(Editor Note: This is Part 3 and the conclusion of a special exposé series by TWP Contributor and Author Regina Mouradian, based on her groundbreaking book The Hermitage Effect: How Bill Browder Went From Ally to Enemy of Russia.)
Let’s recap: In Part 1 of this series, we found out there are serious questions about U.K. Hedge Fund Manager Bill Browder. Is he a champion of human rights as he himself and the media portray him, or a skilled conman able to instantly cancel his opponents in the business world without due process or appeal using international sanctions on individuals just by doing as little as sending a tweet?
In Part 2, we found some very curious connections to figures like Ghislaine Maxwell and the leadership of the American Communist Party; as well as a series of tragic events and suspicious deaths leading up to the death of Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow prison.
In Part 3 we will peel back the curtain to see how a seemingly international conman and illusionist uses the tragic death of a young Russian accountant to trick the world and amass so much power for myself.
We will look at how Browder can now cancel a person or organization without any right to a defense or due process with minimal effort; as well as how the story wound up leading to a twenty-minute meeting in Trump Tower that threw an American presidency into turmoil for more than three years.
Throughout Magnitsky’s pretrial detention, no attempt was made to contact human rights groups, no pleas were given to Western governments, and Bill Browder states he made no attempt to talk to Sergei Magnitsky or his lawyers. When Browder was asked under oath if any one of his associates made any attempt at communication he mumbled quietly, “I don’t remember.”
While in prison Magnitsky had the opportunity to talk with a fellow inmate and reporter named Oleg Lurie a couple of times. Lurie was imprisoned on extortion charges that were later dropped and described Magnitsky as discouraged, having expressed he felt like he didn’t have the support from people on the outside. After Magnitsky’s death, Oleg Lurie says he was approached by a Browder associate who offered him a $160,000 bribe to remain quiet about his conversations with Magnitsky. Oleg voice recorded his conversations and met once with an alleged Browder associate but declined the offer. Oleg’s voice recordings were submitted into evidence in a case in New York City associated with Browder’s alleged the $230 million tax heist in Russia. Oleg thinks the man he talked to was Bill Browder’s lawyer, Mark Feygin, but Feygin was not the man who came to the face-to-face meeting.
A prominent human rights defender that checked on prison conditions says she was not even aware Sergei Magnitsky was in prison and did not know his name until she read about his death in the newspapers. Zoya Svetova went to Matrosskaya Tishina prison after Magnitsky’s death to investigate the circumstances surrounding the case. She interviewed the prison staff and wrote up an extensive report* along with five others titled ‘Public Oversight Commission for Human Rights observance in Moscow Detention Centers‘. The investigation by her group and the investigation by Russian officials were detailed and presented a dramatic last few hours of Sergei Magnitsky’s life.
*(Note: There is a forged paragraph by Browder and associates added to the WSJ version. The added paragraph was discovered by two journalists, Ken Dillanian and Lucy Komisar, separately, by two different methods. Dillanian compared it to the Russian version of the POC and Komisar compared it to the POC English version submitted to the Southern District of New York [SDNY] court. When Dillanian asked Browder about the added paragraph he told Dillanian it was a “clerical error”.)
On Friday, November 13th, 2009, Sergei Magnitsky was seen by Dr. Larisa Litvinova, the head of the Butyrka Detention Center Hospital complaining of stomach pains. The doctor recorded in her notes that the patient often complained of stomach pains whenever he was stressed and would check in on him on Monday. Over the weekend he was placed in the medical unit of Butyrka and seen by Dr. Litvinova’s associates until she returned. On Monday, November 16th, 2009, Dr. Litvinova visited the patient who complained of pain and vomiting and she requested he be sent to Matrosskaya Tishina prison hospital for possible pancreatitis.
As detailed in Dr. Litvinova’s notes, as well as her and other witness testimony in front of the Russian Public Oversight Commission For Human Rights Observance,
[H]is stomach is reasonably tensed, acute belting pain, vomiting every three hours. Required surgical examination, because the gallstones could close the canal.
It was necessary to push for an examination-I thought he had a chronic disease.
Patient left detention center FBU IZ 77/2 (Butyrka) at 5:10pm walking to transport carrying his two suitcases and three plastic bags as seen on CCTV. He arrived at FBU IZ 77/1(Matrosskaya Tishina) hospital of the Russian Corrective Service with his back caught on CCTV carrying these same items.
