Putin's loudest critic Bill Browder on what upsets the Russian president
Published Monday, October 30, 2017 10:26AM EDT
Bill Browder, one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest critics, says he believes Canada’s recent decision to impose travel bans on corrupt Russian officials will prompt other countries to do the same.
Browder, a one-time banker in Russia who now campaigns against Russian corruption, says he thinks it’s likely other countries will pass legislation imposing sanctions on corrupt Russian officials.
"And it’s particularly likely because of Canada,” Browder told CTV’s Your Morning on Monday.
The American-born Browder explained that Canada has a global reputation of being “a fair player,” and “a moral leader,” and so countries reticent to follow the U.S.’s lead on the issue may be willing to look to Canada’s example.
“There’s no such thing as anti-Canadian sentiment. And so I think this really opens up the floodgates for a lot of other countries,” Browder said.
Earlier this month, the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act received royal assent in Ottawa. The legislation, modelled after the Magnitsky Act in the U.S., allows the Canadian government to impose sanctions and travel bans on foreign officials found responsible for human rights violations.
Both the Canadian and American pieces of legislation were inspired by Browder’s own Russian lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, who was tortured to death in a Moscow prison in 2009, after he accused Russian officials of tax fraud and money laundering.
Browder has since made it his mission to continue Magnitsky’s efforts to expose Russian corruption and to encourage countries to pass laws in his former lawyer’s honour.
In 2012, U.S. Congress under former president Barack Obama passed the Magnitsky Act to punish Russian officials. Browder says he believes that Russia’s anger with that legislation may have prompted its alleged interference in last year’s U.S. election.
“Putin really, really hates these sanctions,” Browder said. “In fact, in June of last year, Russian lawyers representing Vladimir Putin went to Trump Tower to have a discussion about repealing the Magnitsky Act. So this is a real thing. Putin really does get upset about this.”
Last year, the U.S. Homeland Security Department and the intelligence community expressed confidence there had been foreign meddling in the election, including Russian government hacking of Democratic emails.
“What we know for sure is that the Russian government made a very valiant attempt to manipulate the results of the U.S. election. That’s been confirmed by 17 different intelligence agencies,” Browder said.
Whether U.S. President Donald Trump or any of his officials colluded with them in any way is now the subject of a special counsel investigation, headed by Robert Mueller.
Browder says he feels confident that Mueller’s investigation will unearth the full picture.
“Mueller is an extremely effective prosecutor and he has one of the best teams around to do this. They have the full resources of the U.S. government to do this and so whatever the truth is, it will come out,” he said.
As for himself, Browder continues to fight Russian efforts to have him arrested, saying he believes that, if he were taken into custody, he would be quickly jailed and killed.
Even while outside of Russia, Browder says he lives in constant fear of being kidnapped by operatives working under Russian orders.
“It’s an everyday struggle,” Browder said. “This is my life, which is being one of Putin’s top enemies.”
With files from The Associated Press