EVENT TRANSCRIPT: The McCain Legacy and the Magnitsky Act
DATE: 1:00 pm – 1:00 pm, 15th November 2018
VENUE: Committee Room 14, House of Commons
London, SW1A 0AA United Kingdom
SPEAKER: Bill Browder
EVENT CHAIR: Ian Austin MP
Ian Austin MP: Well, hello everyone. My name is Ian Austin. I am the member of Parliament for Dudley and it’s a great privilege to welcome you all here today. I would like to start by thanking Alan Mendoza from the Henry Jackson Society who’ve organised this brilliant event and assembled a fantastic panel of speakers. And there will be time for questions afterwards, so I’ll be brief but I do want to say a couple of things. And the first one is tomorrow marks the 9th anniversary of the death of Sergei Magnitsky and this extraordinarily brave 70 year-old accounted was tortured, denied medical attention, and died in a squalid Moscow prison cell because he had exposed a huge fraud perpetrated by Russian government officials. And I think the brutality of his death is a very good example of the way Putin’s kleptocratic dictatorship has looted the Russian economy, stolen from his people, impoverished the Russian people, and locks up and murders his opponents, not just in Russia, but as we’ve seen here in the UK, too. And since his death several countries, firstly the US, but other countries since then have passed Magnitsky legislation, which sanctions Russians implicated in his death and others responsible for serious corruption or the abuse of human rights. Several countries have done that, most recently here in the UK. Although many of us are pushing for tougher and quicker action in relation to that. Now I think our first speaker is Bill Browder. Bill the founder and CEO of Hermitage Capital Management and ran the largest investment fund in Russia until it was subject to corruption and the theft which Sergei Magnitsky was investigating when he was killed. I think I just want to say this about Bill Browder really, which is that most people in Bill’s position when faced with something like that, think “Well, you know, this is terrible. I’ll look after his widow and his children and I’ll go back to concentrating on my business interests and my investment fund. But Bill didn’t do that. What Bill did is that he devoted his life ever since to fighting for justice for Magnitsky and other victims of corruption, launching a global campaign forcing governments around the world to introduce visa-bans and asset freezes on the people responsible. And I think that is an extraordinary thing to have done Bill, massively to your credit. And I think we should welcome Bill (inaudible). We are then going to hear from Meghan McCain, the daughter of the late John McCain without whom the United States would have never adopted the Sergei Magnitsky rule of law, accountability act in 2012. After working of her father’s 2008 presidential campaign, Miss McCain became a Journalist, the best-selling author of three books and now hosts the award-winning talk show “The View” and I may, Meghan, say what a great honour and privilege it is to have you with us here today. I think your father was a great man, not just a great American hero, but an inspiration to us all around the world, who share his commitment to freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. And I think we should just take a moment to mark John McCain’s legacy, his achievements and his enduring legacy, so let’s just do that. Our third speaker will be Vladimir Kara-Murza, who is vice-chairman of the Open Russia movement, chairman of Boris Nemtsov Foundation for Freedom, was a candidate for the Russian State Duma and was actually poisoned I think three times, is that correct?
Vladimir Kara-Murza: Twice.
Ian Austin MP: Twice, okay. Let’s hope it’s only twice. As a result of campaigning against Putin’s dictatorship. We’ll be hearing from Vladimir third, we’ll be listening to Kyle Parker, who is the chief of staff at the US Helsinki commission, who served on the House of Foreign Affairs. He spent eight years on the American Foreign Policy Council and his work on the Magnitsky Act is featured in a New York Times best-seller and his expertise on Russia has been quoted in Media around the world. And our final Panelist who will join will be joining the Question and Answer session is Dr Andrew Foxall who is director of the Russia and Eurasia studies centre at the Henry Jackson Society and is also the Society’s director of research. So it’s a fantastic panel that’s been assembled for us today. And we are going to listen to Bill first, we’ll listen to all our speakers and then take questions. So Bill, over to you.
