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[Source: the moscowtimes.com]

Bill Browder, who was convicted in absentia for tax evasion in Russia, has suspected links to British and/or American Intelligence

After the death of Alexei Navalny in late February, The New York Times ran an article quoting from William F. Browder, “an American-born British financier who has campaigned against human-rights abuses in Russia,” who said that “Aleksei Navalny is a globally recognized and beloved individual who was snuffed out by a killer. This is a classic good-versus-evil story. These types of symbols and stories have a resonance that goes so far beyond the petty squabbles of the world we live in.”

Browder cited as precedent for Navalny’s death the death of Sergei L. Magnitsky, Browder’s “lawyer and auditor who died in a Moscow jail cell under suspicious circumstances.”

After Magnitsky died, Browder had campaigned for countries’ to pass laws that would blacklist Russia for human-rights violations. The European Union was the “most reluctant,” according to Browder, though “adopted the legislation after Mr. Navalny suffered near-fatal poisoning with a nerve agent in 2020.”

According to Browder, Navalny is a Russian equivalent of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

His death would “make it politically untenable for American lawmakers to be viewed as accommodating Mr. Putin, making it harder for at least some Republicans in Congress to hold up additional military aid to Ukraine,” which Browder long championed.

For years now, Browder has been presented in The New York Times and other mainstream U.S. media outlets as a great human rights crusader determined to stand up against evil.

The grandson of Earl Browder, the former chairman of the Communist Party USA, he has been a key driver behind U.S. policies towards Russia in the new Cold War as a media gadfly sought out for his alleged expertise on Russia, and lobbyist for hard-line anti-Putin policies.

A person in a suit sitting in front of a map

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Earl Browder—who would surely be horrified by what his grandson has become. [Source: pastdaily.com]

Browder has contributed to the political campaigns of Russia hawks like Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) through Ziff Brothers, a firm associated with Hermitage Capital, a multi-million dollar hedge-fund that Browder operated in Russia during the 1990s and early 2000s before he fell afoul of the Putin government.

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Ben Cardin [Source: wypr.org]

Is Browder Credible?

In 2013, Browder was found guilty in a Russian court of failing to pay 552 million rubles in taxes ($16 million) and illegally buying up shares of Gazprom for which he was sentenced in absentia to nine years in prison.

Browder accused the Russian government of perpetrating a $230 million scam in 2009 to takeover his company, Hermitage Capital, though a film that has been blacklisted in the U.S. by Andrei Nekrasov and written by Torstein Grude, The Magnitsky Act: Behind the Scenes (2016), and a book by Alex Krainer, Grand Deception: The Browder Hoax (2017), revealed serious inconsistencies in Browder’s story.

Notable among these inconsistencies is the fact that Magnitsky was not actually a lawyer but a tax accountant, as Browder admitted under oath, and that he was not hired by Browder after his company was scammed as Browder has claimed.

Magnitsky was rather hired to set up an offshore structure that Russian investigators would later say was used for tax evasion and illegal share purchases by Hermitage.

According to Nekrasov’s investigation, Magnitsky was an expert in “circumventing the laws and regulations” which required foreigners like Browder to pay more for business and stock shares. 

Russian-language transcripts of Magnitsky’s interviews with police show that Magnitsky never actually accused anyone of malfeasance and was not a whistle-blower but was questioned by police about tax evasion practices Browder’s firm had been accused of beginning in 2004.

At the time of Magnitsky’s arrest, Browder never discussed his case or assisted in his defense, and Hermitage never had any mention of it on its website, turning Magnitsky into a martyr only after he died.

The U.S. embassy also did not raise any public concerns or outcry in the crucial period that Magnitsky was in prison, raising questions as to why they only spotlighted the case after his death. When I tried to pose this question to Ambassador John Beyrle, he refused to answer, as did later ambassador Michael McFaul, another key Russia hawk and driver of U.S. Cold War policies.

Mr. Nekrasov told me in an interview that he spoke off-the-record with a Doctor Kratov from the Butyrka prison, who was indicted and put on trial in Russia for negligence in his treatment of Magnitsky, though acquitted.

