Date: 12:00-13:00, Thursday 16th November 2017
Location: Thatcher Room, Portcullis House,
1 Parliament St, Westminster, London SW1A 2JR
Chief Executive Officer of Hermitage Capital Management
Vice Chairman of Open Russia
Award-winning Documentary Filmmaker
James Bezan MP
Canadian Member of Parliament
Ian Austin MP: I’m sorry you were all left queuing up, I don’t know why the door was locked, and to everyone left waiting in the corridor. So I’m sorry about that. My name’s Ian Austin and it’s a great pleasure to welcome you all here to this event. I think it’s fair to say that we’re here really in the memory of Sergio Magnitsky who died in Russian police custody 8 years ago today, and the story of his death, I think, is an allegory of Putin’s Russia: brutal, corrupt, oppressive. Sergie Magnitsky, I think, was a brave and incorruptible accountant who was tortured, denied medical attention, and died in a Moscow prison after being targeted by Russian authorities because he’d exposed a huge $230 million tax fraud involving high level government officials. In the years since, several countries like the US, Estonia, Canada, I think today you were saying Lithuania this morning, of all the past Magnitsky legislation which sanctions the Russians who were involved in his death. And here in the UK a Magnitsky amendment was included in the criminal finance bill this year, but I think, and lots of us think, much more could be done. So I want to start by thanking Andrew Foxall and Sophie Bolsover (Sophie here? She’s on her way I think) From the Henry Jackson Society for organising this and assembling what I think is a great panel for us to hear from today. We’ve got William Browder – Bill Browder – the CEO of Hermitage Capital Management; Vladimir Kara-Murza, chairman of Open Russian; award-winning filmmaker Marcus Kolga; and James Bezan who’s a member of the Canadian Parliament. So welcome to you all, thanks to everybody for coming. We’re going to hear from Bill Browder first. Bill, as I said, is the founding CEO of Hermitage Capital which was the investment adviser to the largest foreign investment fund in Russia until 2005 when you were denied entry to the country and declared a threat to national security as a result of your battle against corporate corruption. And it was Bill’s lawyer Sergei Magnitsky who investigated the crimes, and was arrested by the officers that he implicated, was tortured for about a year I think, and killed in custody. But the thing that I really want to say about Bill Browder is this: I think it’s probably fair to say that most people in Bill’s position, faced with something like this would think ‘well that’s terrible, that’s shocking, that’s brutal, I’ll help Magnitsky’s widow and family and I’ll concentrate on my business earning lots more money’ but Bill Browder didn’t do that. Bill Browder stopped work, became a full-time activist and campaigner. And I really think this is the mark of the man actually, he gave up his business and devoted his life to the pursuit of justice, not only for Magnitsky but for other victims of Russian brutality and corruption and campaigning for a fairer rules-based international legal system. So I think actually before Bill speaks and before we start I think we should all give Bill Browder a big round of applause.
Bill’s going to speak to us first now, and I think if the speakers are agreeable I think we should stick to sort of 6-7 minutes each and then we should have about half an hour for questions. So Bill, over to you.