Bill Browder: First of all, thank you so much for hosting us, and thank you so much for all that you’ve done in this parliament over a long period of time as a steadfast supporter of order, for the Magnitsky Act and justice more broadly. Any of our accomplishments wouldn’t have happened without you. I also want to thank the Henry Jackson Society, Alan and Andrew for your support over many years and hosting us today. And I want to thank Meghan here for coming, making a huge trip here to honour her father’s contribution to justice around the world and particularly to the Magnitsky Act. As Ian said, tomorrow will be the 9th anniversary of when Sergei Magnitsky was tortured in a Russian prison. He was 37 years old. He left a wife and two children and he would be killed for uncovering a massive Putin corruption scheme and when momentarily after I learned of his death, it become obvious to me that I had to put aside everything else I was doing and go after the people who killed him, make sure that they face justice. And it turned out to be a hard battle to fight the Russian regime, the Putin regime who wanted absolutely nothing to do with justice and they didn’t even allow the government to present its scapegoats. They exonerated every single person involved in his false arrest, torture, and death. And when it became obvious that there was no possible for justice in Russia, I said: ‘Let’s find justice outside of Russia’ and in order to do that, I have to figure in what way we could get justice outside of Russia. And the people who killed Sergei Magnitsky did it for money, they did it for 230 Million Dollars he exposed as theft from the Russian government. And those people don’t like to keep their money in Russia. They like to keep their money in the West where it’s safe. Here in London, in New York, in Paris, various other places. They send their kids to private schools here, in Switzerland. Their girlfriends go on shopping trips to Milan. And so I said to myself: ‘If we can get these people banned from coming to the West and their assets frozen, it’s not justice for torture and murder, but it’s better than total impunity.’ And I took this idea to two people in Washington. I took this idea to Senator John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, and I took this idea to Senator Benjamin Cardin, a Democrat from Maryland. In a time of great fractioness in Washington these two gentlemen from two opposing parties and said: ‘This is not about politics, this is about justice.’ And they came up with the Magnitsky Act, which freeze assets and ban visas of the people who killed Sergei Magnitsky and the people who so similar types of atrocities in Russia. This is something which took off like a rocket. I am sitting next to Kyle Parker here. He has the person who wrote the Magnitsky Act. And I am sitting down the row of Vladimir Kara-Murza. Vladimir is a Russian politician testified numerous times in Congress and various other places to get the Magnitsky Act passed. When it did go for a vote, it passed 92 to 4 in the Senate, it passed with 89% in the House of Representatives and then it was signed into law on the 14th December 2012. Vladimir Putin was furious that thing happened, because it was his own fortune at risk. He’s a human rights violator from Russia and he has a lot of money offshore. He got very mad and tried to stop it. He tried to have the Magnitsky Act repealed and this lead to the famous Trump Tower meeting, where they sent a lawyer to try to repeal the Magnitsky Act with Donald Trump Jr, Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner. It also lead to another initiative, which brings us right up to date which is if they could not get it repealed, they were desperate to try to get Magnitsky’s name off of the legislation. And they found a person I believe to be a corrupt member of congress named Dana Rohrabacher who petitioned the House of Foreign Affairs committee to have Sergei Magnitsky’s name removed. That didn’t pass. There was also another initiative from a Senate staff member who thought it would upset the Russians too much. This person didn’t want to upset the Russians too much and wanted to remove the name just out of self-censorship. And that was another moment when I went to John McCain and I said: ‘They are trying to take Magnitsky’s name off the Magnitsky Act’ and John McCain said: ‘That will never happen as long as I’m around.’ And sure enough, his name was put back on the act. And the global Magnitsky Act passed in 2016. I just want to finish off, I really genuinely wish more than anything that John McCain was still here with us because I have the same problem now in Europe. After many years of fighting, after 9 years of fighting I finally got the EU to consider a Magnitsky Act. The Dutch government, after being pressured by their parliament, put on the agenda to have a EU Magnitsky Act, but they were under so much pressure and so scared of what Putin would think that Russians tried again what they did in the United States. They tried to lead Sergei Magnitsky’s name of the EU Magnitsky Act. And so I was just in The Hague earlier this week. I’m trying to Magnitsky’s name back on the EU Magnitsky Act, but I don’t have a John McCain there to help me and it’s a lot harder fight without him. And the name of this panel is ‘The John McCain Legacy and the Magnitsky Act’ and he really was truly an integral part of making it happen and he was an integral part of keeping it in place and keeping Magnitsky’s on it. I think in addition to remembering Sergei Magnitsky 9 years ago, we should remember John McCain. Thank you very much.
Ian Austin MP: The best news to come out of the mid-term elections is the defeat of Dana Rohrabach. Brilliant, thanks Bill. We are now going to hear from Meghan McCain. So Meghan, thanks for being with us today.
Meghan McCain: Thank you so much for inviting me. Bill, Vladimir, I mean all of you. It’s my honour to be here today. This is bittersweet, it just is. In 10 days, it’s going to be the three-month anniversary of father’s death and we had a unique way of experiencing him dying because the cancer he was diagnosed with we knew the time line, we knew the life expectancy. In real time I could not only grief the absolute hero and the sun of my universe very close, I think as everyone knows, but also as an American I am grieving having someone no matter what happens always made me feel safe, and I think made a lot of other Americans feel safe, especially when talking about Putin and everything that has been happening in Russia. I just did an interviews where I was saying I remember going back as far as early 2000s when my father was campaigning, he said one of his lines that always got an applause was when George Bush looks into Vladimir Putin’s eyes he sees a soul, when I look in Vladimir Putin’s eyes is see a K, a G, and a B. And that would always get a big applause line, because he never trusted Vladimir Putin. And President Obama had moments where he was caught off mic saying ‘Have more leniency after the election’ and my father was always someone who never trusted him, he always considered him a murderous KGB dictator. Sergei Magnitsky was someone who was brought up in my home often around the dinner table, as was Boris Nemtsov. By the way, he talked about him a lot, especially towards the end of his life. He talked about you a lot, Vladimir. Vladimir was one of my father’s pallbearers, which again in the way my father planned his own funeral, it was not a mistake. I think it was a direct message that was meant to be sent where the McCains will always stand in regards to Russia and Vladimir Putin. It was my honour to have you there and to have you do that. We’re very proud and thank you again. I think what you said about the Trump Tower meeting and the Magnitsky Act says everything about what you need to know. I mean it’s a clear and present imminent danger. Vladimir Putin is committed to the extermination of the West. He likes chaos. He wants us to believe that he’s an OK guy and that we can normalise our relationships with him. Make no mistake. He is committed to the extermination of the West and always possible. I am grateful for you all for your continued fight on behalf of Sergei and I am just fearful. It’s why I’m here. I don’t want this normalised. I don’t want to live in an era where my future children are going to somehow think that murdering and torturing people because they are fighting for democracy or because they fight intense corruption is a world we can live in. Me, as an American, can say and think that we are going to somehow not going to be okay with freedom and democracy probably. They are going to take the side of dictators. I’m very proud to be here. It’s very emotional. My father didn’t die that long ago but this was one of those invitations that just felt like something that he in the afterlife would have been very angry had I not attended. And I just very honoured to be here and I really hope that everyone sitting and all of you in this room continue his fight. It’s more important than ever, especially because he is gone right now. And I look forward to tonight. And I think we should talk about Boris Nemtsov, because my father was just so deeply affect by him as well. Towards the end of his life, their names were brought up a lot and I had a lot of time to talk to him. I just want to thank all of you for having me and know that I will always fight with you, my family will always fight with you. I know it’s not the same. It’s nowhere near the same. But I am here and I will be here with you forever, as long as you need me.
