While Anthony Scaramucci was hogging all the headlines, global financier Bill Browder was dropping incendiary testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee that brings together loose threads from some of the biggest news stories in the past couple years. Browder seems to be the nexus of the Panama Papers scandal, the Magnitsky Act, and Donald Trump Jr.’s infamous meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. Also at the center of Browder’s testimony is Vladimir Putin, who Browder claims is one of the richest men in the world. Unlike Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos, however, Browder says a lot of bloody foot prints lead to Putin’s secret bank accounts.
Under oath, Browder testified that Vladimir Putin is in fact one of the world’s richest men, building a fortune by threatening Russian oligarchs and getting a cut of their profits. He has also apparently skimmed money directly out of the coffers of the Russian state itself:
“I estimate that he has accumulated $200 billion of ill-gotten gains from these types of operations over his 17 years in power. He keeps his money in the West and all of his money in the West is potentially exposed to asset freezes and confiscation. Therefore, he has a significant and very personal interest in finding a way to get rid of the Magnitsky sanctions.”
Allegedly — and to protect his wealth and the corrupt means by which it was acquired — Putin had Bill Browder’s lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, killed in prison. Browder says he himself has received numerous death threats, and it wasn’t enough that “Sergei Magnitsky was murdered as my proxy.” Putin has also been fighting tooth and nail against the Magnitsky Act, which Browder helped convince Congress to pass after informing them of what he knew about Putin’s wealth, Magnitsky’s death, and Russian corruption.
So far, Putin has used lawyers, lobbyists and legislation to push back, not to mention a former U.S. Congressman. At the center of Putin’s efforts is that ban on American adoptions of Russian orphans that Don Jr. claims was the reason for his meeting with Veselnitskaya. Browder insists that when Russian officials want to talk about the adoption sanctions, what they really want to talk about is Magnitsky. Putin is notably fond of a tit-for-tat approach, as seen in his recent expulsion of American diplomatic staff to mirror President Obama’s ejection of Russian diplomats from two compounds in New York and Maryland last fall. Browder says that the adoption ban is, essentially, no different. And the saga of tension between the U.S. and Russia continues.
(Via The Atlantic)