law enforcement becomes an instrument of one’s State policy one has a very real problem with the organization…the extent and scale of abuse is such that the organization’s valuable work is threatened by its complete inability to protect itself and therefore other States and the people who are a subject of these applications from straight-forward political abuse and manipulation, forged trumped-up charges…”
The kicker? Emmerson once (and dismally) represented Julian Assange so it was disappointing to see that he failed to mention the situation that occurred with Assange, Sweden and the U.K. Regardless, Julian Assange has always been outspoken about European Arrest Warrants and Emmerson is right, the Interpol system is lacking any safeguards whatsoever for those who stand accused and it offers no due process for those targeted by Red Notices.
So yes, even Bill Browder is due his due process if he ever finds himself arrested and extradited to Russia. That’s not to say he doesn’t deserve to pay for the crimes he’s likely committed over the years but don’t hold your breathe. There’s a reason why the United States and the UK have protected him for so long so even if Aleksandr Prokopchuk becomes the president of Interpol tomorrow and Russia’s request for a warrant is approved, there’s no guarantee that the countries Browder is careful to travel to will recognize it.
Correction: The name of one of the three men connected to the $230 million is Semyon Korobeinikov not Sergei Korobeinikov.