Posts Tagged ‘financial timers’

July 2012

The Magnitsky law

Financial Times Magazine

After Sergei Magnitsky was beaten to death in a Moscow jail for uncovering fraud by Russian authorities, investor Bill Browder devoted himself to publicising the case. As a result, the US is close to passing a dramatic human rights law.

Browder remembers receiving the phone call at his London home at 7am informing him of Magnitsky’s fate. “When I learnt of his death it was like a knife going right into my heart. And I can’t say that I’ve even begun to recover from the shock, trauma and outrage that I felt on that day,” he says. “The only thing that gives me any comfort is spending my days single-mindedly pursuing his killers.”

From that day, Browder has devoted the same near-manic energy he once spent on cheerleading investment opportunities in Russia to exposing the country’s darker side. He has travelled widely in Europe and North America, publicising Magnitsky’s case and lobbying politicians and diplomats to raise the issue with their Russian counterparts. He and a team of five dedicated researchers have published reports forensically describing Magnitsky’s detention and death, financed several films highlighting the links between Russian officials and the criminal underworld, and, with the lawyer’s family and friends, helped set up a website, called Russian Untouchables, which airs the videos and documents corruption.

His campaign may soon result in the US Congress adopting a law naming the 60 Russians identified by Browder as being responsible for the false arrest, torture and death of the 37-year-old lawyer. The act, which has been ferociously resisted by the Kremlin and the US administration and some business interests, would freeze the foreign assets of, and deny visas to, those named individuals.

A decade ago, Bill Browder was flying high as one of the most successful foreign investors in Russia. With $4.5bn under management, Browder had committed his career and a lot of his investors’ money to proving his proposition that the shares of Russia’s newly privatised, resource-rich companies were absurdly cheap.

The cocksure, US-born fund manager aggressively argued to anyone prepared to listen – and to many who weren’t – that President Vladimir Putin had been unfairly maligned in the western press and was intent on bringing prosperity and order to the biggest country in the world, after the rapacious criminality of the 1990s. To the disgust of many, Browder declared himself delighted when Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once Russia’s richest and most powerful oligarch, was arrested in 2003 and jailed. “Who’s next?” Browder asked cheerfully.

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