‘Trump was ready to throw me under the bus’: Putin’s ‘number one enemy’ financier Bill Browder, who inspired America’s Magnitsky act, says Trump would have handed him over to Russia if he had won re-election
- Bill Browder claimed US President Donald Trump had considered it a ‘great idea’ to allow Russian investigators to question him over alleged tax evasion
- Russian President Vladimir Putin had approached Trump with proposal in 2018
- The US Senate voted against the idea before President Trump backed down
- Mr Browder, speaking on the Crisis What Crisis podcast, said if Trump had been re-elected in 2020, he would have ‘absolutely’ handed him over to Putin
A US-British financier who once described himself as Vladimir Putin’s ‘number one enemy’ has claimed that if Donald Trump was re-elected in 2020 he would have handed him over to Russia.
Bill Browder, who inspired America’s Magnitsky act targeting Russian officials, insisted he would have been ‘thrown under a bus’ by the former US President if he had beaten Biden and stayed in the White House.
Browder, 57, claimed Trump had considered it a ‘great idea’ to allow Russian investigators to question him about alleged tax evasion and funneling money overseas after Putin raised the possibility at the Helsinki Summit in 2018.
It then took the US Senate to vote 98-0 against the idea before Trump backed down.
But Mr Browder, who was born in New Jersey and now lives in the UK, said if Trump had been re-elected in the 2020 US Presidential elections, he would have ‘absolutely’ thrown him under the bus and handed him over to Putin.
Mr Browder has previously voiced his fear that being turned over to Russia would essentially be ‘handing him over to his death’.
Speaking to Andy Coulson on his podcast Crisis What Crisis, he claimed that over the years the Russian authorities have done a ‘lot of nasty stuff’, such as threatening to kill him and claimed a kidnapping squad had once been hired to seize him.
Mr Browder, the CEO and co-founder of Hermitage Capital management, has been a thorn in the side of the Russian authorities for more than a decade after he tried to expose the ‘looting’ of his investments in the country by corrupt officials.
Bill Browder, who inspired America’s Magnitsky act targeting Russian officials, insisted he would have been ‘thrown under a bus’ by the former US President if he had beaten Biden and stayed in the White House
US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin give a joint press conference at the Helsinki Summit in Finland in 2018
Bill Browder, 57, claimed Trump had considered it a ‘great idea’ to allow Russian investigators to question him about alleged tax evasion and funneling money overseas after Putin raised the possibility at the Helsinki Summit in 2018. It then took the US Senate to vote 98-0 against the idea before Trump backed down
In 2009, Sergei Magnitsky, 37, a lawyer Browder hired to investigate what had happened to his money, was arrested after accusing Russian officials of involvement in a tax fraud scheme. He died in November 2009 after nearly 11 months in prison awaiting trial, sparking global outrage.
Mr Browder then became the driving force behind the Magnitsky Act – intended to punish Russian human rights violators – which became a sore point between the U.S. and Russia after it was signed into law by former President Barack Obama in 2012.
Who is Bill Browder and what are his dealings with Russia and Putin?
Bill Browder – who dubs himself ‘Putin’s enemy number one’ formally fell foul of the Russian authorities in 2005.
But his family is steeped in the history of the country.
His grandfather was Earl Browder – the leader of the US Communist Party who twice ran for President.
And his father Felix was a maths prodigy and graduate from MIT – but could not find work during the McCarthyite purges of the 1960s.
Bill Browder was born in Chicago in 1964 and carved out a career in fund investments.
He set up Hermitage Capital Management in Russia in 1996, when the country’s markets were opening up to capitalist investment following the fall of Communism.
He was once Russia’s biggest foreign investor and earned hundreds of millions of pounds from his funds.
But he fell foul of the Kremlin in 2005 and was black listed from Russia, while many of his assets were seized.
He has spent the following decade exposing Russian officials for corruption and plundering many millions from Russian businesses.
Browder chronicled his battle against Russian corruption in a book about his career titled Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice.
And he has travelled the world pressing governments to pass the Magnitsky Act.
The law is named after Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky who was jailed , beaten and died in custody after exposing corruption.
It intends to punish the Russian officials responsible for his death.
It was passed in the US but while some MPs support it Britain has not passed it.
Mr Browder revealed that he continues to fight against the Russian human rights violations as a ‘duty’ to his friend and lawyer Magnitsky, but he remains cautious over how his safety is dictated by the shifting sands of global politics
Speaking on the podcast Crisis What Crisis, Mr Browder said: ‘When Donald Trump was President, he was asked by Putin to hand me over at the Helsinki summit [in 2018], and he said ‘I think that’s a great idea’.’
At the time, Trump was considering allowing prosecutors from the Kremlin to question American officials – including Mr Browder – about crimes Moscow alleged they committed.
Putin had raised the idea in his press conference with Trump in Helsinki, offering special counsel Robert Mueller access to 12 Russians for his probe into Russian interference in the 2016 Us elections in exchange for US citizens such as Mr Browder.