William Browder: Well Ian thank you so much for hosting this and more importantly all the excellent work you’ve done in parliament, in furthering our cause here, and thank you in advance for the work you’re going to be doing. So, as Ian said, today is a particularly auspicious, memorable and sad today. This is November 16th, which is the day that Sergei Magnitsky was beaten by eight riot guards with batons in a Moscow prison as he was chained to a bed until he died, at the age of 37, leaving a wife and two children. Sergei Magnitsky was my lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky was killed because he was my lawyer. He was killed as my proxy, and so I have a grave and important responsibility to make sure that the people who killed Sergei Magnitsky don’t get away with it. And when I got the news of Sergei’s murder the morning after on the 17th November, after I was able to get over the hysteria and heartbreak of the whole situation enough to think clearly, it was obvious that I had no other choice in my life than to put aside all my activities, my business activities, and focus all my time, resources and energy on going after the people who killed him and that’s what I’ve been doing. When I first looked out in the world to see what you could do about a terrible murder committed by a corrupt regime against an innocent whistle-blower, I discovered pretty quickly that there are no international legal mechanisms that are functional to do that. I contacted various human rights organisations, various law professors, various politicians, and the best you could do in 2009 if a person like Sergei Magnitsky was killed is you could hope in the very best case that the US government or perhaps the British government would issue a short statement saying that that was a bad thing. That was the maximum consequence that could come from a situation like this. And for me, given the fact that this young man who had given up his entire life at the age of 37 to try to fight corruption on my behalf was killed, I couldn’t accept that. So I said to myself well if no mechanism exist, let’s create one. That was the moment that we then started to look at what we could create, and Sergei Magnitsky was killed because he uncovered $230 million of tax rebate fraud that was committed by Russian government officials. And that fraud, and the $230 million that they benefited from, they don’t keep in Russia, they keep that money in the West. And it’s obvious to everybody if you walk down the streets of Knightbridge of down 5th Avenue in New York or the bahnhofstrasse in Zurich, you hear Russian being spoken among very well dressed, very fancy people who are keeping their money from Russia in the West. They like to travel to the West, they like to send their kids to school in the West. And that was the seed of the idea to ban visas and freeze assets on the people who killed Sergei Magnitsky and the people who killed others in Russia in the same types of circumstances. And so I originally went to Senator Benjamin Cardin of Maryland and Senator John McCain of Arizona and I told them the story of Sergei Magnitsky. And I said can we put a piece of legislation together to ban visas and freeze assets, and these two senators were so moved by the story, and despite of a moment in time when the United States was trying to ‘reset relations with Russia’ that these two senators put forth the Magnitsky act in October 2010, and it was so popular among senators – and I should point out that there was no Russian torture and murder lobby in Washington – that in November 2012, two years after we started this process, the Magnitsky Act was passed 92-4 in the Senate and 89% of the House of Representatives, and it was signed into law December 14th 2012. People often say, ‘well how do you know that this is a good piece of policy? How do you know that this affects the Russians?’ We know this affects the Russians for one very simple reason which is that Putin has told us so, he got so angry that he banned the adoption of Russian orphans – and I should point out sick Russian orphans because the healthy ones are not put up for adoption by Western families. He basically banned the adoption of sick Russian orphans who often would die in a Russian orphanage if they weren’t taken by American families. And then he declared that repealing the Magnitsky Act was the single largest foreign policy priority. So we knew we were on to something, and we knew we were on to something that shouldn’t just be an American piece of legislation. At that point we then started the process in Canada, and I’m very fortunate to have sitting with me today three of probably the six most important people who are involved in this whole process in Canada. We have Vladmiri Kara-Murza who will tell you his story in a minute, who came to Canada on a number of occasions with me on behalf of Russians, not on behalf of Westerners, to tell the Canadian parliament and to tell other parliaments not just Canada, that the Magnitsky Act is actually the single most pro-Russian piece of legislation out there because it bans Russian criminals in the government not Russian people. He came a number of times to Canada and was poisoned twice – and I’m sure he’ll talk about that – in Moscow, I believe in retaliation for his advocacy, and he came within inches of dying twice. One person who isn’t here with us today is Boris Nemtsov who is Vladimir’s colleague and political collaborator who also came to Canada who was