London’s public relations firms and lawyers that got rich from “very dirty business” with Russian oligarchs must be scrutinised, the former fund manager once dubbed the Kremlin’s most wanted man has said.
Bill Browder, whose fight to expose corruption in Russia ushered in landmark sanction laws globally, told City A.M. yesterday that PR and law firms in London had broken “a lot of laws” in their defence of Putin’s “genocide cartel”.
Through his firm’s Hermitage Fund, Browder was once the largest foreign portfolio investor in Russia, but became persona non grata when he tried to blow the whistle on corruption at some of the country’s biggest companies.
He has become one of the most vocal proponents for tougher sanctions on Russian oligarchs since Putin’s invasion of Ukraine last year.
In a video interview published today, Browder told City A.M. that London’s firms had not yet faced proper scrutiny over their dealings with Russian oligarchs over the past two decades.
“I think a lot of laws were broken. I think a lot of people got very rich, off very dirty business,” he said.
“If we had said ‘would you do business with the Colombian drug cartel?’ They say, ‘No, no, that’s criminal’.
“But the Putin genocide cartel was just as bad. And all these people were doing it with all great fanfare until, until they were forced to stop.”
The fund manager has been close to the economic crime bill currently passing through parliament, which is looking to stamp out sanctions evasion and flush out dirty cash from the capital.
Browder told City A.M. yesterday he had pushed for an amendment to the bill that would allow the government and authorities to go after oligarchs and money launderers without having to pay their legal bills in the event they lose, as is currently the case.
Browder’s rift with Russia came in 2005 when he was deported for attempting to expose the corruption in state-backed companies. He hired Russian tax specialist Sergei Magnitsky to help him investigate the scandal but the 37-year old lawyer was arrested and later died in custody.
Magnitsky’s name was given to the landmark Magnitsky Act in the US which has been replicated globally to sanction and punish human rights abusers.