Why is ICIJ protecting Bill Browder?

Inside fake investigative journalism

By Lucy Komisar
April 27, 2020

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists promotes itself as an independent, even heroic, organization of journalists who dig into the dark truth of global corruption. But this panel about the Panama Papers shows them as corrupt as they protect one of their friends, William Browder. And laughably as devious as Browder, the fraudster they choose not to write about.

The speakers last week were ICIJ director Gerard Ryle, in Sydney, and reporters Will Fitzgibbon and Scilla Alecci, in Washington DC. The video streaming panel was sponsored by Offshore Alert, a newsletter about offshore corruption which I‘ve written for over the years.

Will Fitzgibbon, Scilla Alecci, Gerard Ryle of ICIJ with David Marchant of Offshore Alert, clockwise from top left, at Offshore Alert video panel this month.

The moderator was David Marchant, owner and editor of Offshore Alert. Marchant is very straight-forward and honest. Consider that he sponsored the panels where Andrei Nekrasov, Alex Krainer and I confronted Browder’s crooked partner, Jamison Firestone in London in November 2018 (also here) and where I matched him in Miami April 2019.

Here is the ICIJ panel event link. The Browder part starts at minute 33.

Here is the question I sent Marchant, which he compressed. I include it for readers‘ background.

Perhaps the most high-profile owner of a Mossack Fonseca shell company is William Browder, whose Russian hedge fund shares and investment profits were stashed in the British Virgin Islands shells Starcliff and Berkeley Advisors. It‘s in the Panama papers documents, yet ICIJ has never written about that even as Browder promotes his Russophobic line by talking about Russians who are in the Panama papers without ever mentioning that he‘s in the Panama papers. And in spite of Starcliff and Berkeley documents I have sent to ICIJ, to some on this panel. Why are you protecting Browder and failing at your job to tell the truth about him?

David Marchant: Favoritism: has the ICIJ given preferential treatment to anyone whose name appeared in leaks. Or has it been pressured to do so by donors or other outside parties. And one of our attendees, who‘s an investigative report in New York – you might be able to guess who it is – asks why nothing has been written about Bill Browder despite his BVI [British Virgin Islands] firms appearing in the Panama Papers and the fact that he‘s high profile due to his campaign in the name of Sergei Magnitsky.

Gerard Ryle.

Gerard Ryle From 33 minutes in to 35:42: Well, the fact that somebody knows that they‘ve been published is kind of an answer in itself. We have published that information on Panama Papers. It‘s really a question of the reporters, did they find anything there of public interest, did they want to follow that story.

Going back to something that Scilla was saying earlier, we have almost 400 reporters around the world. It‘s up to them to decide what‘s important to them. It‘s not up to ICIJ. At no point does ICIJ ever tell any media partner what it should be doing or what it should be investigating. What we‘re doing is we‘re making all the documents available to all the reporters at the same time. And it‘s really up to the reporters to decide what‘s in the public interest?


Public interest? When a high-profile individual such as Browder, a key promoter of Russophobia, attacks Putin for a “friend” having Panama Papers companies and he has two himself! And then almost dares reporters to expose him for a hypocrite and a fraud?

In fact the documents about the Russian cellist Sergei Roldugin, who he claims stashed corrupt funds in a shell company revealed by the Panama Papers, don’t show what he claims. He’s talking about the $230 million tax refund fraud against the Russian Treasury, which evidence links to Browder himself, but lying is what this fraudster excels at.


Then this. You have to admire the chutzpah of this guy. Attacking his own corporate shell formation agent!

What a smell! It envelops Browder. See the incorporation documents at the end linking to documents of Browder’s Mossack Fonseca companies. ICIJ, you look at them too!

Up to the 400 reporters? I was asking about ICIJ, not partners. But Ryle smoothly reframes the question. Fitzgibbon and Alecci work for ICIJ. Are you saying they make their own assignments? Then, I‘m asking why your reporters didn‘t choose to investigate Browder? (I’ll tell you the answer later.)

Ryle: Obviously, ICIJ also reports and our focus is entirely on the global story. And we take the best from Brazil, the best from Britain, the best from France and we pull together global stories that we make available to everybody.

