William Browder, CEO of Hermitage Capital and anti-Kremlin activist, found himself to be a prime target of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ire on Monday. The leader suggested a deal with President Donald Trump: Putin would facilitate an interview with the 12 Russian intelligence officers indicted in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe in exchange for conducting questioning over cases such as that of Browder’s.
Browder, who once ran a hedge fund in Russia but then left the country and exposed a government scheme to defraud him out of $230 million, has long been a thorn in Putin’s side. He became an activist following the death of Sergei Magnitsky, his Russian lawyer, who was tortured and killed for trying to uncover the Putin government’s financial misdeeds. Browder was behind the Magnitsky Act, a 2012 law which bars Russian officials suspected of human rights abuses.
Putin brought Browder up unprompted in Monday’s bilateral press conference with Trump when discussing how the Americans could possibly “reciprocate” Putin’s offer to come to Russia and interview the intelligence officials.
“Business associates of Mr. Browder have earned over $1.5 billion in Russia. They’ve never paid any taxes, neither in Russia or the United States,” Putin said. “And yet the money escaped the country. They were transferred to the United States. They sent a huge amount of money — $400 million — as a contribution to the campaign of Hillary Clinton. Well, that’s a personal case. It might have been legal, the contribution itself, but the way the money was earned was illegal.”
Browder, in an op-ed in Time Magazine, called the Clinton allegations “so ludicrous and untrue that it falls into delusion.”
He added that the mistruth is “in the same category as other Russian government allegations against me: they accused me of being a serial killer; they accused me of being a CIA/MI6 agent determined to destroy the Russian government; and they accused me of somehow stealing $4.8 billion of IMF money back in the 1990s that was destined for the Russian Treasury. These guys have seriously lost their cool and are beginning to make mistakes.”
If Putin really wanted access to Browder, however, he’d have to go through U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May. As Browder notes in the article, he gave up his U.S. citizenship and became a British citizen.
Trump and Putin spoke after an unusual face-to-face meeting in Helsinki, Finland on Monday. Trump refused to condemn Russia for meddling in the 2016 election, instead saying he believed Putin’s assertions that his country had nothing to do with it.