Upon arrival he was interviewed and seemed calm complaining of nausea and was given a hygienic bag but he did not vomit. Between 6:20 -7:30 pm he displayed symptoms of “acute psychosis” and Dr. Gauss called hospital security (DPNSI) and officer Dmitry Fedorovich arrived with several other guards to help with the agitated patient. While waiting for their arrival Dr. Gauss documents that the patient was screaming, “they are trying to kill me!” and hiding behind one of his plastic bags. He then began grabbing the metal bar of the hospital cot and banging the cot twice on the floor. She told the patient, “nobody is trying to kill you”, trying to calm him down. When security arrived the patient was placed in handcuffs for approximately 15 minutes. Fedorovich states Magnitsky didn’t oppose them, but stayed in handcuffs, looked inadequate and gazed around.**
Once the handcuffs were removed and the patient was calm, the patient was left in the cell as hospital staff waited for the psychiatric team to arrive that was called to assess the patient. When the psychiatric team arrived the patient’s condition began to deteriorate during examination. Dr. Nafikov attempted to resuscitate with CPR and use of an ambu bag and atropine was injected into the tongue. The patient was declared officially dead at 9:50 pm with thoughts he had died between 9:00 pm and 9:05 pm with thirty minutes of attempts at resuscitation.From Litvinova Nov. 16, 2009 notes after examining Sergei Magnitsky as well as testimony Litvinova and others before the Russian ‘Public Oversight Commission For Human Rights Observance‘
**(Note: there is a forged testimony given to the U.S. Congress changing words from original testimonies given by security officers in the investigation.)
Browder at once jumps to the airways complaining his whistleblower “attorney” was murdered to cover up the crimes committed by the cops he blew the whistle on. Sergei Magnitsky did in fact possibly submit a statement a few weeks before he died outlining the whole plot he uncovered with the tax heist, but this was the first allegedly documented statement of his accusations. His police testimony prior to his arrest was only given to determine if Eduard Khairetdinov was given power of attorney of Hermitage Capital LLCs.
Browder then set off on a now twelve-year crusade to “find the stolen tax money” and bring justice to those involved and responsible for Magnitsky’s death. To this date, Bill Browder and his friendly press have connected over 200 people to the theft. Some of the more famous people they have accused have been former Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych who allegedly received $50 million through a Latvian bank, Vladimir Putin’s “cellist”, Sergey Roldugin who supposedly had $800,000 hidden in Mossack Fonseca LLCs in Panama, and even Prince Charles who indirectly received $200,000 unknowingly for house renovations from a charitable gift donated by Reuben Vardanayan of Troika Bank whom Browder alleges received $130 million of the tax heist money.
Another man accused was Denis Katsyv, son of the Russian Transport Minister and charges were brought against him in the United States related to his company Prevezon Holdings Ltd. for hiding $7.6 million of the “blood money” by investing New York City real estate. Eventually, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) brought the total amount laundered down to less than a million, and the case was settled with a not guilty plea with the help of Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya.
Veselnitskaya states she was approached by Bill Browder’s lawyer, Mark Feygin, who proposed they would drop the case on her client, Denis Katsyv, if she cooperated in finding “dirt” on Pavel Karpov, one of the Russian cops accused in the $230 million tax heist. She declined the quid pro quo and submitted an affidavit at the time about the offer to the SDNY courts in 2015.
Natalia Veselnitskaya went on to become a major figure in the Trump-Russia Collusion Hoax when it was revealed she was the Russian lawyer with supposed close ties to the Kremlin and Vladimir Putin who met with Don Trump Jr. in Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential election. The meeting was presented as “smoking gun” evidence and used as the primary justification by the Mueller Special Counsel Investigation to continue their three year plus witch hunt into President Trump’s administration.
Veselnitskaya was in the United States in June 2016 on a special wavier from Obama’s Justice Dept. for “extraordinary circumstances” that allowed her to enter the country without a visa for lobbying efforts on behalf of those impacted by the Magnitsky Act and to help blow the whistle on Bill Browder’s alleged criminal activities. While in the United States, she was hired by the law firm BakerHostetler, who then in turn hired FusionGPS under the pretext of doing opposition research on Bill Browder. This is the same FusionGPS that created and disseminated the Steele Dossier which the FBI used as the entire pretext for their Russia collusion investigation.
Veselnitskaya’s information on Browder was pitched to the Trump campaign as “dirt on Clinton Foundation donors” in order to coax them into taking the meeting, and Veselnitskaya met with FusionGPS founder Glenn Simpson the day of and the day after the Trump Tower meeting took place. The FBI would later interview Anatoli Samochornov, the translator used in the meeting. Samochornov, a former Clinton State Dept. employee who the FBI’s 302 notes stated,”was not particularly fond of Donald Trump Jr.” and as reported by Real Clear Investigations reportedly told the FBI,
[T]he meeting was 20 minutes long and focused on the Magnitsky Act, which imposes financial sanctions on wealthy Russians, and related matters. He recounted that Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was apparently so uninterested in the topic that he used his cellphone under the table throughout, and “five to seven minutes after it began” Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner left … but stated that Donald Trump Jr.’s account of the meeting with Veselnitskaya, as portrayed in recent media reports, was accurate.From the Real Clear Investigations story “Buried From Trump Tower Meeting: Translator Telling FBI ‘No Collusion'”
Despite the FBI interviewing Samochornov just days after the New York Times initially broke the news of the Trump Tower meeting in July 2017, this exculpatory evidence was buried and hidden away from the public for over two years and no mention of it was made in the Mueller Report’s 448 pages, despite fourteen pages being used to detail the circumstances of the meeting.