killed in February 2015 in front of the Kremlin. We also have Marcus Kolga here. Marcus for seven years worked with me every week. He lives in Toronto and went to Ottawa on many many occasions and ran all the tracks in Canada. And then we have James Bezan who is a member of the Canadian parliament, and I should point out a member of the Canadian parliament in the opposition, he’s not in the government party. It’s his legislation from the opposition private members bill that became the Canadian Magnitsky Act, it passed unanimously, 277-0 about three weeks ago. The Russians reacted against Canada by putting out an Interpol arrest warrant for me for the fifth time. In addition to Canada, we also have Estonia that passed a Magnitsky Act in December of last year. And in addition to Canada we also have Britain, and Britain is a bit of a more complicated story because we have yet to have a government proposed Magnitsky Act. The Government – and I should point out different governments, not just one government, all different governments – have not wanted to ruffle the feathers of Russia. And because the way the process works here, to put a piece of legislation in you pretty much have to have the government do it. So we came up with a loophole, which was they had a piece of legislation going through about freezing criminal assets, and so we put a Magnitsky amendment on to that piece of legislation. The government did fight us, but we eventually had enough Tory backbenchers and all the opposition – and Ian was one of the leaders of the opposition – and we had so many people that the government realised that they couldn’t get around it so they approved the Magnitsky amendment. That’s not enough: the Magnitsky amendment allows the government to freeze assets of human rights abusers, so far no assets have been frozen, it doesn’t ban visas, and it’s our intention – and we’re going to move forward on this quickly – is that there is a piece of sanctions legislation going through the parliament as part of Brexit, and it’s our intention to put a full on sanctions asset-freezing, visa-ban Magnitsky add on to this piece of legislation. We have the political support for it and we’re going to do it. I’m just going to finish off by saying – and Ian mentioned it – that about an hour ago the Lithuanian parliament voted 91-0 in favour of the Magnitsky Act, and Lithuania is now the 5th country and we truly have momentum and it’s a wonderful thing, and the Putin regime is scared and upset and it’s the first time that something like this has happened, which really puts them in a very uncomfortable situation. I will leave it at that because my colleagues will have a lot more to say.
Ian Austin MP: Well firstly Bill thank you.
And if people have not read Bill’s book on this – Red Notice – I read it over the summer and it’s a phenomenal book, I mean un-put-downable, absolutely un-put-downable, and it’s shocking and informative. When you actually read what happened to Sergei Magnitsky and how the people who did it behaved, it’s extraordinary. I recommend it to you all. We are now going to hear from Vladimir Kara-Murza, vice-Chairman of Open Russia which was founded by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and which promotes civil society and democracy in Russia. As Bill said, Vladimir was elected to the coordinating council of the Russian opposition in 2012 and served as deputy leader of the People’s Freedom Party from 2015-2016. So welcome to parliament Vladimir and we’re looking forward to hearing what you’ve got to tell us today.
Vladimir Kara-Murza: Thank you Mr Austin and I’d like to start by thanking our chairman today, Ian Austin MP, both for hosting us here this afternoon and also for all the efforts on behalf of human rights and democracy here in parliament. And thank you to the Henry Jackson Society for organising this discussion. Last month, the Memorial Human Rights Centre which is the most respected human rights organisation in Russia founded more than a quarter century ago by Andrei Sakharov, and recently designated by the Putin government as a foreign agent, published its annual report about political prisoners in Russia. They use very conservative, even restrictive criteria, to designate someone as a political prisoner, criteria established in Resolution 1900 of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. And even according to those restrictive criteria there are 117 people in Russian prisons today who are in prison for no other reason than having crossed the path of the current government. Just to put things in context, in his 1975 Nobel lecture, Andrei Sakharov listed 126 prisoners of conscience in the USSR. There are many other similarities and parallels between the Soviet regime and the regime of Vladimir Putin. We have censorship and government-driven propaganda in all the major media outlets. We have no free or fair elections. We have a parliament that’s a pretence and a rubber stamp and has its own speakers but is not a place for discussion. Opponents of the government are routinely and publicly denounced as enemies and traitors and foreign agents, and I can go on. But for all these many similarities and parallels, there is one major difference. And that difference is that members of the Soviet Politburo didn’t keep their money in Western banks, they didn’t send their kids to study in Western schools, they didn’t buy high class real estate and yachts and luxury cars in Western countries. The people who rule