EVENT TRANSCRIPT: How Russia Abuses Western Judiciaries
DATE: 6:00 pm-7:00 pm, 30th April 2019
VENUE: Committee Room 9, House of Commons
SPEAKER: Bill Browder, Anders Aslund, Ben Emmerson QC
EVENT CHAIR: Christopher Bryant MP
Chris Bryant MP: Right everybody, now that everyone has had their close-up done and all the rest of it we’re going to start, we’ve tried to start as ‘on-time’ as we possibly can, and we’ve got the room until 7, so we have to be fairly clean with our time. My name is Chris Bryant, I’m MP for Rhondda, I used to be a minister in the foreign office and had responsibility for Russia amongst other places, I’m chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Russia, and it’s in that capacity that I’m chairing this, this evening. I’m regularly asked by hard line left wingers to resign my association with the Henry Jackson Society, and I regularly tell them to… go away, [audience laughs] because I just don’t like people telling me what I should think and what I shouldn’t think, and who I should associate with and who I shouldn’t. My personal experience with the Henry Jackson Society, incidentally apart from the fact that nearly everybody who attacks me about the Henry Jackson Society seems to forget which political party he belonged to but anyway, but my personal experience is that this is one of the few organisations that has repeatedly and consistently, for a very long time, raised issues about Russia and what I would call the ‘regime’ in Russia, in British politics, so I think that they deserve a round of applause for that [audience claps].
So I’m not going to give long introductions to the people who are going to speak tonight because you’ve come here because you know who they are already and you want to hear what they’ve got to say, but it’s quite clear that the issue of Russia’s abuse of our, what I call our ‘soft underbelly’: the rule of law and the way we do our business and our freedom of speech and freedom of association, is part of the kind of ‘hybrid warfare’ that is being engaged in against countries like the United Kingdom, and for some reason we seem to get more of it than many other countries. Interestingly I started this morning chairing a meeting with the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who was talking about the Church in Russia and in Ukraine, and some of the abuse of nationalism, and the abuse of Christianity in essence, in those two countries, so it’s been quite a Russian day for me, although I have a bit of Latin America in the afternoon on the foreign affairs committee. So Anders is going to be speaking to us first this evening, Anders Aslund, who is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He tells me he’s been living in Washington for 25 years, I’m sure that politics has gotten quieter and quieter in all the time that you’ve been there, but you have advised Kyrgyzstan so you’re probably used to dealing with Trump as well. So Anders, over to you first.
Anders Aslund: Thank you very much, I’m very happy for this invitations from the Henry Jackson Society and that we focus on Russia today, I have just written a new book, ‘Russia’s Crony Capitalism, the Path from Market Economy to Kleptocracy’, that is being published next month, also here in Britain at the end of the month, and my message in this book is that Putin has completely destroyed the Russian economic system and political system. Russia today is an authoritarian kleptocracy, and I emphasise the economic part of it, kleptocracy, authoritarianism, you know well what it is. What Putin has done is, with consolidation of his control of the state in his first term, he then consolidated control over the state companies in his second term, and with that he packed the big state companies own money, which moved to his, we can say five closest cronies, business friends from St Petersburg from the 80s and 90s, and how do these people make the money? They make the money by privileged state procurement, particularly from Gazprom and other state companies. So my good, late friend, Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Milov, they calculated that during the four years, 2004-2007, Putin’s four closest friends in the commercial area, took out $60 billion from Gazprom, and this has continued, and this is not only Gazprom, but Gazprom is a big source of money. You who follow it on the stock market can see that Gazprom’s market capitalisation goes down from $369 billion at the top in May 2008, to currently about $60 billion. It has fallen by $310 billion dollars. This money has essentially gone into the pockets of Putin and his friends. My assessment is that they’ve taken out $15-25 billion each year since 2006, when they really got the machine going. This is what the Putin regime is about, and what do they do with the money? The peculiarity is that Russia does not have any property rights, that’s what Bill will talk about, because Putin controls the courts. If Putin would lose power, god forbid for him, then he would also lose all his property that he has in Russia, so therefore Putin and his friends keep the money abroad. It flows out through money laundering, typically through Cyprus, but not only, on to the British Virgin Islands, on to the Cayman Islands and then mainly to two big addresses: London and Wilmington Delaware. So the money goes into these countries, why? Because the Russians have lots of money. Normal assessments of private Russian holdings abroad is today: $800 billion. Say that a bit less than half belongs to Putin and his friends, perhaps $400 billion, perhaps $300 billion, and Putin’s share of that, my assessment is $100-160 billion. What do you do with such amounts of money?
Well you want to hide it because otherwise you lose it. How can you hide it? Best in real estate. The more return you get from real estate, the easier, and hear you see all these buildings standing empty, in Miami, in New York and Belgravia. This is how this money is being placed, and the question is what can be done to cure this? Transparency. To prohibit non-mass ownership, reveal all beneficiary owners. That’s the cure. And why is it so important to do so? Well, it’s a matter of national security, because Putin’s system of kleptocracy does not deliver economic growth. Russia’s average economic growth over the last decade has been 1% a year. That can’t satisfy anybody. The standard of living, real disposable income for the last five years has fallen by, officially by 13%, which is probably underestimated. So how can you keep the people satisfied? If you can’t deliver bread, you need more circus. What is circus? Well it turns out that what was really successful for Putin’s popularity was the war in Georgia in August, 2008. That took his popularity ratings to 88% and increased the same popularity rating with the annexation Crimea in March, 2014.
So how do we stop it? By exposing the money, and this is why in the U.S. now it’s discussed: ‘establish Putin’s net worth, and reveal the net wealth,’ and the crucial question is that beneficiary ownership is revealed everywhere. The European Union has adopted several anti-money laundering directives, the last one, the 5th from June last year, falls on all member countries within a few years, is established, registers of all beneficiary owners in those countries, and Britain is following in this. I think that this wealth… what is it called? Wealth…
Chris Bryant MP: Money laundering act.
Bill Browder: Unexpected wealth order or something.
Anders Aslund: Unexplained wealth order is an important step. In the U.S. it’s now discussed as serious in the congress, in the house, to introduce clear registries of beneficiary owners, and this is the way forward. Just as a bridge to Bill Browder’s presentation let me say, what do these people do, the rulers in the Kremlin? They indulge in corporate raiding. Dukos was the first big case, Bill’s Magnitsky case is another, but this is time and time again. This is what is happening all the time, because it comes from FSB, the secret police, it comes from the ports, it comes from the tax authorities and the prosecutors, and other law enforcement agencies.