Ian Austin MP: That was inspirational. And I promise you, Meghan, you say you will stand and fight with us. I promise you, we are going to stand and fight with you as well. It really is an inspiration to listen to you today. Thank you again for coming. And Vladimir, over to you. We’ll listen to Vladimir now.
Vladimir Kara-Murza: Thank you so much, Ian. And thank you for hosting us. Thank you Henry Jackson Society for organising this meeting and it’s a great honour to share this podium with Meghan McCain and to be with all of you here today. I want to start with a few words of gratitude. Exactly one year ago, we had a similar panel discussion, also here in parliament. Also hosted by Ian Austin about the importance of having a Magnitsky Act passing in the United Kingdom and about why the United Kingdom for very well-known reasons is perhaps the most important to have a Magnitsky Act and I’m an optimist by nature, as my friends know, but I think if someone told me a year ago that it was in a few months, the UK Magnitsky Act would a reality, I would have thought that probably a bit too optimistic. And yet here we are today, six months after the Magnitsky Act was passed. I want to thank our friends here at Westminster on all sides of the political mile for ensuring that Great Britain takes a principled stand and shuts its doors or at least creates an instrument that shuts its doors to crooks and human rights abusers. And now Britain sends a strong message both to foreign kleptocrats and to domestic enablers that this double standard will no longer be tolerated. I have to say that when the global Magnitsky justice campaign was launched almost nine years ago, everyone told us that this would never happen. That no country would pass such legislation. (Inaudible) were too strong, the special interest too powerful, Realpolitik too prevalent. Surely, we were told, pragmatic considerations would overcome idealist notions of defending human rights. And then we met Senator John McCain. He was the first person in the US congress that Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov went to see in March of 2010 to speak of the importance of an Magnitsky Act in the United States and to emphasise that despite what the Kremlin is saying and despite what the Kremlin propaganda is trying to put forward, the Magnitsky Act is not anti-Russia, but very much pro-Russia. As Boris Nemtsov put it, it is the most pro-Russian law ever passed in a foreign country, because it targets people who abuse the rights of Russian citizens and who steal the money of Russian taxpayers. And Senator John McCain was very very different from the stereotypical image of a politician that only cares about himself, self-interest and experiences. For him, it was always about what’s right, not what was convenient or profitable. He became one of the most passionate and committed proponents of this legislation and in November of 2012, on the day the Magnitsky act was passed in the US House of Representatives, we were again, together with Boris Nemtsov back at his office in the Senate Russell building to thank him for making it possible, still not quite believing this was actually happening in front of our eyes. And unlike so many people, John McCain didn’t just pay lip-service to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. He lived those values, he believed in those values, he stood on those values. It was a deeply heart-breaking honour to serve a pallbearer but I know that as long as I live, I will consider it among the greatest privileges of my life to have known and to have worked with your dad. Today, the Magnitsky legislation’s various forms passed in six sovereign nations, six United Nations member states. It’s apart from the US and the UK, Canada, Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia. We are going to continue to work with many other countries. Bill just spoke about the Netherlands and the effort to have a European Union-wide Magnitsky legislation. But thanks to his efforts, the Dutch parliament obligated the Dutch government to propose which they are going to do next week, but there is now another battle coming up over them trying to take Sergei Magntisky’s name off the Magnitsky legislation. And again, people are saying there is nothing we will be able to do about that. But we’ve had that before, hadn’t we? Just a few weeks ago, Bill and I were in Denmark, in Copenhagen to testify in front of the Danish parliament’s foreign affairs committee on their Magnitsky legislation, also few weeks ago we were in France to meet with members of the French national assembly in Paris to speak about France, which again is a very important target for this legislation to make sure it passes there. Four days ago, I was in Taiwan to speak with their parliamentarians about this because for now, as you’ve just heard from the list of countries that have a Magnitsky legislation does not include any Asian nation. There are many democracies in Asia today and we hope that Taiwan becomes the first one to pass this legislation. And we’re going to continue to work in many other places. It should be such an obvious, such a simple and such a straightforward principle that people who undermine, violate and attack the most basic norms of democracy and the rule of law in their own countries should not be entitled to enjoy the privileges and protection afforded by democracy and the rule of law in the West. And yet for some reason, things that are principle are never easy to achieve. But we are sitting now in a parliament that just a few months ago made this a reality. We hope and we are going to do everything we can to make sure that the countries that already have the Magnitsky legislation on the book like this one, take practical steps to make sure it is implemented and carried out to its full extent and in full accordance with the original legislation. And that many more Western democracies and democracies all over the world, take a position of principle, and send a clear message that the crooks and the human rights abusers will no longer be welcome. Thank you very much.