After the Trump Tower meeting, Veselnitskaya would travel to Washington D.C. a few days later to first attend a screening of the anti-Browder documentary film The Magnitsky Act – Behind the Scenes at the Newseum before appearing the next day to testify before the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee lobbying against the Magnitsky Act and Browder’s alleged illicit dealings.
It appears Veselnitskaya was likely the victim of a setup between the FBI, Obama’s DOJ, the U.S. State Dept., the Clinton campaign, FusionGPS, and Browder himself to plant a Russian … any Russian … into a meeting with the Trump campaign inside Trump Tower to bolster the bogus narrative FusionGPS was concocting with their fabricated Steele Dossier. At the same time, it allowed Bill Browder to take down a major adversary of the Magnitsky Act and exact revenge for the defeat in the Prevezon case. Veselnitskaya has been smeared as a Russian spy and had her career and reputation left in ruins despite never being contacted by the Mueller Team to get her account of the Trump Tower meeting. To add insult to injury, she was charged in 2019 with obstruction of justice and money laundering related to the Prevezon case by the hopelessly corrupt SDNY.
These types of events have occurred constantly over the past twelve years with Bill Browder crisscrossing the planet sprinkling accusations wherever he goes. As of October 2018, there have been 212 individuals and entities sanctioned under the United States Global Magnitsky Act. Seven other countries plus the European Union have enacted their own Magnitsky legislation, and at least three more countries have pending legislation including Australia and Ukraine. Often it takes little more than minimal lobbying effort by Browder himself, as little as a tweet, to signal his allies in government and the press, and set the process in motion to target an individual without any due process or right of defense to be added to the list and canceled out of the international business world.
When it comes to the $230 million tax heist that put the Magnitsky Act into motion, Victor Markelov is one of the few men that has been charged and sentenced in the crime. Markelov stated in his police testimony that Hermitage employees Vadim Kleiner and Eduard Khaeiretdinov were involved in the registering the companies connected to the tax heist. He also states he saw Octai Gasanov with Sergei Leonidovich. Gasanov helped with the heist and Sergei’s full name is Sergei Leonidovich Magnitsky. The other lawyer, Andrei Pavlov, also admits he was involved in both the tax heist schemes and states Victor Markelov received papers directly from Sergei Magnitsky.
At this stage in the finger-pointing, it appears we are at a stalemate with Browder avoiding his convictions by claiming political persecution. What Browder failed to mention was he was singing Putin’s praises when the investigation first opened on him in 2004. Is Browder taking advantage of Russia’s reputation to turn his fugitive status into a mark of heroism? When exactly was Browder’s Damascus moment to stop praising Putin and start vilifying him? Perhaps this quote from Browder himself marked the turning point.
The answers to these questions are far more complicated than I can even begin to imagine, but I’d like to think a sit-down mediation should occur at The Hague, with both sides presenting their cases. Involving the rest of the world in this drama may make for great clickbait headlines in the online newspapers, but serious damage has been done to the confidence of many countries’ judicial and political systems. Does Natalia Veselnitskaya deserve to have her life and reputation ruined for what appears to be only representing the best interests of her clients? Do Dr. Alexandra Gauss, Dr. Larisa Litvinova, and Dr. Dmitry Kratov all deserve to be placed on our U.S. Magnitsky List for human rights abuses? These three doctors appeared to have been helping a patient in his last days of life. Sergei was in Dr. Gauss’ care for just a few hours. Are we really to believe she, Dr. Litvinova, and Dr. Kratov all conspired to intentionally harm their patient? Do these doctors deserve to be banned from ever traveling to the West for the rest of their lives? As a health care professional of30 years myself, I am upset that healthcare workers are being used as political weapons to possibly have one man avoid the punishment that befits his crimes.
Regina Mouradian (@ReginaMourad)
Author of The Hermitage Effect: How Bill Browder went from Ally to Enemy of Russia.
Author of Dragon Games: Based on a True Story of Sergei Millian, The Hermitage Effect: How Bill Browder and her fiction book Buried Treasure. Lives in Massachusetts.