What they do next is that they go abroad, to look for that money that they chased out of the money and they try to steal it. So first the Russian authorities declare a company in bankruptcy, in Russia, and next they claim this, for example through U.S. courts, that’s where I have encountered it, that we have not been paid in the bankruptcy, and since these are state authorities the U.S. courts tend to look upon this as a serious matter, and the people who have chased out of the country, they are then being declared ‘wanted’ with red notices that are going through Interpol, and with the current immigration policy of the United States, if you have red notice, for whatever the reason, and you don’t have a clear immigration status in the U.S., you are put into prison, straightforwardly like that and it’s very difficult to get out. So what we need to do is reveal all the Russian private wealth held by Putin and his people, this is a matter of national security.
Chris Bryant MP: Okay, thank you very much. Incidentally I hope you won’t if I mention that Johnathan Djanogly, who’s one of my Conservative colleagues, who’s here tonight with us, he’s played quite an important role in trying to bring forward some of the transparency issues that you referred to, not least in relation to the overseas territories, which we’ve been banging on about for some considerable time, and I thought it was just a bit, there’s been a plan I think to have a street in Kensington and Chelsea named after Boris Nemtsov, but I think that that’s fallen hasn’t it? The council have turned it down but maybe we will manage to turn that around, and when you refer to Georgia and also of course the war in Ukraine and seizing Crimea, I tried to explain this recently to somebody by saying Calais in France used to be part of the United Kingdom, it used to send two members of Parliament to the House of Commons here, so it would be like saying we’re going to take Calais back, because once upon a time it used to send MP’s here, which is not a bad idea actually but I think it might disturb the balance of power in NATO so we’re probably not going to do that.
Bill Browder needs no introduction, I first met him in 2009, my officials in the Foreign Office told me I shouldn’t meet with him because he was terribly tedious, he just kept on going on about Russia all the time, and thank god for that! So Bill, over to you.
Bill Browder: So, Chris, Chris by the way has, since 2009 has been one of my most stalwart partners in my fight for justice for Sergei Magnitski and it’s his work, together with Johnathan and a few great MP’s that has gotten the Magnitsky Act passed last summer, here in the United Kingdom which is the sixth country that has a Magnitsky Act and so I owe a lot to you and your really great work, and the Henry Jackson Society who stood with me at every step of the way, making this thing happen. Anders what an excellent presentation and it’s so clear what Putin is up to and it’s really nice to hear someone else in their analysis that isn’t mine, basically coming to the same conclusion. I say that Putin is worth $200 billion, that’s the only difference, but $160 is not that far off.
What I’d like to talk about today is why Anders is right about his analysis, and I am a living example of why his analysis is true. Basically Putin is all about money, he’s all about stealing money and keeping it in the West, and as probably most of you know, what I’ve been all about for the last ten years is coming up with a piece of legislation named after my lawyer, Sergei Magnitski, who was murdered in a Russian prison, which seizes the illicit property of Putin and his cronies. The Magnitsky Act freezes assets and bans visas. And the reason why we know Anders is right, is how absolutely crazy and apoplectic Putin has gotten about the Magnitski Act, which feeds right into the title of today’s talk, which is: The Weaponization of the Russian Legal System, because I’ve been the one going around the world, trying to get Magnitski Acts passed, first in the United States and then in Canada, then in the Baltic’s and then here. Putin has used every possible tool, or I should say ‘abused’ every possible tool in the legal system to go after me.
So the most famous tool that he’s used against me is Interpol. I have a book that’s called Red Notice, which is named after an Interpol red notice. I wrote the book in 2014, when Russia had issued two red notices or got Interpol twice to get red notices issued against me. The book was published in 2015 and since then, in total, Russia has issued or made seven requests to have me arrested through Interpol. The most recent request was two weeks ago, and Interpol continues to consider Russia’s requests each time they make them. And one would think that, I should say Interpol has a constitution that says that it shouldn’t be abused for political or illegitimate purposes, and Interpol ruled after the first Russian request that it was illegitimate and politically motivated. Interpol ruled after the second request that it was politically motivated, the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and Russia just keeps on pulling the chain hoping that, maybe it’ll work this time. But if there was ever a description of how a country has abused the international justice system, I’m the case and Russia is the example.
But it’s not just Interpol. The Russian government has come to the British government twelve times to request mutual legal assistance and extradition in my case. The Russian government through proxies has sued me in British court for libel. They got out a police officer, his name is Pavel Karpov, the guys earns, I think, less than a thousand dollars a month and he hired Andrew Caldecott QC, who charges £1000 an hour, to sue me for libel. His case was dismissed by the court as an abuse of process, and he left me with a £600,000 bill that he was supposed to pay, the loser was supposed to pay, and this police officer disappeared into the ether and thankfully, I haven’t been able to exercise this yet, but if he ever sets foot in this country there’s an arrest warrant to have Major Pavel Karpov of the Russian Interior Ministry arrested.
But it wasn’t just that. I was also, Anders mentioned bankruptcy, in Russia they created a bunch of fake tax liabilities against me, or against my companies. They accused me of tax evasion, they sentenced me twice to Russian prison for tax evasion and then they pursued me using a fake bankruptcy based on these fake liabilities in Russia to come to the British bankruptcy courts, and again I had to go through the whole process, the court rejected it as an abuse of process, it took about a year and a half. Thankfully in this particular case the more than million pounds we paid was reimbursed because they had to, and they continue to chase me around the world, in all sorts of different ways, and so one of my big messages and one of the things which I try to communicate around the world is that if you’re normally a judge sitting in a country and you see a warrant and you see a judgement from another country you just assume it’s legitimate because everyone’s honest in all countries right? But that’s not the way it works with Russia and I think that as time goes on the world is waking up to these abuses but many other people, I’m just the most vocal example, but many other people are subject to these Interpol abuses, they’re subject to these bankruptcy abuses, they’re subject to libel abuses, and Russia really has weaponised the international justice system in order to try to chase their enemies.
But whenever I’m feeling bad about myself and all these efforts that I have to go through, I do have this one feeling of goodness which is that they wouldn’t be doing all this stuff if I hadn’t really touched a nerve, and there’s this expression that someone made after Putin brought me up at the Helsinki summit with Trump, when he asked Trump to hand me over last summer, and there’s this expression that I’m living rent free in Putin’s head, and so I do take some pride in that [audience laughs]. Thank you very much.