Global? Promoting the West‘s hostility toward Russia? Is that not global? Browder has promoted Magnitsky Acts all over the world, and got them in the U.S., the UK, as well as Canada, Estonia, Gibraltar, Jersey, Kosovo, Lithuania, Latvia. He’s working on Australia, Moldova and Ukraine. His mini state department is almost as pernicious as America’s. And ICIJ doesn’t think he’s a global figure?

Ryle: But the fact.…to answer your question. Do we ever pull any names? No, we publish every single name we find. We‘ve even published names of our own donors. So George Soros is in there, Pierre Omidyar, two people who through their foundations give us support. We‘re not afraid of publishing the names. And we weren‘t afraid of publishing Bill Browder‘s name.

But they didn’t. This is the only Browder in the Offshore Data base.

The only Browder listed is Browder Commercial Inc., but that’s not William Browder.

ICIJ has not published Browder‘s name in connection with his Panama Papers shells. Do a search of their data base. The only Browder is not William, and it links here.

Watch him change the subject. By the way Bill Browder does not fund ICIJ, I think I‘ve seen that somewhere. And we do not hold back on stories on anybody, even people that we know. In fact, we‘ve had a number of our media partners and their owners in various data bases and those publications published stories about their own owners.

Will Fitzgibbon.

Will Fitzgibbon at 36 minutes: ICIJ‘s motto is very much the more the merrier, which goes to Gerard‘s point of…I cannot imagine a way that we would be able to stop someone writing about Bill Browder if he or she wanted to write about Bill Browder. It‘s just not part of our DNA.

Fitzgibbon really distorts the question, which of course is not about preventing others from writing about Browder, it‘s about ICIJ refusing to write about Browder!

I have sent numerous messages to ICIJ providing information and calling on them to write about Browder. They don‘t reply except they are very busy. And NO articles exposing Browder.

And then when I raised the question on a journalism list serv, I got knocked off. Censored:

Subject:Re: Your removal from the GLOBAL-L list
Date:Tue, 7 May 2019 14:24:32 -0400
From:David Kaplan <david.kaplan@gijn.org>

Dear Lucy, IRE has forwarded me your request for why you were removed from the GLOBAL-L listserv. You were removed at GIJN‘s request because we found your comments today inappropriate and inaccurate. Both Bellingcat and OCCRP are GIJN members in good standing, and they have been honored repeatedly with major journalism awards for their groundbreaking reporting. To go on a public listserv and brand Bellingcat “a rightwing Russophobic organization that presents lies as facts” is misleading and possibly libelous.

Sincerely, David Kaplan, Executive Director Global Investigative Journalism Network @GIJN.org, on Facebook and Twitter

Sorry, Bellingcat is a right-wing operation connected to the Atlantic Council and other U.S./NATO linked organizations. You are not so stupid. If it’s libelous, I’m waiting for a claim! I welcome it!

And of course OCCRP is a Browder collaborator, as he admits in his deposition to U.S. federal court 2015. He says he worked with OCCRP in preparing documents that would get the U.S. Justice Dept to bring the Prevezon case, which Browder used in building his barrier against Russia going after him for tax evasion and illicit stock buys.

Here is the email I sent Marchant, which he compressed for the question.

This question is from Lucy Komisar, an investigative journalist in New York:

Perhaps the most high-profile owner of a Mossack Fonseca shell company is William Browder, whose Russian hedge fund shares and investment profits were stashed in the British Virgin Islands shells Starcliff and Berkeley Advisors. It‘s in the Panama papers documents, yet ICIJ has never written about that even as Browder promotes his Russophobic line by talking about Russians who are in the Panama papers without ever mentioning that he‘s in the Panama papers. And in spite of Starcliff and Berkeley documents I have sent to ICIJ, to some on this panel. Why are you protecting Browder and failing at your job to tell the truth about him?

Ms Komisar provides documentation of Browder’s ownership of Starcliff and Berkeley Advisors set up by Mossack Fonseca, including a copy of Starcliff links in the ICIJ Panama Papers data base.

Starcliff on Panama Papers database.
Hermitage corporate disclose says it owns Starcliff.
Berkeley Advisors set up by Mossack Fonsaca of Panama Papers fame.
Browder/Hermitage owns Berkeley Advisors.

My previous article on the subject: ICIJ Panama Papers investigators ignored William Browder

I attempted at various times to get ICIJ to report about Browder’s Panama Papers companies. Here is an email to ICIJ reporter Simon Bowers in London, and his response.

