"When the scheme was revealed, the cunning financier started the second crime"
This post first appeared on Russia Insider
A veritable Bill Browder expose industry has sprung up in Russia, with stories appearing everywhere about the man who at one point was the largest investor in Russia, and is now on the lam.
To be fair, Browder started the fight, launching a massive PR campaign aimed at blackballing Putin and Russia, leading some observers to speculate that he is in cahoots with foreign intelligence agencies.
Well, he's kicked open a can of worms, and now the Russian media just won't stop writing about him.
Here is a typical sampling, which is quite interesting from an historical perspective. Wonder how the Russkies got hold of the Browder family photo album? Full Transcript below.
If you subscribe to the idea that Communism was a disaster for Russia, and enjoy conspiracy theories, it is interesting that this family produced two major figures who were massive enemies of Russia.
This week, the Russian court continued the meeting on a new criminal case against international adventurer and fraudster, William Browder. As you know, Browder has already been sentenced to 9 years in Russia for illegally buying up Gazprom's shares for hundreds of millions of dollars and then transferring them to offshore accounts.
The criminal hero is wanted. But neither the US, nor the Europeans are in a hurry to hand him over to Russian law enforcement. Who is covering for the criminal? Why is he called "Yasha Browder" in the Prosecutor's Office? And what is known about his Moscow roots?
Vitaly Karmazin will tell us.
An empty cage. Only prosecutors and lawyers here. A new trial in the capital's Tverskoy court in the case of scandalous financier William Browder began without the defendant. Having robbed the Russian budget by 5.5 billion rubles and lobbying for adoption of The Magnitsky Act, Browder is now in London. He forbade his lawyers to participate in the Moscow process. The Russian government paid for and assigned Browder a lawyer. But the defendant is ignoring him
William Browder lived more than 10 years in Russia. He came in the 90's, to make money in a country that has just opened to a free market economy. Compared with other swindlers who poured into Russia at that time, Browder had an advantage his family was associated with the Soviet Union for decades.
The State Archives of Socio-Political History holds a dossier on William Browder's grandfather, Earl. From 1930 to 1945 he headed the US Communist Party and collaborated with the Bolsheviks. William Browder's grandfather came to Russia for the first time in 1921. In 1927 he met with a communist, Raisa Luganovskaya, and soon they got married.
In the 1920s the Browder family lived in the house number 7 in Uspensky Lane. Now the embassy of Benin is here, and in those years, as Browder's wife Raisa wrote, they occupied apartment #1 with her husband. They had a son, Felix, who spent his childhood here.
On Party's orders, Earl Browder went to China to support communist cells. A Soviet spy, Kitty Harris, was with him, they had a romance, but eventually Earl chose Raisa. He took her to the US. Earl's career reached its peak. He became the head of US Communist Party. But he received all instructions from Moscow. He joined the Comintern management.
While traveling to Soviet Russia, Earl Browder, like other Communists, observed secrecy. The Communists were given mandates on silks, a piece of cloth that was sewn under the lining. Therefore, while crossing the border, Browder didn't have any compromising documents, but in Moscow he opened the lining, took out this piece of cloth that was a document in Soviet Russia, and was accepted as an official.
Says Alexander Kolpakidi, Special Services Historian:
"No general secretary of any Communist Party in the world was so entangled in a web of espionage as Earl Browder: it's a fact that his family survived with Soviet money."
Earl Browder had a nickname, "Helmsman." His brother Bill was recruiting agents. His sister Margaret was an employee of the foreign department of the NKVD. His niece, Helen Lowry (pseudonym Tanya), married a Soviet intelligence officer Iskhak Akhmerov and helped him.
Mistress, Kitty Harris, worked for the the USSR intelligence for decades. The rest of her life was spent in Nizhny Novgorod, where she was buried. The crooked headstone without a picture, and a barely readable sign.
And Earl Browder ended his century in the US. He abandoned the idea of supporting the Soviet Union, but did not surrender agents, for which the Soviets provided him with a comfortable retirement, giving him a lease of a book company. His son Felix became a mathematician, and grandson William Browder a financier.
He recalled that at the table they discussed mathematical theorems and where the world was going because of businessmen. However, William Browder wasn't attracted to left-wing views.