Chris Bryant MP: Thanks very much Bill, and we are all very proud of the work that you’ve done and that you’ve managed to extend that across the world. Bizarrely one of the days when you were arrested we were both in Madrid weren’t we?
Bill Browder: Yes.
Chris Bryant MP: And it was the day that Pedro Sanchez became the Spanish Prime Minister, and bizarrely I had met him the week before and he had given me his mobile number when he had no expectation of becoming Spanish Prime Minister. So as soon as somebody rang on behalf of Bill I rang Pedro Sanchez, and he said “well I’m a little busy at the moment because it’s the vote of no confidence now.” Anyway…
Bill Browder: I still got out of jail.
Chris Bryant MP: He still got out of jail yes, and I’ve been claiming it ever since but it was nothing to do with me really. Ben Emerson is a judge and a n… I was going to say ‘notorious’ but I mean ‘noticed’ human rights lawyer, he’s a prosecutor as well, most importantly to me he’s a fellow at Mansfield College Oxford which is where i studied so he’s a very fine man. So Ben, over to you.
Ben Emerson QC: Good evening. My point of entry to this conversation is as, as Chris said, a lawyer, but one who, over a period of time, has found himself more and more drawn into litigating cases in which important interests of the Russian state, quite close to Vladimir Putin, are at stake, beginning with my dear friend and client Maria Litvinenko who is here with us this evening, and the representation of her and her son Anatoly in the public inquiry into the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, which I think for the purposes of the topic this evening is quite an important watershed in our understanding in this country at least, of the extent to which Putin’s Russia is properly regarded as being a mafia state. That is what the Litvinenko inquiry and investigation was fundamentally all about. Sacha Litvinenko was murdered because he had worked in a department in the FSB investigating organised crime and Putin’s links to organised crime where a subject on which he was an authority. He has personally been, since the time when he was responsible for supervising the trafficking of heroin through St. Petersburg docks as the mayor of St. Petersburg and then subsequently he had his rise to prominence within the FSB, committing multiple murders and covering up others of political opponents of those to whom he was closely allied.
And I think our understanding of Russian history is coloured by a lack of true knowledge of the Russian people and the Russian political machinery in the past, and I think it’s very important to understand that we’re not here talking about an indictment of the Russian people or even necessarily of the Russian political system or of the Russian institutions. What we’re talking about is an allegation, undoubtedly well established, that those who have been in power during, immediately before and since the rise of Vladimir Putin, and the cabal that surround him are, put simply, a group of organised criminals. In other words, we have for the first time, a situation in which a major superpower, with access to all of the institutions that the international legal order has available to states, being controlled and weaponised by what Anders rightly calls an authoritarian kleptocracy.
This is the use of mechanisms, which are normally entrusted to states under principles of comity of nations, ‘we’re a state, you’re a state, we expect you to behave like a state and we trust you,’ and as a result, for example, in Interpol, a state makes a request that somebody should be arrested and Interpol duly diffuses that request throughout all the police forces in the member states that are a part of the organisation or indeed issues a red notice as they have done in Bill’s case many times, and nobody seriously doubts, either in Bill’s case or in the case of many other people who are either dissidents or opponents of the regime, that it is a clear policy of Putin’s Russia to abuse those systems for the purpose of hounding those who they perceive to be a political threat.
I mean Bill didn’t mention this directly but I mean he has the unique moniker, and you’ll all remember watching Trump and Putin, in that gut wrenching Sochi summit in which Trump claimed to know that his own intelligence services were wrong in assessing that the Russian government had meddled in the 2016 election that brought him to power, and then came out the next day saying that what he said had a ‘not’ missing from the sentence [audience laughs], but what everybody knows is that there was at that moment of time, where Robert Mueller had identified a significant number of officials, against whom there was sufficient evidence to bring a charge of interference in the 2016 election and the U.S. formally wanted access to those individuals, to interview them and the response which Trump thought was a very generous offer, was Putin would let American interrogators travel to Russia to interview them under conditions of Russia which I’ll come to in a minute, providing the Americans handed over a list of people that he most wanted to get his hands on, and who do you think was at the top of the list [audience laughs]? Bill Browder was the first name on the list.
He’s Russia’s, in effect, most wanted political asset, in terms of those who are overseas, and it’s an illustration of what we’re dealing with because, you know, we know and I’m not going to mention names in this context, but we know that there are members, certainly of one house if not both houses of this building, who have accepted funding from Russian interests very close to Vladimir Putin, and who have then as it happens, lobbied on behalf of people associated with those interests for a variety of purposes including, for example, the removal of sanctions, and the extent to which Russian money has penetrated Western democracy is a subject of fantastic levels of concern amongst those who are really aware of it. There’s not simply suborning the international legal system, the opportunities for mutual legal assistance, the Interpol system, extradition, none of which should be made available to Russia under any circumstances under the current regime, because you are simply handing people over into the clutches of the criminals who are seeking them.
But more fundamentally, there’s been a concerted effort to undermine the structures of our democracy, both here and in the United States, and throughout our democracies in Europe. Taking advantage of the destabilising effect of social media, or established political forces in Western democracies, the Russian regime has quite consciously, quite deliberately and in a way which is thoroughly well organised at the centre, sets about seeking to manipulate, using modern forms of technology, the electorate in order to identify schisms in opinion and widen them. Brexit is an example, the election of Donald Trump is an example, it’s impossible forensically to measure what the result would have been without Russian interference in those democratic exercises, but we know that the Russian agenda in both is the one that the election finally or the referendum finally produced, so I don’t think anybody who understands the extent and scale of this would regard it with any renimity or as anything other than the gravest threat to democracy that the world has faced in the last hundred years.
So to that extent, and again stand back and I’d then turn to my experience as a lawyer, and I’ll just sum it up for you really with one or two examples. Traditionally, I think it’s probably fair to say, the strategy of many states, but certainly of Russian international relations, when it did bad things, which many states have done, was a strategy of plausible deniability. So yes you would perhaps murder an opponent, you would conduct an operation against a spy, but it would be plausibly deniable. You might use paramilitaries in wars like the Georgian invasion to commit the worst atrocities, people who weren’t in uniform, but where effectively taking orders from people who were, plausible deniability. What we’ve seen as part of the philosophy that underlines Vladimir Putin’s rise to power, is a shift from plausible deniability, to implausible deniability, and what I mean by that and I’ll give some examples in a moment or two, is the adoption of public positions that make it absolutely clear that Putin doesn’t give a damn whether what he’s saying is believed as the literal truth, indeed it works just as well if everybody in the world knows that it is a lie, because the entire purpose of what is called, and we’ve talked about multiple forms of warfare, I mean the label as it’s understood in the Russian political sphere is the Gerasimov doctrine, it’s trying to fight a war, not with solely military means but with propaganda, with psychological means, with assassinations, with economic manipulation, with waves of laundered dirty money, organised crime and so on.