According to Nekrasov, “Kratov said that in his personal opinion there was a chance that Magnitsky had indeed been killed (he died of a heart attack officially) but that in that case only Browder and Co. could have been behind it. Theoretically it is possible to organize such a killing from outside a jail in Moscow, even if there is no evidence of it in our case in my view. What is clear however, is that only Browder stood to benefit from Magnitsky’s death, while the authorities needed Magnitsky alive, as a witness against Browder.”

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Butyrka prison where Magnitsky died. [Source: theguardian.com]

Browder was charged by Russian authorities with murder in the death of Magnitsky. The evidence against him was an intercepted communication from Western intelligence agencies which allegedly exposed an Operation called Quake designed to “start a scandal or significant news trigger to discredit the Russian Federation in the eyes of the international community.”

Operating under the code name “Agent Solomon,” Mr. Browder, with Britain’s MI-6 and Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny (AKA “Agent Freedom”) is said to have arranged for “proxies in the Russian federal penitentiary service to arrange the termination of any medical services for Magnitsky.” Similar accusations were previously aired on Russian state television but dismissed by independent analysts because the communication was found to have had spelling errors that derived from flawed Russian translation.

A Capitalist Rebel

Browder’s book Red Notice provides fascinating autobiographical detail about how Browder rebelled against his left-wing family by “putting on a suit and tie and becoming a capitalist.”

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[Source: bankers-anonymous.com]

After receiving his M.B.A. at Stanford University, Browder worked for the investment banking firm Salmon Brothers, where he turned a $25 million investment in privatization vouchers in Russia distributed after the fall of the Soviet Union into a $125 million stock portfolio.

Browder then started up his own investment firm, Hermitage Capital, with help from Syrian-Israeli banker Edmond Safra, an owner of the Republican National Bank of New York which had sold tens of billions of dollars in U.S. dollar notes to corrupt Russian banks, who also profited from the privatization voucher scheme.

Helping to launder funds from the illicit sale of arms and drugs by CIA operatives in the 1980s Iran-Contra affair, Mr. Safra died under suspicious circumstances after selling shares of Hermitage to HSBC in 1999. According to a New York Times profile, Safra taught Browder “not to shy away from kicking up a scandal to protect his interests.”

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Edmond Safra [Source: edmondjsafra.org]

By 1997, Hermitage came to manage over $1 billion in assets and was able to withstand a $900 million loss following the Asian financial crisis, in part by adopting a strategy of picking up shares from corrupt firms and attacking corruption in them and helping to reinvigorate them.

According to Times reporter Clifford J. Levy, Browder functioned as “a foreign version of the Russian oligarchs who earned their fortunes in the mass privatization after the fall of the Soviet Union. He courted publicity.”[1]

Self-Serving Criticism of Putin

Browder’s emergence as a leading critic of Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin appears to be entirely self-serving.

Nekrasov’s film and Krainer’s book suggest that Browder and not the Russian government were behind the $230 million tax scam involving his company, Hermitage, which his lawyer all but admitted to in a book launch gala in London.

In a campaign supported by U.S. and British intelligence, Browder began spreading rumors about Putin in an attempt to delegitimize his criminal prosecution, and because Browder wanted to resume Hermitage’s operations’ under a new Russian leader that, unlike Putin, kow-towed to foreign business interests.

In Red Notice, Browder claimed that after Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s arrest in October, 2003, before he was allegedly about to sell shares of Yukos Oil to Exxon Mobil,, Putin struck a deal with Russia’s oligarchs granting them prosecutorial immunity.

In exchange, they allegedly promised to give Putin somewhere between thirty and seventy percent of their wealth. Browder qualifies his assertion by noting that “he wasn’t there” when Putin brokered this deal so “he was only speculating.”

In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in July 2016, Browder claimed Putin–—whom he referred to as a “criminal dictator not too different from Hitler, Mussolini or Gadhafi” — demanded fifty percent and from that point on became the biggest oligarch in Russia and the “richest man” in the world. 