Mr Browder said: ‘And it took [Trump] four days to back off and say he wasn’t going to do it. It required a vote in the Senate, 98 – 0 not to hand me over before they shut that one down.’
Mr Browder also pointed to the fact that at this stage, the then President Trump was being investigated by Mueller as part of his probe into Russian election interference.
He explained: ‘If [Trump] hadn’t been under that cloud, god knows what he would have done.
‘And if he had been re-elected and there would have been no down side then he probably would have [handed me over to the Russians]. He’s the President, he’s the Commander-in-Chief.’
When asked by Coulson whether Trump ‘would have absolutely thrown you under the bus,’ Mr Browder replied: ‘Absolutely. There’s no question.
‘I’ve heard from people in the room that he was saying ‘we should of course do that’. I mean there were arguments saying this is not a good idea Mr President.’
Speaking about how he is able to deal with the shifting tides in global politics, with various leaders coming and going, Mr Browder said he ‘ducks and dives’ and makes sure he’s not in the ‘wrong place at the wrong time’.
Mr Browder also said he was relieved when former UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was not elected as Prime Minister as he was a ‘big Putin apologist’.
He said: ‘You duck and dive and weave and try to make sure that you don’t find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time.
‘I was pretty worried about Jeremy Corbyn, he was a big Putin apologist. I was very happy that he wasn’t made Prime Minister.
‘Now these are things that I have to watch for all the time, because you just don’t know who is going to be in power.’
Mr Browder has previously voiced his fear that being turned over to Russia would amount to a death sentence.
He told CNN in 2019: ‘To hand me over to Putin is basically to hand me over to my death.
Mr Browder has previously said he feared that he could fall victim to a Novichok attack like former spy Sergei Skripal in 2018.
When asked about the risk of being a Putin critic, Mr Browder told the CWC podcast: The thing is I don’t spend time being afraid of it. I take precautions wherever I can.
‘But if you live in fear then they’ve already accomplished about 90 per cent of what they are attempting to do which is to get you to modify your behavior and not be critical, not take the actions that are necessary.’
Mr Browder said that despite the Russians trying to arrest him multiple times, kill him and kidnap him, he remains defiant as he owes it to Magnitsky.
Mr Browder said that despite the Russians trying to arrest him multiple times, kill him and kidnap him, he remains defiant as he owes it to his friend and lawyer Sergei Magnitsky who was murdered while in Russian custody
He said: ‘I don’t live in fear, I take precautions and they’ve done a lot nasty stuff. They’ve threatened me with death, they’ve tried to organize an illegal kidnapping squad to come and grab me.
‘They’ve gone to Interpol eight times to have me arrested, they’ve approached the British government on numerous occasions to have me extradited. They are suing me, they are making movies about me, there’s a troll factory in St Petersburg which is defaming me.’
In 2018, Mr Browder was detained in Spain on an expired Moscow warrant and was later freed.
In December 2017, a Moscow court sentenced Browder to nine years in prison in absentia over tax evasion and funneling money overseas. He has dismissed the accusations against him.
But he said that when he feels upset about the constant threat, he said he just thinks about Sergei and what he went through when he was tortured and murdered by Russian authorities while in custody.
Mr Browder explained: ‘For me, this is nothing compared to what he went through. And I owe it to him to not be afraid and not to be in any way intimidated by this, and I haven’t been, and I won’t be because he’s already paid the ultimate price and it’s my duty to him to carry on in his name fighting these people.’
Mr Browder became a harsh critic of Moscow’s weak corporate governing standards, earning him the wrath of the Kremlin.
His offices in Moscow were raided and one of his top aides, Sergei Magnitsky, was arrested.
Magnitsky, 37, died in November 2009 after nearly 11 months in prison awaiting trial. Browder charges he was tortured during that time.
Magnitksy’s death sparked the billionaire into action. He lobbied Congress to pass the Magnitsky Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama in December 2012.
The law imposed visa sanctions on and froze the assets of those involved in Magnitsky’s detention. It was the first time in 35 years the U.S. had sanctioned Russia.
How the ‘Magnitsky Law’ is named after a Russian lawyer who died after ‘systematic torture campaign’
Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky died in jail after what supporters claim was a systematic torture campaign
UK Ministers are facing calls to approve a ‘Magnitsky Law’ to introduce powers to freeze the assets of Russian officials accused of human rights abuses.
The law would stop individuals known to be corrupt or who abuse human rights from travelling to and living in Britain, and politicians backing it say this will help stop London becoming a destination for dodgy Russian money.
Tory former Cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell is among those set to add amendments to legislation in a bid to beef up Britain’s version of America’s Magnitsky laws.
The sanctions were named to commemorate Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who claimed in 2008 that fraud was being committed by corrupt Interior Ministry officials.
Mr Magnitsky was arrested shortly after, accused of stealing the money himself and died a year later in jail after what supporters claim was a systematic torture campaign.
Mr Mitchell said sanctions need to be widened, and overseen by a review mechanism.
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