So I’ll just give you three examples from my own experience and then wrap up. When we began a long journey together, Marina Litvinenko and I, to try to first of all get a public inquiry in the face of opposition by David Cameron and Theresa May who tried to keep the whole situation under wraps for many years and were only dragged kicking and screaming to a public inquiry through a judicial review ruling that overturned Theresa May’s refusal to hold a public inquiry, it was a hell of a fight to even get the public inquiry in the first place, and Marina had to put her home on the line because the government said they would take her home if she lost, so that’s how far she was prepared to fight for it and I think we all owe her a huge debt of gratitude for the courage that she showed in that because it was the first moment when the lawlessness of the Russian Federation’s approach met the rule of law and British justice, it’s the first time when the sharp end came into contact, unstoppable force meets immovable object, and it took us a hell of a lot to get us there because as I say the British government did not want that point to arrive.
They did not want the rubber to hit the road, and they tried everything they could, made up all sorts of silly reasons inviting her avoiding the public inquiry, but finally the judges in effect ordered them to hold one, and when we did, when we went for them we were dealing with two absolutely, clearly identified murderers who’d been sent by Moscow to London, and had left a trail of evidence around London of Polonium traces, like the breadcrumbs left by Hansel and Gretel to find their way back out of the wood. I mean there was no question about… you could trace them from the airlines that carried them to the UK, to the tube trains and buses that travelled to their hotel, down the u-bend of their hotel sinks and right the way through to the day in which they were seen on TV, on CCTV, administering the poison in a teapot during a meeting with Alexander Litvinenko. So there wasn’t any doubt in the end about the facts of who committed the murder. The big issue was could it be shown that they were acting on the orders of the Russian state, and that in effect is what that inquiry was really, deeply all about.
So you can see that it’s an inquiry that would have attracted Vladimir Putin’s personal attention, because clearly a decision like that couldn’t be taken, no FSB officer would go and kill somebody in London, knowing that the consequences to them would be potentially fatal if it was done against Putin’s wishes, so it had to have Putin’s consent and approval, and the evidence showed, over time, that it was absolutely clear that’d been sent with the authority of the FSB and very probably with Vladimir Putin’s personal authority as well as the judge eventually found, but along the way we had a catalogue of manipulation by the so called ICRA, which is the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, supposedly conducting their own investigation, but in fact in everything they possibly could at every stage they sought to obstruct the investigation so British officers weren’t given the opportunity to interview the culprits, airlines were suddenly… disappeared and not searched, and so on and so forth. Every opportunity was taken to try and throw a spanner in the process, to obstruct the outcome that was grinding forward through a painstaking British investigation.
Two moments that stand out for me as evidence of this where the very first day when I made my opening speech, and I explained what it was that Litvinenko was investigating and how he was co-operating with the authorities, the intelligence services here and the Spanish police, looking at the Putin cabal’s links to organised crime, particularly in Europe, not only in Spain but also here, and that in effect we all needed to recognise that Vladimir Putin was no more than a common criminal dressed up as a head of state, and that went out as a kind of telegraphed headline as those things kind of tend to do, and that night for the first time, two Russian F-16 fighters were sent into Cornish airspace to buzz the coast of Cornwall, and I remember think, ‘blimey, they’re really serious,’ and what became clear over time, and we’ve heard reports from inside Russia, was that they just couldn’t believe that Cameron couldn’t just pick up the phone to a judge and say “stop this.” They didn’t understand that there was actually an independent judicial process that could hold the government to account and drive an agenda that was not immediately under executive control.
But the other moment for me which was absolutely crippling, and in the end turned out I think to be one of the most probative pieces of evidence establishing that Putin did know, and had sent the people concerned, was that on the day after the court had heard in public all of the evidence which proved absolutely, inconclusively that Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitri Kovtun, the two assassins, had committed the murder. There was no question about that, it simply wasn’t an issue, but when that evidence came out in public the first act that Vladimir Putin did was to pin a medal for services to the motherland on to the chest of Andrei Lugovoi, that day while the inquiry was continuing, and you begin to see that this is deliberately cocking the snoot, and we’ve seen it again and again and again, look at the scribble situation. Putin goes on television, says “we’ve identified the two men whose photographs are seen, they’re civilians, they had nothing to do with it. They should voluntarily come forward and be interviewed.” The men voluntarily come forward and be interviewed, say “we’re civilians, we’re on holiday. We’re visiting Salisbury because there are one hundred and seventy two steps up the cathedral spire.” Three weeks later, the fabulous Bellingcat, open source research organisation, identifies them as members of Russian military intelligence, the GRU, and the next thing you know, there’s another bunch of clowns from the GRU who are arrested in Holland, in the Hague, just outside the chemical weapons inspectorate, trying to eavesdrop on the investigation that they’re conducting into the use of, as in the case of Mr. Litvinenko, the use of a chemical weapon on the streets of another member state.
And again, I also act for the government of Georgia in its interstate litigation against Russia arising out of the Georgian war, the invasion of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and there I mean literally you had evidence hearings in which Russian generals, presented with pictures, videos, testimony, autopsies and forensic investigation conducted by Dutch investigators who have no dog in the fight, showing that they sent an Iskander missile, which is only available to Russian armed forces, right into the civilian centre of Gori town square, which is an area of Georgia which was loyal to the government and killed a number of civilians including a Dutch camera man. The general in charge said to me, “I think that that photograph shows a fake Iskander missile made of cardboard.” [audience laughs] I mean literally, it’s like even an attempt to make a serious lie… I mean you must say the same thing about coming back to Interpol, whenever it was only this year, I mean, what’s the point of them continuing to make applications to Interpol about Bill Browder, when they know that everyone knows that that’s a political witch hunt.