However, there is no hard evidence to corroborate these allegations and Browder’s changing the numbers implies a lack of precision.

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Andrei Nekrasov [Source: cinemagio.ro]

Andrei Nekrasov told me that “there is no evidence of Putin’s excessive riches. There is not a single evidence of some bank accounts, or bribe he, or his wife for example, got from an industry, or any such thing. While there is such evidence in the case of quite a few other heads of state [including] evidence in [Boris] Yeltsin’s case[2], quite specific and direct.”

Fake Scholarship

According to Moscow correspondent John Helmer, Browder was the key source for a much touted scholarly book by Karen Dawisha entitled Putin’s Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia? published in 2014 by Simon & Schuster.[3]

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[Source: simonandschuster.com]

Dawisha was then the Walter E. Havighurst Professor of Political Science in the Department of Political Science at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and director of the University’s Havighurst Center for Russian and Post-Soviet Studies.

Dawisha’s editor at Simon & Schuster, Alice Mayhew, had been taking editorial advice from the CIA since James Angleton ran the CIA’s counter-intelligence operations against suspected Russian moles, according to John Helmer an Australian Moscow correspondent.[4]

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Alice Mayhew—a CIA asset at Simon & Schuster. [Source: washingtonpost.com]

Putin’s Kleptocracy argued that corruption and authoritarianism in Russia in recent decades were not byproducts of the country’s emergence from communism, but rather building blocks of a plan devised in the early 1990s by Putin and a circle of trusted associates from St. Petersburg, where Putin had served as deputy mayor.

Dawisha wrote that “the group now in power started out with Putin from the beginning. They are committed to a life of looting without parallel. This kleptocracy is abhorrent not just because of the gap between rich and poor that it has created, but because in order to achieve success this cabal has had to destroy any possibility of freedom.”[5]

Dawisha claimed further that this St. Petersburg cabal, which Putin headed, “displayed a pattern of uncontrollable greed, of wanting what rightfully belongs to others, which…has resulted in [Putin amassing] over twenty official residences, fifty eight planes and four yachts.”[6]

Film made by late opposition leader Alexei Navalny, Putin’s Palace, which adopted similar allegations as Dawisha regarding Putin’s wealth and accumulation of lavish palaces. [Source: embedy.cc]
Sovcomplot: How pirates tried to capture the treasure of the Russian seas, and were caught out
[Source: amazon.com]

John Helmer exposes Dawisha as an academic charlatan and fraud in his book, Sovcomplot: How Pirates Tried to Capture the Treasure of the Russian Seas, and Were Caught Out (2023).

Helmer writes that “Dawisha attempted no analysis of a Russian commercial business or state enterprise except for Gazprom, the state gas producer. Her account of that is entirely based on allegations by William Browder; Dawisha reported none of the Russian or American investigations of Browder’s fabrications.”[7]

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[Source: johnhelmer.net]

Dawisha had tried in her book to make Gennady Timchenko, an executive with the Russian shipping company Sovcomplot, one of the linchpins of her case that Putin enriched his friends and cronies from St. Petersburg who in turn enriched Putin.

As an executive with Sovcomplot, Timchenko was accused of involvement in a privatization scheme resulting in the embezzlement of millions of dollars. Dawisha claimed that Timchenko and Putin’s ties went back to the St. Petersburg in the early 1990s and that Timchenko secretly gave Putin a 75% stake in a lucrative oil trading firm, allowing him to amass a fortune of $40 billion.

