This week we are joined by Bill Browder, the driving force behind the Magnitsky Act, the legislation being adopted in countries across the globe enforcing sanctions against foreign state officials involved in grave human rights abuses and systemic corruption.
Bill is a financier by trade, and in the years spanning both sides of the turn of the millennium his business, the Hermitage Fund, was a major investor in Russia. The Fund’s business model, of taking on large, former state-owned Russian entities, made it deeply unpopular with the State. In 2007 the Moscow offices of Hermitage were raided, and the business found itself the victim of a state orchestrated fraud. By this time Bill had been expelled from Russia and he appointed Sergei Magnitsky, a tax advisor at his lawyers, to investigate the fraud. Sergei provided testimony about his investigations that implicated senior Interior Ministry officials in a vast tax fraud. This work led to his arrest and over the course of pre-trial detention lasting almost 12 months he was kept in ever increasing conditions of squalor, was mistreated and received grossly inadequate medical care. In November 2009 he died in prison.
Since the death of Sergei, Bill has been a tireless campaigner for ensuring that legal frameworks exist to ensure accountability for those involved not only in Sergei’s death but other cases of state sanctioned human rights abuses. This led to the enactment of the ‘Magnitsky Act’ in 2012 in the US which barred those with suspected involvement in Sergei’s death from entry into the country. Similar legislation has followed in a raft of countries from Canada, to Estonia to Jersey, including most recently the UK.