Comments Alexander Kolpakidi:
"I think that his grandfather, if he would talk about the Soviet Union with him, it would have been negative: he was a leader of a 100,000 strong party, he ran for President, and suddenly became a nobody, some small literary agent. And it's clear that his grandson didn't believe in anything, and only wanted to make money."
Will decided to become a capitalist. When he grew up he changed his citizenship. He became a subject of UK, he liked the tax conditions there. And later he came to Russia, where he started playing on the stock exchange, buying up Gazprom shares through front companies in Kalmykia.
He had no right to do this personally, since he wasn't a resident of the country. But Browder seemed to know that Gazprom's shares had to be bought now, while only the Russian investors have access to them.
Many members of the Russian Forbes list made their fortune on these shares. In 1999, the shares of the gas giant traded at 8 rubles per share. By 2005, they had grown 44 times. Huge profits. However, huge taxes must be paid on them.
Browder chose the criminal way. The scheme looked like this: Browder's companies had to pay a 35% tax. 11% to the federal budget, 24% to the regional. To avoid the regional part, Browder had to invest $100,000 in the economy of Kalmykia. However, the financier only forged the investment documents.
To reduce the federal portion of the tax, Browder faked papers on employing disabled people, which provided benefits. As a result, the budget lost almost 5.5 billion rubles. For this, Browder was already sentenced to 9 years in absentia.
When the scheme was revealed, the cunning financier started the second crime: he began to desperately rescue money from the "dump firm" accounts and, together with the remaining shares of Gazprom, send it to the US. The new loss is almost 4 billion.
First he transferred the shares, then he transferred the funds. When the Russian General Prosecutor's Office traced the scheme to the end, more than 1,000 pages of official documents were sent to the US District Attorney to initiate a case against Browder and his accomplices.
Russia's Prosecutor General, Yury Chaika, told Vesti about this:
"They were foreign investors, at the same time they didn't register as foreign investors in the US, and they didn't pay taxes either in Russia or in the US. He's not a dumb person. I call him Yasha Browder, he has Moscow roots. A dark personality, a fraudster of international level, an adventurer."
Browder managed to take out almost his entire team of scammers from Russia. He left only his accountant, Sergei Magnitsky.
Says Dr. Nikita Krichevskiy, Professor of Economics:
"Like any shady businessman, Browder has in mind only maxim, someone has to cover, and somebody has to take the blame for everything. Sergei Magnitsky was chosen for this role, but not for free of course."
Magnitsky tragically died in jail from a heart attack. However, Browder said that they allegedly tortured Magnitsky.That he fought corruption, for which he paid with his life.
A documentary director, Andrei Nekrasov, became interested in this case, a man who has no sympathy for the Russian government, but during the filming he came to the absolutely certain conclusion, that Browder is a clever manipulator.
"Sergei Magnitsky is Browder's victim, he was a victim before his death, because Browder was trying to shift responsibility for his crimes to him. But Sergei Magnitsky is Browder's victim, from my point of view, and after his death, because compassion for his fate is exploited in a cynical and self-serving way."
In 2012, with Browder's filling and Russian volunteers from the liberal wing, for example, Vladimir Kara-Murza Jr. and Mikhail Kasyanov, US politicians adopted the famous "Magnitsky Act."
Сomments Yury Chaika, Prosecutor General:
"The Magnitsky Act was passed on lies solely from Browder's application, he sponsored lobbyists with the criminal money that were partially or wholly taken out of Russia."
Prevezon, one of the private companies which, according to Browder's tip, was included in the list, in 2015 sued the US Ministry of Justice and tried to bring the financier to court. Browder was sent a summons for questioning. A summons from a US circuit court.
No one has seen William Browder like this before. A frightened billionaire jumped out of the car as soon as he was handed a paper. He ran down the snow-covered streets.
At the interrogation Browder lost it. He was asked not only about the Prevezon case, but also about the shady schemes that he worked in Russia, and also about Magnitsky. Browder repeated almost 260 times the phrases "I don't remember" and "I don't know."
As a result, the charges were dropped from the company. But for Browder this had no consequences. Now Browder is preparing for a press tour around Europe. Soon the convicted in Russia businessman will speak in the British Parliament to convince lawmakers to increase sanctions against Russia.
Vitaly Karmazin, Guhur Urlaev, Nikita Korneev, Alexander Khabarov, Lev Sergeev. Alexander Evtushenko, Nataliya Koroleva - Vesti, News of the Week.
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