However, Dawisha provides no proof of the allegation, which if true, Helmer said, would have been disclosed in court testimony during a British court case involving Sovcomplot. This case largely exonerated Timchenko and made no mention of Putin, which it would have if Putin was as corrupt as Dawisha and Browder claimed.[8]

Helmer’s careful investigation revealed that Putin had no personal involvement in any embezzlement schemes by Sovcomplot executives or their coverup. Putin took a hands-off approach to the company’s operations apart from wanting to ensure that the company continued to expand and that it was not completely privatized. Russian authorities also prosecuted corrupt officials when they tried to embezzle money.[9]

According to Helmer, Dawisha and Browder’s collaboration in spreading disinformation was undertaken with the purpose of “justifying, encouraging and expanding the U.S. war for regime change in the Kremlin.”[10] Dawisha’s book “is a case for all the U.S. government policies currently underway” including the use of force and violence to oust Putin because, as Dawisha put it, “Putin will not go gentle into the night.”[11]

In the Robber Baron Tradition

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[Source: barnesandnoble.com]

John Hobson famously emphasized in his 1902 classic Imperialism how the British empire was driven by financial elites seeking outlets for new investments and who unduly influenced government policy. With regards to the United States, Hobson wrote that “it is Messrs. Rockefeller, Pierpont Morgan, Hannah, Schwab, and their associates who need imperialism….because they desire to use the public resources of their country to find profitable employment for the capital which otherwise would be superfluous.”[12]

William F. Browder follows in the same tradition in this neoliberal era.

He and his collaborators have been extremely successful in using their wealth and political connections to sway public opinion against Putin by financing anti-Russian politicians and gaining voice in the media, and have in turn helped legitimize the expansion of NATO, the deadly U.S. proxy war in Ukraine, and a new arms race that benefits the military-industrial-petroleum complex. 

At one point, Browder called Secretary of State John Kerry — a lukewarm supporter of the Magnitsky Act — “Putin’s lapdog” and purveyor of an “appeasement policy.”[13] 

This kind of poisonous language suggests that Browder is part of a planned political campaign, driven by powerful financial and “deep state” interests who profited from the plunder of Russia in the 1990s that Putin put a stop to.

  1. The above section is largely taken from Jeremy Kuzmarov, “Raising the Curtain on the Browder-Magnitsky Story,” Medium, September 19, 2018, https://medium.com/@thirdalliance/raising-the-curtain-on-the-browder-magnitsky-story-d2cf92696bcf.

  2. Boris Yeltsin was President of the Russian Federation from 1991-2000 and was implicated, among other things, in a diamond embezzlement scheme carried out between 1994-1996 along with family members, which was referenced in U.S. court. John Helmer, Sovcomplot: How Pirates Tried to Capture the Treasure of the Russian Seas, and Were Caught Out (John Helmer, 2023), 141.

  3. Dawisha also relies on the testimony of discredited Russian oligarchs like Boris Berezovsky and Mikhail Khodorkovsky who were zealously anti-Putin because Putin had put an end to the libertarian environment by which they could loot the Kremlin’s treasury and commit corporate crimes. Putin prosecuted them or forced them into exile.

  4. Helmer, Sovcomplot, 143. Mayhew died in February, 2020 at the age of 87. She was the editor for Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein book, All the President’s Men, which was part of the CIA’s Watergate operation to undermine the presidency of Richard M. Nixon.

  5. Helmer, Sovcomplot, 134.

  6. Helmer, Sovcomplot, 137. In 2018, Yale University Press published another book of fake scholarship by suspected British MI-6 agent Mark Galeotti, The Vory: Russia’s Super-Mafia (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2018), which Helmer calls “the newest stage in the war for regime change in Russia.” Galeotti’s thesis is that Russians are unique criminals in the world and to protect the rest of the world, the Russian state should be destroyed. Helmer, Sovcomplot, 151.

  7. Helmer, Sovcomplot, 131.

  8. Helmer, Sovcomplot, 136.

  9. Helmer, Sovcomplot, 148.

  10. Helmer, Sovcomplot, 146.

  11. Helmer, Sovcomplot, 146. Helmer has critical things to say about Putin but refutes many of the allegations directed against him in the mainstream media and academia.

  12. John A. Hobson, Imperialism: A Study (London: James Nisbet & Co. Ltd., 1902 reprinted by Cambridge University Press, 2010), 83.

  13. Quoted in Alex Krainer, Grand Deception: The Browder Hoax (Smashword, e-book).

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