On Thu, Nov 15, 2018 at 8:50 PM Lucy Komisar wrote:

Here are some Browder/Hermitage Mossack Fonseca documents.

Here‘s how Browder set up the Hermitage offshore network, with Mossack Fonseca BVI companies, Cyprus shells, and Russia shells. In 1995, Browder incorporated Berkeley Advisors, Inc., a British Virgin Islands entity. In 1996, he created Hermitage Capital Management Limited, an investment firm registered in Guernsey by Mossack Fonseca, and its subsidiary the Hermitage Fund.

His initial investors Edmond Safra and Beny Steinmetz also invested through Mossack Fonseca shells. Republic Investments (Guernsey) was listed at the address of Safra‘s Republic National Bank Building. Steinmetz‘s Mossack Fonseca BVI shell, Wiltonia Investments Limited, shared that address, and was active through at least 2000.

Browder used Berkeley Advisers to hold his shares in Hermitage Capital, then switched to Mossack Fonseca as Berkeley‘s registered agent in 1997, retaining it to build an offshore network in Cyprus. The Cyprus shells, Glendora and Kone,would own his Russian shells,Saturn and Dalnaya Steppe, which held Russian stocks.

HSBC Management Guernsey was the “investment manager” of the Hermitage Fund, Browder who was giving the instructions, was listed as the “investment advisor.”  HSBC Private Bank Guernsey Ltd was the “trustee and nominee shareholder” of the Hermitage Fund, a Guernsey unit trust. As trustee through Glendora and Kone in Cyprus. It owned several Hermitage portfolio companies, Rilend, Parfenion and Makhaon. They were the Moscow-based shells, that would be famous as the companies that were allegedly stolen to use in a tax refund fraud.

When HSBC bought Republic Bank in 1999, Browder effected some share deals to take over Safra‘s stake in Hermitage. Steinmetz sold out to Browder in 2000,

In 2007, Browder set up Starcliff S.A. to replace Berkeley Advisors. It was registered by Mossack Fonseca in BVI.

To be complete, Jamison Firestone, co-founder of Firestone Duncan, which ran Browder’s tax evasion schemes, also appears in the Panama Papers leak database which shows that Mossack Fonseca set up Firestone Financial Inc. in 1987 and Firestone Management in 1988, both in Panama with his London properties 34 Pembridge Gardens, and 3 Lauderdale Road, as the registered addresses.

I can provide more details of how he used the system to cheat on taxes and to buy Gazprom shares he was not entitled, as a foreigner, to buy. Then to move money out of Russia when he was charged with those frauds.  Considering Browder is in the press and on the air at least once a week, seems worthy of your attention.

You will however note that Browder in his deposition to US federal court 2015 says he collaborated with OCCRP in preparing documents that would get the US Justice Dept to bring the Prevezon case.

Seems a conflict of interest there in ICIJ giving proper attention to this story. [LK: Bower was aware that OCCRP is an influential member of ICIJ.]


His reply.

On 11/15/2018 4:01 PM, Simon Bowers wrote:

Hi Lucy,

Thanks for your message. I’m up against deadline with another project right now, but when I get a sec I’ll take a look.



Bowers never wrote about Browder‘s Panama Papers companies. Neither did anyone else from ICIJ or any of their associated reporters.

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6 Responses to "Why is ICIJ protecting Bill Browder?"

  1. Regina Mouradian   Apr 28, 2020 at 11:03 am

    AMAZING RESEARCH as always Lucy!!!

  2. Pingback: Told on Fault Lines: forensic photos of Magnitsky show no marks on torso – The Komisar Scoop

  3. Mr_Alex   May 30, 2020 at 11:47 pm

    Lucy, not sure if you can comment, I am bringing attention to you that Bill Browder has been actively trying to get the New Zealand Government to enact its own Magnitsky Act or Legislation and the New Zealand Government has told him that targeted sanctions are not effective

    • Lucy Komisar   May 31, 2020 at 2:44 pm

      Thanks. Good to know that the government that has so brilliantly handled COVID is also very smart about knocking out Browder’s fakery.

  4. Mick Froemmcke   Apr 7, 2022 at 9:58 pm

    Thank you … good job.
    Any info on Christophe de Margerie?

    LK: No, who is he?


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