It’s all about basically telling us all that our institutions don’t matter, it’s about destabilisation, and as I say the last example is Ukraine, so I represent the government of Ukraine in its interstate litigation against Russia from the annexation of Crimea and the invasion of eastern Ukraine, and the downing of MH17, another example of Russian action against a civilian aircraft, which for several years, have been denied by the Russian authorities, in the face of evidence that makes it very clear it came from a Russian rocket launcher, and the arrest of the sailors in the sea of Azov, and over and over again… I mean… When I first became a barrister, let me tell you, you used to go to the Crown Court and the Magistrates Court, and you used to cross examine policeman who’d arrested someone on a burglary or a robbery or an assault or whatever, and they’d be lying, completely unnecessarily, because usually the person, you know, they’d arrested was guilty, but there was just a gilding of the lily that happened all the time, routinely, and it was like, cross examining a policeman in those days was like taking candy from a baby, you know because they were just… I don’t know… They would just fall over themselves with idiotic lies. Now it’s completely different, I mean in the last 35 years, you know, policemen by and large don’t lie on the witness box, but dealing with Russia, here in this country, dealing with Russia is like dealing with a rookie policeman, the lies, there’s no attempt to make it credible, and you have to ask yourself why.
So to my mind the crucial message that needs to be sent out and fully taken on board and recognised by government, by Parliament and by democratic society in the West generally is that, you know, this is not a situation where there is the odd, isolated act of lawlessness, this is a situation where the entire apparatus of state has been suborned by an organised criminal gang, and the consequences of that for international cooperation, for democracy and for the rule of law are obviously devastating, and it’s critical that people are generally able to wake up to that.
Chris Bryant MP: Thanks very much. [Audience claps] We’re going to take some questions now and I’m slightly conscious that this is a very male panel here, so I will exercise some discretion in inviting female members, but I just want to add that Richard Benyon’s joined us as well, who’s another Conservative colleague from Parliament, who has also been involved in many of these battles of the Magnitsky Act, on transparency and other things as well. So I’m still trying to exercise some discretion towards women, if any… so this lady at the front there, and you might need to speak up a bit.
Audience member: Thank you for the really, really good speeches, I’m just an ex-Russian university graduate who’s just interested, and I have a question for Anders firstly. So you said that we need to do is reveal or prove that this money is being held in the Cayman’s or wherever, is really owned by Putin and his cronies, but the Russian population seem to be so utterly convinced that this is all propaganda against them and anything we’re saying so far is just to build a case against their country and you know, if we put together, if we had share registers and we had things that prove, that have these people’s names on them, they’re just going to say that they’re fake documents, they’re going to say that, you know, we just doctored this in order to make, increase our argument.
Chris Bryant MP: Okay.
Audience member: Do you think there’s a chance that that could really convince the population and if not then what could? What could turn the tide?
Chris Bryant MP: Okay, Anders?
Anders Aslund: Yeah I think that there’s a good chance that we can see this wonderful film by Alexei Navalny about Prime Medvedev’s corruption to the tune of only $1.2 billion dollars, and Russians ask, “how come he didn’t make more money being prime minister?” and I think that this is very effective and strangely these are allowed o be shown, so I think that it eats through, the transparency’s really working, and the effective opposition today, to my mind, is Alexei Navalny and his anti-corruption work, so we should keep on working. I could mention the second biggest investor in U.S. securities is Cayman Islands, where the 60,000 inhabitants has $1.7 trillion dollars of investment in U.S. securities, all anonymous. We don’t know whom it belongs to, and it’s probably Russian/Chinese Americans.
Euan Grant: Yeah, now there’s a man who seems to have chopped his arm off and stuck it on a pole so over there. We’d better ask him before it breaks off. No the one next to you I’m afraid. Yes.
Audience member: Thank you very much indeed. Very, very powerful, thank you. The name’s Euan Grant, I’m a former customs and excise intelligence analyst for transnational organised crime in the ex-Soviet states. I first looked at Cyprus in 1999, in the context of the planned delivery of the S300 missiles to Cyprus, and I felt then that the right question was not being asked, it is not whether these missile would be delivered by Russia, to Cyprus, it was we should think very hard about how Cyprus is able to afford them as I think the gentleman’s just explained why. There was a deal done involving safe havens. My question is for all of you but it’s very much related to the money flows and the lady’s point. Clearly we’re really looking at this as a strategic political problem because it’s not primarily… conventional law enforcement is going to produce Russian sponsors, you’ve made that very, very clear. So how well are we in the English speaking world coordinating with the Western European countries, whom frankly I don’t think have addressed this problem as well as they should have done, although Spain is trying very hard. I would draw your attention to the failure of the decision on Danske Bank to stop in criminal investigation and look again. We’ve got to look in a different way altogether. Thank you.
Chris Bryant MP: Bill do you want to start with that?
Bill Browder: So I think that the… It’s very interesting because there’s a quote from Garry Kasparov, which comes back to this Russian military philosophy that ‘we don’t have to fight them anymore with tanks, we can fight them in the banks,’ and at the moment as Anders said, I can’t remember his exact number but I estimate about a trillion dollars has left Russia from the proceeds of crime over the last 20 years, and they can’t just send that money from Russia to London to buy property because the banks won’t take it here, and so it poked around and found the weak links. The weak links they found were Cyprus, in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, and interestingly those weak links in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, oftentimes were banks that were owned by Swedish banks and Danish banks, Danske Bank is now one of the largest, is involved in one of the largest money laundering scandals in the history of Europe. Swedbank, Odea Bank. And what we’re discovering is that different pockets of the western banking system have been fully corrupted in order to allow the Russians to get all of their money out, but there is an upside to this whole thing which is that money leaves an indelible trail. Once money has been transferred, there is no way of deleting it.
That is what our transfer notices, and so in the context of Magnitsky case over the last nine and a half years, we’ve been tracing the money that Sergei Magnitsky was killed over and we found it in a lot of different countries. There are now sixteen money laundering investigations opened. The one country that hasn’t opened an investigation is the United Kingdom, but most other countries in Europe who have found the money have, and that drives Putin crazy and in fact it was the Magnitsky case which was the first criminal complaint about Danske Bank which led to, we complained about $200 million dollars that was laundered through Danske Bank and now there’s a $234 billion scandal in Danske Bank, and so I believe that eventually all of this will come out in the wash and as time goes on, as transparency becomes more clear, all the people who got this money are going to have a hard time holding on to it.
Chris Bryant MP: I’m going to sort of ask a question to all three of you which is, we talked about British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands which is overseas territory, Cyprus, a member of the Commonwealth. It feels all quite, Britishy.
Bill Browder: Forget about all those places, London…
Chris Bryant MP: Britain, yeah, yeah, no exactly…
Bill Browder: London is… I mean before we even start criticising the British Virgin Islands we should get our own house in order and we absolutely don’t have our house in order and this place is an absolute magnet. If you want to launder money, come to London because nothing will happen to you.
