He is one of Vladimir Putin’s favorite enemies and one of the figures who know best about business plans in Russia. At the end of the last century, William (Bill) Felix Browder through his Hermitage Fund was the country’s largest private investor and a shareholder in strategic companies such as Gazprom. In 2005, the businessman, the grandson of Earl Browder, former Secretary General of the US Communist Party, fell out of favor and was expelled for being a “danger to the national security of Russia”. Four years later, after many adventures involving persecution, blackmail and property confiscation, one of his closest associates, the young lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, dies in Moscow after eleven months of imprisonment and torture. Outraged, the manager, worth millions, starts an unworldly campaign against the Putin regime and becomes a political and anticorruption activist. The Kremlin reacts relentlessly, using every means at its disposal to hold him accountable for a variety of crimes. Always in vain. Following on from 2015’s bestseller Red Alert, Bill Browder revived the offense with Dirty Money (Edition Vowels), a book in which he once again pays tribute to Sergei Magnitsky and denounces the way the Russian oligarchy is making millions ” invested”. the West. . A thriller full of sordid details and fictional characters, such as a brilliant, ruthless American lawyer and a flamboyant sixfoottall blonde model who tries to seduce the author.
One of the most touching chapters of his new book, entitled Mala Diplomática, describes the poisoning of Vladimir KaraMurza, a famous Russian opponent, and begins: “That afternoon [de 2015]in London I got on a plane to Lisbon for a family holiday.” Not mentioning the Portuguese capital again, how was your stay?
Unfortunately, I spent all my time in the hotel room, on the computer and on the phone trying to save Vladimir KaraMurza’s life. [que sobreviveu]. I did not have the slightest opportunity to take advantage of this stay and returned to London shortly thereafter.
Millions of people have read his two books. Given the episodes he reports, it’s natural that most of you would be wondering about something very simple: How is Bill Browder still alive?
The government of the Russian Federation has many ways of killing people. It can be with Novitchok, with polonium, with explosives, or from road accidents. In my case, the idea was to take me back to Moscow, torture me and get a coerced, false confession so that I would tell them that the story of Sergei Magnitsky was fabricated. And then let myself die a slow death in some prison maybe like they did with Sergei.
Dirty Money starts right off with what happened to him in Madrid [a Guardia Civil prendeuo, na primavera de 2018, por haver um alerta vermelho em seu nome ou seja, um mandado de captura internacional, a pedido da Rússia , quando ia encontrarse com o principal procurador anticorrupção espanhol]…
Yes, I was also imprisoned in Geneva, Switzerland. The British government has been pressured to extradite me on numerous occasions. They tried to find all legal ways to get me to Russia…
How do you interpret the fact that Russia remains part of Interpol?
It’s an organization with many flaws, like the United Nations. It integrates almost all countries in the world. Syria, for example, has just been reinstated at Interpol. It seems that no one wants to distinguish between rule of law countries and others. Admitting criminal states only discredits an organization whose aim is to enforce the law. Moscow and Interpol can blacklist Ukrainian adversaries as they did to me, I stress, eight times with no repercussions.
Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin reportedly discussed his deportation at the 2018 Helsinki summit, with both negotiating his possible exchange for Russian spies. When Trump returns to the White House in 2024, will his life in the US be in danger again?
When he agreed to report me, Trump was under investigation in an FBIled case on suspicion of collusion with Russia. [e após Bill Browder ter deposto no Congresso americano, denunciando ligações entre o Kremlin e colaboradores de Trump]. Of course I can’t travel to the US if Trump is reelected President.
What else can you do to avenge the murder of Sergei Magnitsky? Thanks to you, more than 34 countries now have Magnitsky laws [que permitem sancionar e congelar os ativos de quem viola os Direitos Humanos].
It is necessary that there are many more countries with such legislation Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland… I also advocate that all Member States of the European Union deepen this type of legislation. The EU has a foreign policy that doesn’t work properly as there are countries like Hungary that can veto EU sanctions against Russia, for example. Three weeks ago I was in the Czech Republic because the Prague government is going to pass its own Magnitsky law. I also recently testified before the Irish Parliament; the Dublin government is preparing to do the same. More countries must act against those violating human rights. The best tribute we can give Sergei is to create the conditions so the killers don’t go unpunished.
Do you think Myanmar’s generals and dictators in general are concerned about the Magnitsky Laws?