Russia today, the officials and the oligarchs of the Putin regime do that. The same people who undermine and attack and violate the most basic norms of Democratic society want to use the privileges and opportunities of Democratic societies for themselves and for their families. They want to steal in Russia but spend in the West. And for too long many Western countries have been enabling this behaviour, in effect enabling human rights abusers and corruption in Russia by providing the perpetrators of human rights abuses and corruption in Russia with the opportunity to use Western countries as havens for their looted wealth. Five years ago, as Bill mentioned, one hundred United States senators decided to put a stop to this double standard, or at least begin to put a stop to this double standard, by passing a law that we are here to discuss, the Sergei Magnitsky Act, a law that laid down a very simple principle: that if you engage in corruption and human rights abuses in Russia you will no longer be able to get a visa or use the financial and banking sector of, in this case, the United States. Since then in the last five years other countries have joined this process. Last December, Estonia became the first European Union country to have a full-fledged Magnitsky Law. Today Lithuania became the second. A few weeks ago, Canada, as Bill mentioned already, unanimously passed its own Magnitsky Act, and my colleagues Marcus Kolga and James Bezan will speak more about this in a minute. Both of them have tirelessly campaigned for this and made this a reality and we’re very grateful to Canada for becoming the second G7 country to pass a full-fledged Magnitsky Law. Earlier this year the British parliament made an important first step by passing an amendment to the criminal finances bill, an amendment that provided in some cases for the opportunity to seize assets from foreign individuals engaged in gross human rights abuses. We hope that the United Kingdom, not only as one of the oldest and most important democracies in the world, but also as a country that as we all know has long been a favoured destination of officials and oligarchs from the Putin regime, takes the next step and does more, and passes a full-fledged Magnitsky Law that will contain both the visa bans and the asset freezes, and will send a clear message to the crooks and the human rights abusers that they will not be welcome in this country.
Ian Austin MP: Well thanks Vladimir, that’s a brilliant explanation of what’s happening and tremendous encouragement to those of us to ensure we do more here in the UK. We’re going to hear now from the award-winning documentary filmmaker Marcus Kolga. Marcus is an international award-winning documentary maker, communications expert, journalist, and political activist. His films have been screened and broadcast in North America and in Europe and Canada, I think they’ve been seen by 3 million viewers. He founded and published his first North America newspaper in 2000 and has since become an expert on regional European and Russian issues with a focus on communications and media strategies as tools of foreign policies and defence, as well as working with NGOs and other organisations. So Marcus it’s great that you’re here, and we’re very much looking forward to hear what you’ve got to tell us today.
Marcus Kolga: Well thank you so much for inviting me, and to the Henry Jackson Society for hosting this event. I’m going to talk about Canada’s efforts to pass the Sergei Magnitsky law in Canada, and it took us, as Bill mentioned, over seven years to do this. Let me begin by saying that Canada’s Sergei Magnitsky law is a global human rights law. It doesn’t target specific states, it targets individuals, individuals who abuse the rights of their fellow citizens and profit from those abuses. Our efforts were immensely challenged and involved the participation of many human rights advocates, some of whom are no longer with us today, and some who we’re lucky to have here with us. Many foreign observers might be surprised to learn that this Canadian human rights legislation took as long as it did to pass. The first attempt came from former justice minister Irwin Cotler, who first introduced private members motion to ask the Canadian government to adopt this legislation back in 2011. Boris Nemtsov, as we heard, was among the first activists to visit Ottawa in 2012 to petition parliament to enact the law. Vladimir came to Ottawa later that same year, and he came back to Canada after the first attempt on his life to convince Canadians to enact legislation, and then again after the second attempt. And I’ve frankly lost count the number of times Bill has visited Canada to do the same. When Canadians look in the collective national mirror, we see a towering defender of global human rights and a grand broker of peace and stability. Much of this Canadian self-image is rooted in Canada’s contributions in drafting the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. So deeply ingrained is this in our national identity that our foreign ministry website includes this history on our home page. It is remarkable that then prime minister Louis St Laurent ordered Canadian diplomats to avoid any role in the deliberations of that declaration 1948, and persisted in obstructing its advance. So too did Canada’s most recent former foreign minister stall and block Magnitsky legislation. The former minister’s opposition was so great that he even claimed incorrectly