Chris Bryant MP: And why is that?
Bill Browder: It is because there is no prosecutorial culture here in the law enforcement agencies. The numbers are something like half a million suspicious activity reports are filed by banks with the national crime agency, and I believe that there’s less than a dozen prosecutions, so that means almost everybody gets away with it. Why is there only a dozen prosecutions? It’s not because you don’t want to prosecute, I know every Member of Parliament is banging on the tables saying “prosecute!” And then the members of Parliament are then heard by the ministers of government and the ministers, Ben Wallace, banging on the table saying “let’s prosecute!” But by the definition of law enforcement it’s separate from politics and separate from government, and the people in charge of law enforcement don’t prosecute. So I think you should fire the head of the national crime agency, [audience laughs] because you have the capacity to demand that of the government and the government has the capacity to…
Anders Aslund: Well as the non-lawyer here perhaps I should speak before the lawyer so that he can correct me, but it’s very much with the Anglo-American law that allows a lot of different LNC’s with anonymous companies and trusts which are not typical of continental legislation. In particular, I’m Swedish, in Sweden everything is public since 1766, and the same in Denmark from 1771, so you don’t really see that. We have other problems as money laundering…
Bill Browder: You’ve got Swedbanks.
Anders Aslund: Yeah but basically ownership is public since that period. And another problem now is Canada, has big problem with money laundering from China in Vancouver real estate, which has been a big scandal recently, so these are coming more and more and there for one has to stop it, it’s money laundering, it is the question of anonymous ownership and various countries have introduced it for example, Scottish Partnerships, which popped up in, what was it, 2008 or so, novelty through which tens of billions of dollars of Russian money has been laundered or hidden, so one has established completely new standards of openness given that money moves so fast.
Chris Bryant: Ben.
Ben Emmerson QC: I’ll just add one perspective to this, which is that I do not believe it is entirely accidental that the United Kingdom has become a hub for Russian money launderers. I think it is the deliberate result or the acceptable collateral damage that successive governments of both political hues have accepted for success in the city of London. The deregulation of the city under Gordon Brown was no different to the general approach in the Conservative Party, and both have been greedy for more business in London. The result has been that people have been, Russians have been allowed to slang off vast sums of money into everything from businesses to housing. The cost of housing has gone up as a direct result of the upward pull of that flowing money into the country and if you want to test my theory, look at what’s happened since the Skripal case.
The difference between Litvinenko in 2006, inquiry in 2015, and the Skripal case, is that when the Skripal case happened, it was perfectly obvious to the Prime Minister that she had no choice but to take it seriously because she failed to do anything in the context of the Litvinenko inquiry, either before or after. The inquiry reported she tried to stop it in the first place, the government promised measures that would be taken in retribution and retaliation but did nothing, and instead when Skripal happened and effectively the same action had been repeated, we suddenly got a wake up call, there were expulsions, there was a diplomatic initiative, there were coordinated actions with the Americans, with the security council. There was an attempt to reform the visa system so that people who were making use of it to bring vast sums of Russian money into London and were given free visas because of their wealth had their visas revoked, we know about the position of Abramovich for example.
And so all of those measures were sitting on the table waiting to be taken. There are many, many more that can and should be taken, but they weren’t being taken before, just as they’re not being fully taken now, because those who benefit from a prosperous city, including the politicians on all sides who want to be able to say the United Kingdom is prospering, and they’re prepared to take the cost of that in terms of allowing and facilitating and enabling an organised criminal gang to take control of the financial systems. So that I think is a very serious dimension to this, because the reason why events like tonight matter, is because they raise consciousness. Governments and political leaders can’t continue to hide and say they’re unaware of it with nothing that can be done or it’s over complicated. Of course there’s more that could be done, but it does involve accepting a hit because the more regulation there is on investment in the city of London, the harder it is for Russian money to come in but the less money the city makes, and it’s not a party political point, but, you know, when Labour was in power they were all for deregulation of the city, so it’s not something which can be laid exclusively at one political party or another.
Chris Bryant MP: We need to get a move on a bit now, so I’m going to ask everybody to be fairly short if that’s possible. So there’s the lady, and I’m going to take several questions now and then come to the panel, so the lady at the front here first. Yeah. Yes, you. Sorry I’m slightly cross eyed so that lady there.
Audience member: This question’s for Bill. One of the examples that came to mind when you were talking about Russia targeting investors was Michael Calvey, I wanted to kind of ask your opinion on that, and also just the impact on investive sentiment, some other American investors were investing in the 90’s.
Chris Bryant MP: And the chap behind.
Audience member: This is a question for Bill as well. You’ve talked a lot about the geopolitical stuff and the state stuff, and I’m just curious about the… (unintelligible) I don’t know how many red notes there is now, or what effect it’s had on you personally and whether it’s ever made you think about stopping what it is you’re doing today, because the bullying tactics seem to have been designed to do that, but you’re not. Would you always put… (unintelligible)?
Chris Bryant MP: Made him very shy and retiring. The gentleman over there.
Audience member: Stephen Yale, long term Russia watcher. Bill, was a QC who took on a case, such as the libel case against you, with someone who clearly couldn’t pay, greedy, corrupt or stupid? [audience laughs]
Chris Bryant MP: Yes.
Audience member: Hi, Craig… (unintelligible), thank you very much… (unintelligible) Just like to ask, the question really here is whether or not… transparency is fantastic, it’s to be applauded, but will that be applied to all foreign investors, for example Saudi, Israeli, or the same to create scrutiny that’s been applied to Chinese and Russians be applied to others because I think it’s admirable, but I think it should be.
Chris Bryant MP: Andrew Nye.
Andrew Nye: Yes, actually the first one’s to you Mr. Chairman, which is…
Chris Bryant MP: Oh no.
Andrew Nye: You’ve been involved in the centre for European reform. They have estimated you’ve been working quite hard on the foreign office to speed up the roll out of transparency of ownership to the overseas territories and the crown dependencies. Are you making any progress? Is there anything else that Parliament can do to force the governments hand on this?
Chris Bryant MP: I’ll do that one last, and I want to… is there anybody else? There’s the gentleman there.
Audience member: Question for Mr. Browder. Why has he been on you, Mr. Browder? You were a big investor in Russia, and the Magnitsky money didn’t go to Putin $230 million dollars, didn’t go to Putin. Who benefited from that? Why has he got it in for you? And it could be very, very self-damaging for himself so far… (unintelligible) by persecuting you in this way, so why?