That’s my main job, really worrying them. And think twice before giving the order to kill someone. If that happens, if this is a global process, Sergei Magnitsky and his legacy will save many lives.
In a recent interview, he claimed Vladimir Putin could run out of money. Do you agree?
We know it continues to have plenty of liquidity. There? It has a daily income of $1 billion, the amount Russia continues to receive from sales of gas, oil and other energy products. As long as this flow is maintained, you can relinquish the frozen funds at any time. The only way to change things is to prevent your access to that income. In this aspect, some countries play a key role, namely Germany, Italy and other countries that import Russian energy.
Putin must be afraid of his own people. Therefore, arrest and kill all opponents
Does it seem inevitable that sooner or later it will stop sending energy to Europe?
I believe it can, but it will also be the end of it. Exporting to other countries outside of Europe will not guarantee you the income you need.
For now, the Kremlin seems to have the upper hand; Despite sanctions, the Russian economy continues to function…
Putin is weaponizing energy prices, weaponizing wheat prices, anything he can weaponize. However, I believe that oil prices will collapse soon. Inflation in Europe may seem very high and have serious political implications, but I believe things are improving.
Are you still updating your list of Russian oligarchs?
No major updates required. There are 118 and of those only 40 have been sanctioned. It is obvious that more oligarchs need to be sanctioned.
Does that have anything to do with the allegations you made against Switzerland in May, for example?
There is a lot of Russian money in Switzerland and the Swiss government has not been able to deal with the situation and impose the sanctions it should. It pretends to be in line with the US and EU, but it’s not exactly like that.
One of the most prominent Russian oligarchs, Roman Abramovich, has Portuguese nationality…
I know that he applied for Portuguese citizenship because of his Sephardic Jewish heritage. I would advise the Portuguese authorities to try to DNA test Roman Abramovich.
Since Vladimir Putin came to power in 1999, Russia has estimated that it has laundered more than $1 billion abroad. If so, why does he want so much money?
It is a very important question to understand Russia. The most powerful person in the country must also be the richest. It is part of the process of attaining absolute power. In many other places it is possible to have a lot of money and no power; in Russia it is impossible. The people around Vladimir Putin would never respect him if he wasn’t the richest, most powerful, most brutal personality in the country.
Isn’t he afraid of being disempowered? Some dictators end badly…
Of course, it wouldn’t surprise me if he continued to watch videos of Gaddafi’s death every week to remind himself how volatile things can be. Putin must be afraid of his own people. Therefore he arrests and kills all opponents; That is why she tries to eliminate any form of dissent and freedom of expression. The more fearful he becomes, the more authoritarian he becomes in the face of the possibility of being deposed and held accountable for all his crimes.
Doesn’t feeling threatened make you more dangerous? In addition, it has a nuclear arsenal.
He is a psychopath who prioritizes his own survival. I don’t think he will start a nuclear war with the US, with NATO. He knows the logic of retaliation very well.
Thanks to this book of yours, we found out that in Europe and the USA various law firms and lobbying and PR companies were used by Russia. Could this situation change?
Yes, I call them “the enablers”. There’s a whole class from bankers to lobbyists working for the Russians, helping them hide money and committing all sorts of scams.
In the book, he gives specific examples of people who have worked directly with Russian intelligence agencies.
In the West we expel diplomats who work for intelligence agencies, but then we tolerate US and European citizens who work for Russian intelligence agencies. This is unimaginable!
He has already said that Alexei Navalny is the “Russian Mandela”. Doesn’t that seem like a bit of an exaggerated comparison?
In Russia, Navalny is one of the few who had the courage to stand up to Putin. He became such an important and uncomfortable figure of power that they wanted to silence him with Novichok. But that didn’t stop Navalny from returning to Moscow later, risking his freedom and his life. Today he is a political prisoner, he sacrificed everything for his country. Idealism and courage brought him to an unprecedented level. Everything qualifies him to be President of Russia.
Let me quote it again: “Fighting for justice is incomparably more satisfying than fighting for money.” Comment?
When I was a young adult, I aspired to be a successful businessman. It would never have occurred to me to face the tragedies I know. The satisfaction I now have from fighting for justice makes me feel better than if I were making a lot of money. I could not imagine that fighting for justice could be so difficult and rewarding.
Do you have any idea of the millions you’ve spent as an activist?
I never took the job. The biggest cost would be doing nothing. Some people who make a lot of money get involved in philanthropic activities after a period of time. There are those who like to fund operas… I believe that evil is worth fighting.