By Lucy Komisar
August 6, 2020
The Australian foreign affairs subcommittee is promoting a Magnitsky Act pushed by conman William Browder that is built on a tissue of lies. Here is an update from the broadcast I did, starting with background to the story.
Browder ran a hedge fund in Russia from the mid-90s, and his business plan include massive tax evasion. That was investigated from 2002. He had refused to pay $40mil tax, claiming that he hired disabled workers, who he did not hire, and had invested in the region, which he did not do. Russia would also discover that he collected $30 mil profits from illicit purchases of shares of Russian energy conglomerate Gazprom that were not allowed to be sold to non-nationals. Russia refused to to renew his visa Nov 05. He spent 2006 siphoning all his assets out of Russian shell companies, through Cyprus shells to offshore.
And in 2007, he pulled a major fraud against the Russian Treasury. He set up new shells that in fake lawsuits claimed to the shells that held his Russian shares: You did not do a deal you promised, I lost a lot of money. The old shells: You are right, we will pay what you ask, $1bil. Turned out to be the same as his old shells’ last year profits. (That $1bil was never traced.)
And then Browder companies filed for tax refunds based on now having zero profits. Total refund $230mil. Also never traced. Browder claims the companies had been stolen and others had done the scam. But there is no evidence of that.
Turns out that his Cyprus shell company Glendora gave an operative the document needed to transfer the company to the new fake owners.
The Russians kept up the old tax evasion investigation and in Oct 08 detained his accountant Sergei Magnitsky for his complicity. A lawsuit Browder filed on behalf of the Magnitsky family resulted in a decision by European Court of Human Rights last year that the detention was quite proper as Magnitsky was a flight risk.
Magnitsky died in prison, after nearly a year, from badly treated internal illness. At the beginning Browder said in speeches in London and San Diego he didnt know how he died. Hed been left along in a room.
The Magnitsky Act
Then with the Russians breathing down his neck, Browder needed a new weapon. With the help of former State Dept official Jonathan Winer and Senators John McCain (Republican) and Ben Cardin and Congressman Jim McGovern (Democrats), he got passage of the Magnitsky Act, based on an invention that Magnitsky had been beaten to death by eight riot guards. It targeted people alleged to be responsible, including tax investigators, judges, prison personnel and doctors. No proof required. No due process. By now there are dozens on the list.
Browder went on to get Magnitsky Acts in other western countries and the European Union. He got one in the UK, Canada and some former East European countries. Now he is lobbying Australia.
The Australia foreign affairs committee invited testimony, most by groups attacking China. My submission was heavily redacted and its links to documentation cut, though some were restored after my protest.
Here is how the text of the Aussie bill repeats Browder’s lies
Look at the proposed law by sections.
a. Targets people who direct or indirect, knowing or unknowing were involved in actions with the intent or effect of obstructing the release of evidence regarding Magnitsky’s treatment during his detention.
Indirect and unknowing makes this a travesty. But in fact, it is Browder who obstructed release of evidence. Browder had but concealed the forensic reports about Magnitsky death and photographs of the body the day after he died, which would have shown he was not beaten. Proof is in my submission to the committee. But it redacted the photos.
b. Posthumous legal proceedings against Magnitsky. In fact, proceedings were requested by the family in accord with Russian law which allows them to do that to rehabilitate the person, ie come in with a verdict of not guilty. But the verdict was guilty. Then since Magnitsky was deceased, the case was dismissed. The U.S. Justice Dept had to change its complaint on that issue. Probably they first believed Browder, then found out he was lying. But in this video, Browder (as usual) still lies about it.
c. Making misleading reports about the fraudulent tax scheme he discovered. Magnitsky did not uncover anything, as I showed. First information to the police in April 2008 was from Rimma Starova, the figurehead director of Boily Systems, a Virgin Island shell that had taken over Browder’s Russian shell companies, then there were reports in the NYTimes and Vedomosti in July, nothing from Magnitsky till his testimony, which he was summoned to give, in Oct 2008. All detailed in my submission.
Findings of an investigation by the Presidential Council. The Council findings were repudiated by Council president, Kirill Kabanov, who said in a deposition to U.S. federal court that the Council had done no investigation and that the public statement it made was based only on Browder documents. No matter, Browder continues to repeat the Council’s repudiated findings. The Aussie MPs don’t seem to care.
Or the report by The Public Oversight Commission. The POC talks about terrible prison conditions and failure to provide proper medical care but nothing about deliberate abuse.
That entire section 584.308 is a fraud, based on Browder’s lies which are copied verbatim and without evidence by the Australian foreign affairs subcommittee. One might think the fix was in.
Interesting that the people promoting the Magnitsky Act in Australia actually care more about bashing China than Russia. The parliamentary committee invited dozens of anti-China organizations to submit testimony. State Department acolyte Human Rights Watch contributed its support.
But there’s a growing backlash in Australia at the extreme demonization of China, and some minor signs that people in the government are concerned as well. It may not surprise any listeners that banning some Chinese from visiting Australia is not going to change their internal policies on anything, as Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei says, Think ‘sanctions’ will trouble China? Then you’re stuck in the politics of the past. It’s just posturing.
Fraudster Browder doesn’t care. For him it is marketing, with the Magnitsky name on another law to reinforce the political wall to protect his stolen millions from Russian justice.