Former businessman and rights activist Bill Browder believes that the lawyers, tax advisors and accountants who helped Russian oligarchs should be forced to share their knowledge with Dutch authorities. The Briton told NU.nl. “The Dutch government can do much more than what is happening now. Your Prime Minister Rutte has prioritized trade relations with Russia for far too long.”
Who is Bell Browser?
- Browder is a vocal critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
- In 1996, he founded Hermitage Capital Management, the largest foreign investment fund in Russia of all time.
- After Browder criticized corruption in Russia in 2006, the Russian government blacklisted the Briton.
- Browder accuses Putin of stealing money on a large scale.
- He has been calling for tough penalties against people guilty of corrupt practices for 12 years now.
- Those penal codes bear the name of Sergei Magnitsky, his former employee, who was on the heels of a major corruption scandal.
- On November 16, 2009, he was killed in a Russian cell after severe torture.
- Then US President Barack Obama signed the Magnitsky Act, a US law filled with action against top Russians implicated in corruption.
Bill Browder is particularly excited about the conservative stance of the Dutch government and Prime Minister Mark Rutte when it comes to sanctions against the clique around Russian President Vladimir Putin. “The Russians launched a plane from the sky with 189 Dutchmen on board,” he says. “That was the moment of 9/11.” “And what did Rutte do? He prevents sanctions, gas interests were more important. He did not go to Brussels to promote such a law.”
Also from former Secretary Steve Block’s report on sanctions options that was published on Friday figured, he is not impressed. “600 million euros have now been confiscated. I can tell you that there is a lot of Russian money in the Netherlands.”
Browder focuses on lawyers, tax experts and accountants in Amsterdam Zuids, who have helped Russian oligarchs and the Kremlin for years.
“The Dutch government should compel these experts to make available all the information they have, find out where the money is hidden. If they don’t cooperate, they should be punished. Block now picking the low fruits, he has to dig deeper.”
Browder is in Holland for his new book She was chased by the state mafia Which came out last week and immediately topped the list of best non-fiction books. References from NRC Handelsblad this week.
Browder wants to put employee killers behind bars
Browder’s life changed completely after the murder of his assistant, Sergey Magnitsky, on November 16, 2009. “Sergei was a hero,” Browder says. He added, “It was the result of a major fraud case. He was arrested and spent 11 months in prison and did not surrender despite being tortured.”
Browder was consumed with guilt. “Magnitsky worked with me. If he didn’t, he would still be alive,” he said during a conversation in Amsterdam.
When Magnitsky died after being tortured in a Russian cell in November 2009, Browder made a solemn promise to himself, Magnitsky’s wife and son to put the perpetrators behind bars.
Browder, who until then was a successful businessman and owner of Hermitage Capital Investment, quit his job and became what he calls a full-time human rights activist. For the past 10 years, he has been warning the West about Putin, who he says is only out to secure stolen billions.
Browder paid dearly for his struggle
Through Browder’s tireless struggle, countries such as Canada and the United States have enacted the so-called Magnitsky Act. Under these laws, sanctions can be imposed on people who commit human rights violations or corrupt practices.
Previously, sanctions could only be imposed on entire countries. Magnitsky laws made it possible to personally target the perpetrators without the entire population suffering from punitive measures.
The former businessman paid a heavy price for his fight against the Kremlin. Magnitsky was killed, as was the Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, with whom Browder worked closely. Browder himself was also threatened. In addition, he was wanted by Interpol at the request of Russia and was even arrested in Spain, as he describes it in his book.
“It’s more dangerous for me now than ever.”
“Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it has become more dangerous for me than ever,” he says. “Any blocking the KGB had before is now gone. The only advantage is that the killers working for Putin are now so busy killing opponents that they may be overworked.”
In the Netherlands, Browder worked closely with MPs Peter Umtzigt and Sjord Schordesma. “They were committed from the very beginning to the application of the Magnitsky law in Europe.”
On the other hand, Browder is highly critical of Prime Minister Rutte, who opposed the introduction of such a law in the House of Representatives. “I find it inconceivable that Ruti would do this. And why? Because he was afraid of harming trade relations with Russia. It was unbelievable after the shooting down of MH17.”
According to Browder, Rutte had to come forward and promote the Magnitsky Act in Europe. He was greeted with open arms, especially the Dutch prime minister, but he did not. The European legislation was finally passed in December 2020, thanks in part to the efforts of Omtzigt, Sjoerdsma, and others.
European law passed, but it does not bear the name Magnitsky
During this period, Browder also spoke with then-Secretary of State Steve Blok, who had to advocate for the introduction of the law on behalf of the Netherlands. Block was asked to do so in a motion passed by the House of Representatives. Browder: “Block told me to lower my voice, or countries like Hungary wouldn’t participate. But what nonsense? I’ve leveled up? I don’t think about it.”
European law was eventually passed, but it does not bear the name Magnitsky, because Hungary surrendered to him. Also, by law, only human rights violators can be punished and not people guilty of corruption.
“I find it unheard of that the EU and Block have turned their ears to Hungary,” says Browder. “Now is the time to change the law. After the invasion of Ukraine, everyone will see what Russia and Putin can do. I hope we can now establish the law for the next 50 years.”
Then there’s something else that Browder hopes the Netherlands will take quick steps: put Magnitsky’s killers on the sanctions list. “How can your government not do that already? Are they still afraid of offending Putin?”
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