that Canada already had the power to sanction human rights abusers and the Magnitsky legislation was redundant. Canada after all was seeking to re-engage with Vladimir Putin and Magnitsky legislation would further complicate that effort. In 1948, Canada took a similarly soft position when it was the only country to side with the Soviet Union to abstain on a final vote on the Canadian-drafted declaration. The risk of international isolation and embarrassment eventually forced Canada to acquiesce and support it. Just as Canada’s position then on the declaration was too shameful to sustain, so too was the Canadian government’s more recent trajectory towards appeasement of modern repressive regimes and kleptocrats by rejecting Magnitsky legislation. Last January, a new minister of foreign affairs was named. With Chrystia Freeland, the government’s position on Sergei Magnitsky legislation aligned with the overwhelming pro-human rights consensus that had emerged in Ottawa. As the movement to adopt Sergei Magnitsky legislation gained support and momentum so too did the Kremlin’s objections intensify. In March 2016, the Kremlin lawyer at the centre of the current Trump-Russia investigation Natalia Veselnitskaya publicly attacked Canadian efforts to adopt the law. Veselnitskaya triggered a ripple effect of criticism in Russia’s pro-Kremlin media and even prompted a call from Russia’s lower house to open an official investigation into the Canadian movement. Vladimir Putin’s hollow foot-stomping was echoed by local proxy groups, set up solely to amplify Kremlin messaging. Progressively malicious public attacks against the Canadian parliamentarians and activists lost all mainstream credibility, becoming morbidly desperate when Canadian MPs who supported the legislation including the minister herself were accused of harbouring Neo-Nazi sympathies by pro-Putin alt-right conspiracy theorists. Despite the Kremlin’s best efforts to inspire the worst fears in Canadians, the Sergei Magnitsky law, which was introduced and heroically shepherded by two conservative opposition parliamentarians as we’ve heard, Senator Raynell Andreychuk and James here, passed unanimously in both the house, the house of commons and the senate in October. In a statement of release days after royal assent, the Kremlin said that “Canada’s decision to extend its anti-Russian sanctions under the false pretexts of hypocritically championing human rights is absolutely pointless and reprehensible”. The Kremlin has also claimed to have imposed sanctions on Canadian officials as a retaliatory measure, but perhaps unsurprisingly no lsit of those sanctioned has ever been released. In the Kremlin’s macabre world of Orwellian devil speak, it is Vladimir Putin who is relentlessly presented as the victim of this human rights legislation, and the human rights activists are unfairly persecuting these regimes. Yet Canadians have universally embraced this new law and reclaim their role as a human rights leader, just as they did with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Other nations now can use Canada’s example and work towards adopting their own global human rights legislation. The overheated bluster of Kremlin propaganda and threat of retaliation are to be expected and quite safely ignored. We cannot allow human rights to be held hostage by hot air. No one in the United Kingdom or Europe or elsewhere should ever fall for the attempts of the world’s totalitarians and kleptocrats to vilify the norms and principle values that motivate our actions. Accountability for human rights and individual actions are a sovereign right that no regime should be allowed to bully another nation into rejecting. This is not to say that these laws should be passed unthinkingly or lightly. We need to take the time to do them right. So once again thank you for the immense honour of being invited to speak here today, and I hope that our experiences in Canada will serve you and others in adopting a more complete piece of Magnitsky legislation in the future. Thank you.
Ian Austin MP: I think what Marcus has done there is remind us all that you can’t just believe in your country’s commitment to human rights and democracy. You’ve actually got to stand up for those values and you’ve got to defend them. If they mean anything, you’ve got to defend them. I think that’s what Marcus has taught us today. And we’re now going to hear from James Bezan, who’s been successfully elected five times as a Canadian member of parliament. He’s served as – I would try to pronounce the constituency, but I don’t think I’d be able, I’m bound to get it wrong, so I’m not going to do that – but he’s served as the parliamentary secretary to the minster of national defence (2013-2015). He was active on dealing with military procurement, mental health in the armed forces, the war against ISIS, and Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. He currently serves in the opposition shadow cabinet as the official shadow minister for national defence, and has been very outspoken on the issue of Ukrainian sovereignty, democracy, human rights, and as a result was one of 13 Canadian officials sanctioned by the Russian government in 2014, something James you should wear, I think, as a badge of honour. So it’s great that you’re with us today, and we congratulate you for all your work on this and we thank you for what you’ve done. Welcome to British parliament, and we’re looking forward to hearing what you have to tell us.