Chris Bryant MP: And I’m going to, unless there’s anybody else I’m going to add one other question to the mix, which is, I just wonder, obviously Marina’s, I remember when Marina was first trying to get the inquiry, you know it took a long time, a lot of argument and at one point there was even an argument that we shouldn’t have one because it would damage relations with Russia, that was an actual argument advanced by the British government!
Ben Emmerson QC: It was the basis for the decision!
Chris Bryant MP: Yes!
Ben Emmerson QC: It was the basis for Theresa May’s decision not to order an inquiry.
Chris Bryant MP: Yes, exactly, which is just quite extraordinary it seems to me, but I want to ask now should there not be some kind of legal process in relation Skripal? Because one of the advantages was that we were able to show that there was a proper legal process in the United Kingdom, and I just wonder if there should be some kind of process in relation to Skripal now. I’m going to go this way, along the team, so Bill first, answer any of those that you want.
Bill Browder: I’ll answer all of them very quickly, except for one of them. So on Mike Calvey, I was commenting quite loudly about it right after he was arrested, and then I got an email from his wife saying “please don’t advocate for Mike,” because anything I say for Mike Calvey will only harm him and so I’m not going to say anything about Mike Calvey because I don’t want to bring him any further harm than he’s already, than they’ve already done to him. Let me just speak very broadly, the Russian investment climate, there is no investment climate. There are no foreign direct investors in Russia, I mean the amount of foreign direct investors has gone down to effectively zero, except that there’s some small numbers because there’s Russians coming in. It’s a totally inhospitable, uninvestible place.
On the question about the effect of the red notices on me and my psychology, it’s actually just the opposite of demoralising. I’m a worrier now, the first red notice I was terrified and it was upsetting and I was wondering what was going to happen when I crossed the border. The seventh red notice, it’s truly like a… I take it with great pride they feel so intimidated and upset by me that they are just, literally embarrassing themselves. The thing that I actually take even more pride in is the fact that they’ve accused me of murdering and that I’m a serial killer, that the head of the investment committee of Russia has made a formal accusation against me that I killed Sergei Magnitsky and that I killed four other people, including Alexander Perepilichnyy here in London. And so the more crazy they get, the more obvious it is that I’m having an effect, and as an activist, as a human rights and justice campaigner, that’s the best measurement of my success.
On the question of Andrew Caldecott QC charging £1000 per hour for Major Pavel Karpov, it really is a combination of all those things, greedy, corrupt and stupid. There’s this expression amongst QC’s, it’s called the ‘Taxi Rank Principle’. They say “oh of course, we just work with whoever comes along,” which is complete and utter nonsense because I’ve gone to lots of QC’s who won’t have anything to do with me, [audience laughs] and so the Andrew Caldecott QC made a very conscious decision to work with major Karpov, to try to have a perpetrator of a crime come and try to shut up the victim here in the UK, and he made life very difficult for us and thank goodness we prevailed, but he didn’t bear any cost. My £600 thousand is still out of pocket. He got paid and he’s sitting happy in his big house where he lives.
And on the question of who benefited, why is Putin doing this? Who benefited from the $230 million? There was a statement made that Putin didn’t benefit, that’s not true. It’s been proven by the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project that Putin’ nominees, Sergei Rodulgin the cellist, the famous cellist, the $2 billion cellist was a recipient of that money and so Putin was a recipient, which actually explains everything, that if Putin got that money and he understands the Magnitsky Act will freeze the assets and ban the visas of the people who got that money, Putin feels personally as his money, his vast fortune, may eventually be frozen.
Chris Bryant MP: Anders.
Anders Aslund: Yeah let me follow up on this last point, in the Panama Papers it’s clear that $100,000 of the Magnitsky load of $230 million went to Putin. And of course you wonder why? So I asked a wealthy and very smart Russian friend of mine, why? And he said, “You don’t understand. Putin is no thief. A thief wants as much money as possible, from each case. Putin is a racketeer. A racketeer wants to control the turf, and therefore it doesn’t matter how much he gets from each case, but he wants to get something, to show that he’s in charge of the whole game, and I think that makes sense. On transparency, for all. Yes, absolutely. It’s not safer with Saudi money or Chinese money or money from various African dictatorships or Latin American countries, Venezuela is one of the biggest providers of flight capital, and the total amount of money, there are different numbers but at least a trillion dollars.
So this is a huge amount of money, and if you think of, in my own Sweden, an election costs $12 million, which happens to be the money that Aaron Banks put up here in Britain for the Brexit, or in the U.S. it costs $5 billion for a full presidential, congressional election cycle. It’s peanuts in comparison with $800 billion of Russian money. So this can buy democracy everywhere, but its crony capitalists can win in country after country, as we are seeing without naming countries now, so it’s extremely dangerous with this money and therefore we need transparency in political finance, in politician’s incomes and certainly of companies of countries. Thank you.
Christ Bryant MP: Thanks, and Ben.
Ben Emmerson QC: Last comment, I’m just going to touch on that question. Of course we should clean up the world in every respect possible, and if we’ve got money coming in which is dirty from other parts of the world that also needs to be addressed, but Russia’s in a completely different category because the current occupants of the Kremlin and the tentacles that surround them, as both the other speakers have emphasized, are using incomparably vast sums of money, directly to undermine the institutions, both within states that support democracy, like our Parliament, our referendum, the presidential elections in the United States and the intergovernmental institutions of justice and rule of law.
So, you wouldn’t perhaps be surprised if you take as true the thesis that those pulling the levers of power and vast armies of cronies implementing their decisions, from Russia and beyond, are engaged in multiple, overlapping thoroughly dishonest, violent and murderous criminal conspiracies, wiling ruthlessly to kill anybody who gets in their way, or to lie or to abuse or to forge documents in the name of a government, to put forward statements in front of a court. Absolutely you’re dealing with this kind of lawlessness that, I’m not saying there aren’t other examples of it, but it should be a priority. I mean it’s not just Saudi Arabia or some African state without the apparatus to do anything about it. So this is basically a coherent, philosophical, political and criminal movement.
I mean, one of the big problems lying at the heart of this is that Western democracy over congratulated itself on the fall of communism, and came to believe that the values of capitalism and globalisation would always prevail and provide a new dawn for the world, and as a result, the sorts of defences that had existed prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall, were allowed to fall away. Meanwhile the body politic in Russia was rotten, and the criminals were taking control. So the two things together mean that we’ve had 20 years of allowing ourselves to be vulnerable to this. We can hardly complain now that our democracies are being torn apart from the inside. But is isn’t necessarily too late to do anything about it, but when you have members of either house of this Parliament, taking money to lobby on behalf of those who are taking their money from Putin’s corrupt millions, that shouldn’t be a matter of third page news in The Times newspaper, it should be a national scandal, and those who are familiar with him know about whom I’m referring to.
