The author of Red Notice and Freezing Order talks about life as a target of Putin.
In this Distinguished Speaker Seminar at Saïd Business School on 7 February 2024, Bill Browder takes us through his extraordinary journey from financier (until 2005 he was the largest foreign investor in Russia through Hermitage Capital Management) to anti-corruption campaigner and the subject of INTERPOL arrest warrants, death threats and kidnapping threats. His friend and lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, was arrested and murdered; and Browder dedicated himself to gaining justice by lobbying for the Magnitsky Act – a bill that authorised the US government to sanction human rights offenders and freeze their assets. A similar law has now been enacted in 35 countries altogether.
It is, as host Rupert Younger describes it, a story that ‘is as compelling as it is shocking’. In his speech and in the question-and-answer session that follows it, Browder talks about the very real dangers that he faced, including being arrested by Spanish police in answer to an INTERPOL warrant from Russia, and the stunning moment at the press conference following the Helsinki Summit when Vladimir Putin singled out Browder as the one person he wanted to be handed over for questioning in exchange for 12 Russian intelligence agents – and President Trump said that it sounded like a good deal.
It is a story of courage and resilience, but a warning against assuming in some parts of the world that identifying wrongdoing is all that is needed, and that you can sit back and wait for the ‘good guys’ to come in and arrest the ‘bad guys’: ‘You have to be vigilant about whatever your interests are … and approach things with a very high level of alertness.’ And it is also a cautionary tale against the kind of speculation that results in a fund value increasing by 865% in 18 months – as exciting as it was to the then 31-year-old Browder. As he says definitively, ‘It’s just not good business to be investing in places with authoritarian dictatorships where there’s no rule of law.’