Ian Austin MP: Thank you very much, Vladimir. And our fourth speaker is Kyle Parker. Welcome to the UK. Thanks for being with us today. We’re looking forward to listening to you now.
Kyle Parker: Thank you, Ian. Thanks for renting such a grand room and an incredible attendance today. I would like to thank also the organisers at the Henry Jackson Society. I feel like we as part of the Magnitsky campaigners that is in the Magnitsky wars in the US congress are forever linked, in at least the history of US-Russia relations because of course it was the Magnitsky Act that was passed in the same legislation that terminated the applicability of the Jackson-Vanik amendment to products of the Russian Federation that make it specific of course Jackson-Vanik was a point were Boris Nemtsov was often spoken about was a blunt instrument that was used to great effect but it literally targeted products of the entire Russian Federation whereas of course the Magnitsky Act looked to individual responsibility and really said nothing about the country as a whole in keeping with this notion that is in no way an anti-Russia stature born out of very much a love and respect for the Russian people and the struggle they go through to have a say in their own affairs and to vote and to assemble on the public square, things we take for granted. I just wanted to make two points on our themes today. That being said, McCains legacy and the Magnitsky Act, it’s my first time being on a panel with the word John McCain in it is a singular honour, not only is it simply a panel associated with the name of a great American hero but also with a McCain in the flesh so I’m delighted and it’s really a thrill. I was a chemistry major in the woods of Maine and somehow got mixed up in this business accidentally, met a Russian girlfriend, and one thing lead to another. Before I know I was an intern at the US Senate in 1998 and Olympia Snow was my Senator from Maine and across the hall was Senator McCain’s office and they worked together on a lot of legislation and my first encounter with Senator McCain as a timid intern was entering a Senator-only elevator. It opened up one time and I was waiting and didn’t know quite whether I should get in or not and he just kind of gruffly said: “Come on, get in.” So I remember that. And I’ll also never forget gathering around with my family and children almost old-school fashioned as I remember the TV, but listening to a radio coming through the computer and Senator McCain gave his incredible speech on the floor of the Senate on our torture report, a most unfortunate thing to have to report on but the Senator’s remarks on it in 2014 were something that will always stick with me and will always be that moment of being proud to be an American and to have someone like John McCain with the moral clarity to say the things that needed to be said despite the political cost. And I also wanted to make some remarks on Boris Nemtsov since his name has been brought up so much. It was really a great pleasure to become friends with Boris Nemtsov throughout this campaign and I just want to mention of course Nemtsov’s support cost him dearly long before his assassination. He once spoke with Senator Cardin, with David Kramer, the president of Freedom House, and with our advanced Senior director of Russian affairs on the national security advisor Mike McFaul at an event we held in Capitol and shortly upon his return, in fact immediately upon his return the day after we should have met him at the airport, he was attacked by pro-Putin thugs that put nets over his head. So he certainly suffered dearly throughout this and then of course paid the ultimate price for his defence of democracy and the rule of law in Russia. A couple of quick points on the Magnitsky Laws themselves, of course I’m just a staffer. I work mostly behind the scenes drafting and whenever I have a meeting I like to ask people: “What should I know that I don’t know.” So I try to attempt to tell you something that you might not know that is important. One is the accident in drafting the 2012 original Magnitsky Act for Russia that lead to what has now become a universal standard as I was sitting at my desk and talking to people and wandering and talking to some of our lawyers we were trying to find that perfect formula to capture all the human rights violations we wanted to capture and of course I guess none that we didn’t, although there weren’t many that we didn’t want to capture. We wanted to make sure we target and penalise extrajudicial killings. We are of course looking at assassinations in particularly associated the Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov. Of course there had been a hit in Vienna recently, Umar Israilov we think. So we didn’t want to limit it to conduct happening inside a particular country. At the same time, we’re thinking: “Does it have to be related in particular to Russians?” And then we thought: “Well that seems a little ridiculous because we’re limiting conduct based on ethnicity or passport status.” And so we ended up with a formula that seemed to work, and I remember we already introduced a prompt and had done all the press and the press secretary for Senator Carlin was calling me, trying to write the release and she was like “Can you explain to me what exactly this law does?” And I couldn’t quite do it and I was a little embarrassed. I think it might be ambiguously global. And so we went back to our lawyers and have them write a memo and they said: “Indeed, you have just written a statute that could easily apply the world over.” Now, we didn’t quite get there and the two congresses it took to pass the Russian Magnitsky Act, because in the end we faced the stiffest opposition from the administration that wanted to limit it to Russia only and was fearful of opening the floodgates to a global standard. In any case it took two more congresses and we did get the global Magnitsky authority passed. And one of the things that had been an incredible surprise to me was that the global Magnitsky authority unlike the Russian Magnitsky Act was mandatory, the administration had to do it. They were resisting doing it, so we pushed them and made them do it. The global Magnitsky authority is entirely permissive and so at the first administration that ends up having this authority is the current administration, the Trump administration, could have completely ignored it. They have not only not ignored it, but the working level in our department of Treasury and the Department of State haven taken it extremely seriously, have implemented it with sweeping global scope and made sure to target all around the world and have done it repeatedly unlike the Russia Act where we’ve gotten used and settling into a pattern of yearly updates to the list. So this gets a real bright spot. And one more thing, when congress passes a statute the administrate wrote its own executive order, which is actually superior to the statute, if I might say. I would like to be proud of what we write in congress, but what the executive branch gave itself was a far more sweeping authority to use and they are using it. I think that’s really and I think we can continue then to urge them to use it. Just finally I wanted to mention one of the great privileges. It has really been a thrill of my career to have been involved in this just cause, but I think it’s really the friendship that really developed on this and I have seen so many friendships that developed across the aisles and around congress, notably the one between Senator McCain and Senator Ben Cardin, but others as well and that’s really something I think we often think what you do is the right laws, but maybe in reality what we all do is we spend eight hours or something and having good relationships and making friends with people and those things endure. Thank you.