James Bezan: Thank you Ian and it is indeed a pleasure to join all of you today. My esteemed colleagues, and all three of them are people that I greatly respect for their hard work on human rights and stopping corruption in Russia and around the world. I want to thank the Henry Jackson Society for all the work that you do in defending democracy and defending our rights and liberty, and standing against those that are trying to violate those human rights. That type of work, that type of education, that increasing public awareness is critical to the work that we do as parliaments around the world. It’s critical for us to be able to take forward the right messages to those countries that harbour those individuals who are grossly violating the human rights of their citizens. So that is really how our legislation in Canada was brought to bears, because of the work of people like Bill Browder, Vladimir Kara-Murza, Marcus Kolga, and so many others that have come on board to really lobby Canada hard, although for some of us it was an easy sell to go out there and to build our own global Magnitsky legislation. Now I want to talk a little bit about how the process started in Canada, and Marcus gave us the historical context of former justice minister and a former colleague Irwin Cotler, who started off first by bringing forward a motion that was unanimously passed in the house of commons. Then tabled legislation at the end of the last parliament, and died on the (*inaudible*) in 2015. As we came back into session and after all the main political parties, the Liberals, the Conservatives, and the New Democrats, all had in their platforms to bring forward Sergei Magnitsky style legislation to hold those corrupt human violators, those who are abusing their positions of power and authority in their countries, and to make sure we hold them to account. And so I started a bill in the house of commons, Senator Raynall Andreychuk is my colleague who I have worked with very closely over the past 13 years – she started one over in the Senate in consultation with Bill and Marcus and our leaders’ office trying to make sure we can take a two-pronged approach knowing that Stéphane Dion, the former minister of foreign affairs, was adamantly opposed to us moving ahead on this legislation. As Marcus mentioned, the government at the time in 2016, and even early 2017, were completely committed to an appeasement policy with Russia. And as Bill has found over the years, when you’re dealing with the foreign service, whether it’s the department of foreign affairs in Canada, whether it’s the department of foreign affairs here in Britain, the foreign service in the United States, our diplomats – those that work in the foreign service – have a policy that’s ‘let’s go along to get along’ and that type of appeasement policy has done nothing to stand up for principled human rights, our principled belief in stopping corruption, and so that’s why it is important that we had that two-pronged approach to try to force the government. Luckily, and I can tell you it was very lucky, in a cabinet shuffle at the beginning of this year, Stéphane Dion was dumped. He’s now the EU ambassador also serving in Germany, so he’s their problem now not ours, but he’s no longer in parliament. We were able to make some great progress. Now things started to change right away at our standing committee in the house of commons on foreign affairs that did a study on Sergei Magnitsky, and first there was great reluctance to go ahead on this study, and they did great work and called in fantastic witnesses like Vladimir, Bill, Marcus and others, including Boris Nemtsov’s daughter, Gary Kasparov among others, and they were able to put together some pretty strong recommendations to the government. Change in ministry helped. But then also other communities in Canada got on board. The Falun Gong want to stand up against those in China who were arresting and executing Falun Gong practitioners, and harvesting their organs and their tissues. We heard from the Iranian community who want to hold to account the theocracy in Iran. Rouhani as the current president has now increased political executions there to the 2nd highest in the world, only China executes more political prisoners than Iran. The Ukrainian community, of course, was very involved. The Vietnamese community want to hold their communist government to account. And the Venezuelans with President Maduro, they were all over it. So having that type of support really resonates with us as parliamentarians when we’re back in our (*inaudible*) talking to our constituents and getting lobbied in Ottawa. As we started going through the process Senator Andreychuk’s bill came through the senate faster than mine, which was the plan, we got it over into the house, and with the change in leadership in the department of foreign affairs, Chrystia