Whistle-blower murder and fight for justice in Putin's Russia

Red Notice How I became Putin’s No. 1 enemy by Bill Browder

Red Notice
How I became Putin’s No. 1 enemy
Bill Browder (Corgi, 2015)

Book review by David Dunsheath

Wellington-based Newsletter Editor

Red Notice: How I became Putin’s No. 1 enemy, Bill Browder (Corgi, 2015)

This riveting true story will fascinate both financially-literate and lay readers alike. It outlines the author’s tenacious and skilful pursuit of truth to expose money laundering fraud and lack of transparency in post-Soviet Russia.

On the one hand, it is an account of Bill Browder’s early career struggles before stunning success as a Russian capital markets investor. On the other hand, the book promotes Browder’s crusade against fraud, corruption, and abuse of human rights within President Vladimir Putin’s government.

From 1996, Browder pursued a wave of privatisation opportunities following post-Soviet reforms. By 2000, his Moscow-based Hermitage Capital Management had amassed £4.5 billion of clients’ assets. It was ranked the world’s best-performing ‘emerging markets fund’. Gains of 1,500% were achieved for its initial investors, despite a 90% free-fall loss in the 1998 Russian financial crisis. Browder provides a fascinating summary of his management of risk through innovative research and assessments, sound decision making, and occasional lucky breaks.

After a harrowing detention at Moscow airport in 2000, he was blacklisted from further entry into Russia. His ban arose from his publicly exposing fraud and corruption among Russian oligarchs. The Fund’s continued success was slowed by unlawful barriers and ‘corporate raid’ seizures of three Hermitage holding companies on bogus charges.

To Browder’s deep and unceasing regret his Moscow-based, whistle-blowing lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, was arrested in 2008. He was tortured and beaten to death during 11 months’ pre-trial detention. His ‘crime’ as such was to not withdraw his testimony against a $230 million fraud by Russian Interior Ministry officials.

The book then follows Browder’s crusade to expose the most notorious and best-documented example of human rights abuse in Putin’s Russia. It resulted in the United States senate’s ‘Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act’ (2012). This enables the United States to withhold visas and freeze financial assets of Russian officials thought to have been involved with human rights violations. Then followed the European Parliament’s ‘Magnitsky Sanctions List’ (2014) for asset freezes and visa sanctions against those complicit in the Magnitsky case.

This thriller-like true story provides a very readable intermingling of Browder’s personal life and his untiring global-networking with colleagues, clients, officials, journalists and friends. A comprehensive index is provided. But some names and places have been changed “in order to protect the innocent [from possible reprisals by] some very powerful and dangerous people”.

Related links include:

1) Bill Browder’s public awareness raising videos (in chronological order): 

2) A Bill Browder media interview (‘France 24’, 2015)

3) Overview to the privatisation of 45,000 state enterprises in Russia following post-Soviet reforms: Privatisation in Russia.

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