Ian Austin MP: We’ve got a few minutes now. We can take questions. So if you would like to ask a question if you could please put your hand up and indicate. And when you do ask a question, could you tell us who you are, if that would be alright. So we’ll start with the gentleman down here. Do you what, do we have a mic going around, I think you have to speak up.
Audience Member: My name is Maximillian Bess. I’m a (inaudible). My question is first directed at Kyle and then the panel in a broader sanctions and authorities that are going on (inaudible) executive orders (inaudible). But speaking from Valdimir’s comments about Estonia also passed an act. The first question is really are these acts, and first of all these sanctions, enforceable without going after money laundering, without improving corporate registries, as we’ve seen with the Danske Bank scandal in Estonia, billions laundered through. We can assume some of that is the same individuals. And my question is also on the unexplained wealth orders here in the UK. Do we think they are effective? How do we continue to make progress?
Ian Austin MP: Okay, let’s take another question. The gentleman here.
Audience Member: My name is James Richards. I’m a (inaudible) Russia. I think it’s really good that everybody here is working on an international level. I think it’s very good way of targeting Putin and his regime. But my question is to Vladimir again. So I view the Magnitsky Act as maybe one way that targets Putin’s regime. That’s maybe a top down approach. Would you have anything to say towards the colleagues how we can support democracy in Russia through different matters.
Ian Austin MP: Bill, do you want to pick up those first? And then we’ll go to Vladimir.
Bill Browder: Let’s start with Vladimir.
Vladimir Kara-Murza: Thank you so much. On the first question. First of all the most easily enforceable piece of the sanctions is the travel ban. Because with the money laundering and the finances – Bill can explain in very great detail they can find all sorts of sophisticated ways hide under false pretences to redirect the streams and all the rest of its flows. I suppose they can get false passports and change their faces, but that is certainly much more difficult. So to me the travel bans are the most immediate and the most effective measures against these people because they don’t just want that money in abstract somewhere in West jurisdiction, they want to use it. Because that’s the reason it’s so important and so effective it is that people who in charge of our country today, people who are in charge of Russia want to steal in Russia but spend in the West. It was everything they have is in the West. The money they are stealing from Russian taxpayers, they invest in homes and apartments here in London, sending their wives and mistresses shopping in 5th avenue in New York, mansions and beach houses in Miami, Florida, and the rest of it. If you ban their visas, they won’t be able to go there. So that’s the most effective and the most immediate measure of the sanctions and sometimes unfortunately we see that it’s not enough to say we have the Magnitsky legislation, it needs to be implemented properly, but now we can actually lay a third layer to that. And that is that not only supporting to have the law, not only supporting having it implemented properly, but it’s also important not to go back, not to actually undo some of the sanctions that already have been effected and the most recent example of this is Dmitry Rogozin, a notorious far-right nationalist, who served as Deputy Prime Minister in Putin’s government and he is now the head of the Russian state space agency Roscosmos. He was placed under US sanctions not under the Magnitsky Act, but under Ukraine-related designations. So after the start of the war in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea 2014, he went on the list of individuals who were sanctioned by the United States government for their role in that conflict and he was placed under a US travel ban. Now about two weeks ago, the United States administration announced that they’ll be waving the travel ban on Mr Rogozin and inviting him to the US so that he can go and lecture at the University of Huston, Texas. Now I understand there can be certain national security considerations that could in very rare cases lead to some of those individuals’ sanctions wavered and the causes and justifications should be publicly given to Congress, to the media, to American citizens, if we are talking about the US. I don’t think that allowing a notorious far-right nationalist to lecture at the University of Huston, Texas, constitutes reasonable grounds. So unfortunately sometimes situations are not just about having the laws and implementing it, but it’s also not going back on implementing it, which is what we’re seeing in some cases. So that’s what I would say on that and then leave Bill to talk about the money laundering aspect in much more detail. On James’ question about what can the West do to help democracy in Russia. You know, if you listen to the Kremlin’s propaganda machine, people like me and my colleagues, Russian opposition leaders, Russian opposition actors, that we come to the West, and I’m sitting with you now is supposedly what we do here, is we supposedly ask the West for money, for political support, we ask the West to effect regime change and whatever nonsense they have been coming up. I don’t need to tell you that none of that has any basis in reality. Whenever I ask the West to support democracy in Russia, this is our task. It’s only for Russian citizens to change the situation in Russia. The only thing we do ask the West is that it stops supporting Vladimir Putin by treating as a respectable and worthy partner on a global stage by looking into his eyes and seeing a soul or declaring a reaset with him or any other means. And secondly and most importantly, this is part of our discussion today, we ask the West to stop supporting Mr Putin by allowing his cronies to use your countries, Western countries, as havens for the money they are stealing from the people of Russia. This is all we ask. What we need to do inside of our country we’ll do ourselves.