As far as should there be a legal process in the case of Skripal case, undoubtedly there should be. It’s a slightly odd situation because we don’t have access, the public doesn’t have access to the inner workings of the investigation. We know there should be a legal process on the foot in connection with the accidental, incidental killing of Dawn Sturgess, the woman who picked up the perfume bottle in which the novichok had been discarded. So that should be resulting in an inquest, but there’s a wrinkle that seems to have emerged, which is that although the two GRU officers identified as having committed the attempted murder have been charged with attempted murder in their absence, to my understanding at this point in time, they have not been charged in their absence with the murder of Dawn Sturgess. Which is odd, but it may suggest that the police and forensics authorities are not able, they think, to prove that it was the same novichok.
Seems ridiculous given the location and the uniqueness of it, but none of that is to stop a public inquiry. There should be a public inquiry, undoubtedly a statutory public inquiry of the same kind that was established in the Litvinenko case, capable of looking, not just at the evidence that’s in the public domain, but enclosed in private sessions with suitable safeguards for the intelligence material which is held by the British intelligence services and their allies in the intelligence community and the Five Eyes. So I would have thought that the logic of the situation is that a public inquiry is inevitable, the question is, first of all, when? Because it’s not simply, in Mrs Litvinenko’s case she took the responsibility of forcing that, but it’s not a private interest, it’s a national, public interest that she was vindicating. She did it on behalf of us all. It doesn’t seem necessarily that there is the same determination on the part of Mr Skripal or his daughter Yulia, but that should not be a reason for not holding a public inquiry, because the interests in terms of how was this allowed to happen and the issue of Russian state responsibility, are matters of greatest public interest, it’s not a question of vindicating the private interest of the Skripals. They may want to remain beneath the radar but the investigation should be undoubtedly publicly examined, in a public inquiry, with a finding of fact at the end of it.
Chris Bryant MP: I’m just going to answer the question about what’s the Foreign Affairs Select Committee pursuing stuff. There are two things that we’re still pursuing as vigorously as we can, one is ‘why do we still not have a fully implementable Magnitsky list sanctions process’, which to be honest would be a useful tool I think not only in relation to Russia at the moment but in relation to some other countries as well, not least, a personal interest of my own but Brunei, and there’s a legal row, and we’ve got a little bit more legal advice which I think we’re going to try and push the government on, and secondly on transparency in the overseas territories because that still seems to be a significant element of how lots of wealth is hidden.
So yes we are pushing both of those, but if I’m honest, after all these conversations, and the number of times I’ve sat in the room, there’s something that still mystifies me, which is, apart from Farage’s money, who’s paying for that helicopter? Why is no one really investigating Aaron Banks’s money that was used in the Brexit referendum? As it happens I’m a remainer, but that’s not my point. My point is I care about our democratic process and whether or not it’s being subverted by foreign state actors, and I noticed at one point the Prime Minister replied, in fact she said it three times, when asked has the government detected any attempt to subvert British democracy by Russia, ‘I have seen no successful attempt.’ Well, I want to know about the unsuccessful attempts and who’s deciding whether they were successful or not.
And then there’s the DUP money as well which we weren’t allowed to investigate any further because of the status of the law in relation to donations to political parties in Northern Ireland. There’s the whole Facebook, Cambridge Analytica thing, and when I put that alongside our failure to act on financial transparency in the overseas territories and what feels like sluggishness anyway, or some kind of legal persnicketness around Magnitsky lists, I just sort of start to smell a rat, and that’s maybe very, very unfair, but every rat I’ve smelt over the years has proved to be a rat in the end, and I don’t think I’m paranoid, or maybe I am paranoid but just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you, and I thought one of the most interesting points that was made tonight, that was by Bill, was that we don’t have a prosecutorial sort of system, and we’re proud of our legal system and the rule of law, the way it operates in this country and the separation of powers and all the rest of it, but there is a downside to that, which is that nobody takes it upon themselves to say right, we’re going after this lot.
And now I think is, I’m not going to bring you back in, Ben, I’m afraid, I can see you champing at the bit, because I want to ask Andrew Foxall, who’s the director of research here at the Henry Jackson Society, just to say a final few words for us to end the evening. Andrew.
Dr Andrew Foxall: Thank you Chris. I suppose in closing, a point that I would make is that when we’ve had these sorts of discussions in the past as we’d have had this discussion two or three years ago or longer, not only us, but a lot of people who were touching on these topics in London and elsewhere, were often accused either of scaremongering or russophobia. Clearly neither is the case, as many of the comments have highlighted, transparency is about good housekeeping and we should be doing many of these things anyway, it shouldn’t have taken Litvinenko or Skripal for us to realise that our financial institutions and democratic institutions were being exploited by various kleptocrats, totalitarians and autocrats around the world.
And my second point, and perhaps final point is that this notion of russophobia, it seems to me most of the discussion this evening is focused on the nature of the Putin system, and that with very few notable exceptions of individuals in this room, Bill, Marina and Achmad Zakia as well who sort of snuck in half way through. The vast majority of people who’ve suffered most at the hands of Putin are the 142.6 million people who live in the Russian Federation themselves, and they are the ones I think whom we ought to keep at the forefront of our thinking when we think about how Putin undermines Western judicial systems. Thank you. [audience claps]
Chris Bryant MP: And final point, I think Achmad Zakia, unless I’ve got this wrong, when there was the, he was accused by the Russian state of murdering a Russian Orthodox priest, and the Russian Orthodox Priest stood up to say, “I haven’t been murdered,” which is basically the implausible deniability writ large. [audience laughs] On that note, can I thank everybody very much. I know that we’re sitting underneath Sir Robert Peele, who presided over the collapse of the Conservative Party, [audience laughs] for a while anyway. I don’t know why I mentioned…
Audience member: He introduced the police too.
Chris Bryant MP: He also introduced the policing system indeed, which is the point I was going to make, which is a more important contribution and policing has always meant to rely on, in his understanding, was always meant to rely on policing by consent. You had to have the consent of the people to be able to police effectively, and that’s one of the things that I think we need to revitalize. Can I say thank you enormously to the Henry Jackson Society, through to our three speakers this evening and to you for coming along as well. Thank you very much.