Bill Browder: Coming back to our old issue of money laundering, we have since Sergei Magnitsky was murdered had two lines campaign attack. One is political which is the Magnitsky Act, which we’ve had great success at and I think we’ll have more success. And the second is criminal justice where we’ve said: “Who got 230 million $ that Sergei Magnitsky discovered and was killed over?” and let’s prosecute that. I spent nine years and I had a full-time team of forensic investigators and we found the money and we found the money going to many countries in Europe and every time we find the money we then apply to the law enforcement agencies of those countries and say these particular banks, these particular individuals, these particular companies were involved in money laundering that was connected to a murder and what I’ve discovered is that some countries are just absolutely unable to handle the task and the most recent example is Danske Bank. Danske Bank was a bank that was responsible for laundering 200 million of the 230 million Sergei Magnitsky was killed over. We reported it to the Estonian and the Danish authorities in 2013. And the Danish authorities didn’t take up the case at all and the Estonian authorities took up the case and closed it 2017. We sued them for closing the case. They won the case saying that we didn’t have any right to force them to reopen it. And it was only after a major newspaper in Denmark exposed the whole thing, found out it was only the tip of the iceberg. Danske Bank has now been acknowledged to have been involved 234 billion dollars of money laundering coming out of Russia and the former Soviet Union. It’s a huge, gigantic problem that’s been with absolute incompetence. We just recently filed a criminal complaint against the people at Danske Bank and we just filed a criminal complaint against the financial regulator in Denmark. The financial regulator was involved in either negligence or perhaps worse by having information about what was going on and either doing nothing about it or even trying to cover up for the bad guys. And so it’s a huge problem. The Magnitsky Act is a great way of dealing with this whole thing because instead of having to go through criminal investigations where there is no equality of arms. The bad guys have much more money, much more resources than the good guys. The Magnitsky Act is very straightforward that it can be based on evidence and an act of government just puts somebody on the sanctions and when they’re on the sanctions list, their assets get frozen and their visas get cancelled and the only legal recourse they have is that they didn’t do the things they are said to have done. But they can’t tie up the prosecutors in court for years with lawyers. And so it’s a very effective tool and we know how it’s effective by angry Putin is to try to stop it. If I just may, a couple of quick points on your question what this whole operation does and what we always wanted to do from the very beginning was oppose a measure of transparency of what would have previously been a non-transparent process where we’d hear rumour to be certain people on black lists and maybe they wouldn’t come and the fact that were able to sit here and have a public discussion as whether a waver is justified for Mr Rogozin or something else, is a testament to the fact that opening this up to public discussion and we have always found that on the human rights front, we always win when it’s a public conversation, and generally always loose when it’s behind closed doors. Magnitsky sanctions are by no means a comprehensive strategy and it’s sort of an unsatisfying thing to do to penalise. It’s the least we can do, but it doesn’t replace a just decision, even in the small court somewhere in Middle Russia. But the best example I’ve heard on the effectiveness of these sanctions was given by Nadya Tolokno of Pussy Riot in the Capitol speaking to Senator Jeff Flake who said: “Are these effective sanctions?” and she said: “Well, they are effective at keeping us talking about it. And that ensures us to keep talking about these things. So that ensures that these things, human right violations and corruption gets never swiped under the rug. It puts you on a public list that confronts leaders in any bilateral discussion. It’s always there as an irritant until the reason for the irritant is genuinely gone and not papered over with some fancy slogan.” And what we can do to do other means of support, I think we really need to be looking at ways to reach out to the Russian people in a way that will not have to be reciprocal. We make special categories even as we close the door tighter on corrupt officials, maybe we can open it up others that would want that people-to-people connection and also in our own system, we need to do a lot to understand the country that we are. Soviet-Russian expertise is apathy in the United States and we are now at a point where we will need to teach it again and there will be ways looking at it in congress to bolsters our capacity.
Ian Austin MP: Just very briefly actually. You have the unexplained wealth orders here in the UK. Now some action is now being taken on that. I think passing legislations is one thing, getting the government to act is another thing. And we need to maintain pressure and we need to keep campaigning on a cross-party basis here in the UK parliament to do that. We’ve got coming up the foreign affairs committee of which I’m a member, is surely launching an inquiry on the future of UK sanctions policy which would be another opportunity for us to raise these issues and to push the government to take more action and we’ve invited people to submit evidence for our inquiry now. I’m hoping Bill that you’ve done that and that other people will take the opportunity to put forward their views and come and talk to us on that inquiry as well. Let’s take some more questions. Let’s keep the questions short and the answers short so we can get in a few more before we have to finish at 2 o’ clock. Let’s start with you.
Audience Member: Helena (inaudible), focus on Russia (inaudible). The reaction to the illegal annexation of Crimea was a quote from twitter in April 2014. If a majority of people reside illegally residing in Alaska want to be part of Russia, the it’s okay with me. Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov was illegally arrested, kidnapped, and brought to Russia. He’s imprisoned now for 20 years only because he protested against the Russian illegal occupation of Crimea. Also native people of Crimea, Crimean Tartars, they are constantly under Russian pressure. Their human rights have been violated. Do you plan to address Ukrainian human rights issues?
Ian Austin MP: Okay, and somebody right in the back with their hand up. Yeah the blue sleeve I can see waving. Yes that’s you.
Audience Member: Thank you very much, everyone. Ewan Grant, Institute for Statecraft. I have the methods used in Donesk (inaudible) going way back to the Soviet states. My question is what response has Mr Browder and his colleagues and the gentleman from Russia had from Ms Mogherini and Mr Junker (inaudible) and what did they see in their faces when they raised the topic.
Ian Austin MP: Thank you, Andrew, do you want to pick up the question on Ukraine?
Dr Andrew Foxall: I think Bill is probably in a better place to answer that question.
Bill Browder: This evening we are hosting a dinner, the Magnitsky Award dinner, where we recognise heroes in the fight for justice in the theme and memory of Sergei Magnitsky. One of the awardees is late Senator John McCain. Meghan is going to accept it on his behalf. And the other awardee is Oleg Sentsov. In our opinion, one of the bravest souls out there, standing up to the Putin regime, and ready to die for his beliefs. And that’s true in the name of what Sergei Magnitsky did. Of course, whoever is responsible for Oleg Sentsov’s false arrest torture and detention should be subject to sanctions under the Magnitsky Act and I think it’s a big leap. I don’t think it’s a hard case to make and I think there are probably a lot people who share my view in here, inside the Halls of Parliament. On Crimea I would just say that the global Magnitsky Act in the United States because it’s the executive branch’s order would cover it but believe it or not the statutory authority congress passed wouldn’t, because the statutory authority refers to human rights violations, which legally speaking don’t take place in Crimea, because under international law it’s an occupied territory and governed by the law of war, international humanitarian law. The administration’s language talks about human rights abuses and therefore can target.
Ian Austin MP: Okay, Vladimir.
Vladimir Kara-Murza: Just quickly on Oleg Sentsov. Of course he has been recognised the the Memorial Human Rights Centre, a leading human rights group in Russian, as political prisoner, one of nearly 200 today, 200 political and religious prisoners we have in Russia and many of those are Crimeans or Crimean Tartars of course, then there are Russian opposition actors. So everything that has been happing to Oleg Sentsov for the past few years in my view constitutes a direct target in the Magnitsky legislation. Some of these people are already being sanctioned, people who were engaged in Crimean Tartars are being sanctioned. Either under the Magnitsky Legislation or under the Ukraine-specific sanctions in the United States. So this is already happening. It’s going to continue to happen with a global Magnitsky Act passing.
Ian Austin MP: A couple of more questions. The Gentleman here.
Audience Member: (inaudible) reader of Bill’s book actually. But I was wondering what can a private citizen do who is not in a role of power who wants to support this campaign. What is the most effective private individuals can do?
Ian Austin MP: Great question, good. Before you ask that, if you’ve not read Bill’s book, read it, seriously. It’s one of the best books you’ll ever read. And it’s nearly Christmas so buy it for the people for Christmas as well.
Audience Member: I was just wondering what the view of the panel is about the enablers in the city, i.e. the top accountants and the top solicitors who have helped to get these companies to hold their assets etc. since there has nothing been done about that.
Ian Austin MP: So what’s the panel’s view. Remember we can only use parliamentary language when you explain when you are expressing your view of these people. We’ll go to you on that first I think.
Bill Browder: Thank you for your compliment about my book. My next book which I am currently writing. My first book was about the evil guys in Russia who killed Sergei Magnitsky and my next book is going to be about the evil guys in the West who supported the evil guys in Russia who killed Sergei Magnitsky. I only want to say one thing which I think really everyone on this panel will agree with which is the Putin regime and the people over there do bad stuff and they all were born into a horrible, repressive society. There was all sorts of very bad and difficult situations which in a certain sense caused them to behave the way they behave. The people in the West, who were all brought up in the same types of homes as us, they went to the same schools as us, they worship in the same religious institutions as us, and in theory have the same values of us, but have made conscious decisions. So the bad guys in Russia may not be conscious how they are bad. But the guys in the West who are doing this enabling are highly conscious of what they’re doing and I would view that as actually being more evil because it’s so conscious about that and I what I am going to do over the next years is creating consequences for those people.
Ian Austin MP: Vladimir? Imagine that you’d be pretty worried if you heard that Bill Browder was coming after you and create consequences for you.
Vladimir Kara-Murza: Thank you for the question. It’s an important one. A couple of years ago, there was House of Commons delegation visiting Moscow. And they had lots of official meetings in Duma and the Foreign Ministry and the British Ambassador asked me to come in and do a breakfast briefing so they can hear also from an opposition perspective. So I came in, had a conversation maybe an hour, an hour and a half, and one of the things I spoke about was the importance of passing the Magnitsky Law in the UK. And almost as soon as I began speaking about it, one of the members of the delegation – I’m not allowed to say the name because it was a private, off the record meeting – but one British member of parliament broke me off and launched into long, dire tirade, the substance of which was basically, why should be the private city of London of financial profits, because of some human rights PSA. So this breakfast meeting was held at the British Ambassador’s residence in Moscow, which is literally across the river from the Kremlin. It’s about 500 yards from the Bridge where Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was assassinated on 27th February 2015 and where every day people continue to leave flowers and candles in his memory and I was just barely able to walk after recovering from the first poisoning attack a few months before that. And there I saw a British Member of Parliament talking to me about profits. To be honest, I had nothing to respond to him. Of course, it was very important to see earlier this year that particular member did not speak for the British parliament which overwhelmingly passed the Magnitsky legislation. But that just goes to say that it’s a very important topic to talk not only about the Kremlin kleptocrats but also about the Western enablers because it has been said many times with the biggest export from Putin’s Russia to the West is the export of corruption. But for somebody to be able to export corruption, somebody else needs to be willing to import it and so I agree completely with Bill. It’s as important to go after and to pursue Western enablers as it is to go after Kremlin crooks and human rights abusers.
Ian Austin MP: I think that is a really important point. What is that makes our country special? The values of democracy, equality, freedom, fairness, tolerance, and if we don’t stand up for those, are not prepared to ensure that our country enacts those values, then what would it mean to be British, what would be the meaning of the institutions we are sitting in today? I think that is a really, really important point. It’s absolutely fundamental to who we are as a people and what we are as a country and it’s not good enough for people. You can tell me afterwards who the MP was.
Vladimir Kara-Murza: If you promise not to say.
Ian Austin MP: I promise not to day that you’ve told me.
Vladimir Kara-Murza: I think it’s going to be pretty obvious.
Ian Austin MP: Sorry. Meghan?
Meghan McCain: You were asking what an average person can do? I think it’s important also to not enable the media, the people who have been sort of gas-lighting the idea of normalising Vladimir Putin and his regime, which has been happening everywhere, not just in my country, and not support it and to push back. I also think Silicon Valley have to start playing a role in all the Russian bots. I personally think they have a lot of things to answer for because at this point we can at least conclude that some impact on my election and it’s very, very effective. It’s very, very effective what Russians are doing in terms of cybersecurity and getting out their mass propaganda and so I would say push back on both those things in Silicon Valley and with people who are enabling in the media.
Kyle Parker: I would just also add, I think it’s important to counter these arguments that you mentioned, Vladimir. It’s not just human rights here, it’s actually long-term realism, hard realism rooted in national security as opposed to a short-term transactionalism that seems to parallel our free rotations of foreign ministries. What we look at, to me the roots of the Ukrainian War is a perfect example of how the collapse of the rule of law and decimation of the free press has lead to a trench war in Europe with millions displaced, with over 10’000 innocent dead. And were there warnings? There were warnings. Those warnings happened inside of Russia in the early 2000s and they were here. And now we’re dealing with a war inside the largest country inside the whole of Europe.
Ian Austin MP: Thank you, Kyle. I think, Ladies and Gentlemen, this is probably the point where he have to draw the meeting to an end, to a conclusion. So I want to thank you all for coming, thank all the panellists. I think it’s been a fascinating discussion. And I think I just want to invite Bill to say a few words to draw things to a close.
Bill Browder: When Sergei Magnitsky was first murdered and I began my campaign for justice, I had a hard time finding anybody who is interested anywhere in the world and I had hard time hearing in the parliament. I had a hard time in the US congress. And it really is today, 9 years later, at this event in a certain way symbolises how far thigs have progressed and how much justice there is. I could barely get a meeting with anybody in the Parliament, now we have a room of 150 people in one of the largest committee rooms in this parliament. The fact that we have Meghan McCain, John McCain’s daughter. John McCain became my partner in this exercise and effectively passed on the baton to his daughter who I hope I’ll work with for many years.
Meghan McCain: He talked about it a lot growing up, a lot. I had no other option, but thank you.
Bill Browder: Kyle Parker and I have grown up together. Now he was just a junior staffer when we started. Now he has the pen to write all the laws and of course Valdimir and I are now going to every country. He speaks the languages that I don’t speak and vice-versa. And we’re pressuring and chaining and doing this in a lot of places and I’m proud to be sitting here. And Ian of course, my partner, who has made this whole thing happen in the UK. So I’m proud to sit on a panel with these wonderful people and I’m proud to be in a room full of sympathisers. Thank you very much!
Ian Austin MP: Well Bill, thank you very much. And thanks to all of you. I promise we will carry on this fight and carry on this campaign and carry on to do everything we can to uphold Meghan’s father’s legacy. So thank you very much.