announced when we were having a committee at the hold debate that the government would be supporting our legislation with amendments. Senator Andreychuk and I had to sit down and go through the process with them. There were some amendments that we rejected, and there were some that we accepted, because it provided some balance, and some fairness for those that were put on our list that didn’t feel it was justified, and it gave them an opportunity to ensure that they could get their names off the list. But one thing that was critical to both Raynall and me was first and foremost that it concentrated on those who were committing gross human rights violations, that those that are corrupt and those kleptocrats around the world were being held to account, and finally that there was parliamentary oversight, both in the senate and the house, and that the foreign affairs committees in both chambers can have an opportunity at least on an annual basis to review these lists and make recommendations of additions and subtractions. But I think critical to all of this and why it’s important that all other countries in the world adopt global Magnitsky legislation is that we cannot allow our countries to be used as safe havens for the illicit wealth generated through corruption, or for their families. They are out there trying to hide their families or their girlfriends, or have their kids educated in Western universities. So this is about making sure that we’re not getting taken advantage of. As was already mentioned by Bill, our bills passed unanimously in the house and in the senate after the amendments, and that again I have to really give both Bill and Marcus kudos here, because they went out and worked with all members of parliament and all the parties. The three main parties talk all the time, so it was easy for me to reach out and talk to the NDP and the Liberals who were like-minded. It was a little more difficult for me to go to talk to the Bloc Québécois Separatists or to the Green Party, so that’s where civil society comes in to play in making sure that they reached out to all parliamentarians. At the end of the week that we actually passed the bill, we were able to immediately sanction 52 individuals, and the first name on that list is President Maduro of Venezuela. So there were Russians on the list, and Venezuelans on the list, and those from South Sudan, and I know that we’re evaluating putting more names on there to represent the other countries where we know there’s gross human rights violations. But surprisingly the only noise that we’re hearing is from the Kremlin. And so as Marcus said, and I’m sure Marcus you’re on the list it just hasn’t been announced, but the Russians for the second time have done what they call tranches of sanctions against the Canadians without naming anyone. This is the 3rd tranche over all, the first was the 13 of us that were originally banned from Russia, then there’s a second tranche about a year and a half ago. Out of that group I never heard of anyone getting denied entry into Russia. So whether it’s fake news or whatever the Kremlin’s trying to do here, we’ve got to remember that it is the kleptocrats around the Kremlin, those buddies of Vladimir Putin, that are feeling the pinch on this. The more countries that we can sanction so that they can’t hide their wealth and take advantage of our strong financial sectors and our strong property values that we have in the real estate market, and ensure that they aren’t buying up our businesses and taking advantage of our free trade and free economies and free societies. So this isn’t about being ‘Russianphobic’, this is about making sure that we are acting in a global manner, that we are putting in place deterrence measures that stop human rights violations, or at least have those human rights violators take a second look if they aren’t going to be able to enjoy the wealth that they’re stealing from society. I think Vladimir said it best in an interview with the Global Mail and he said it in the committee as well, and that’s that Sergei Magnitsky legislation is pro-Russian legislation, it is pro-Democracy legislation, and it is pro-society across the free world. So this is about not only standing up for our values and protecting our values around the world, it’s about protecting our sovereignty and making sure we’re not being used as safe havens for that illicit wealth and for those families and individuals. It kind of all accumulated at the very end. We had Bill Browder in Ottawa to celebrate the passing of our Sergei Magnitsky law along with Sergei Magnitsky’s widow Natalia and their son Nikita, and they got a standing ovation in the Canadian house of commons, and I just have to again congratulate Bill for all your hard work and thank you for standing up not only for Sergei and his family, but standing up for everyone who’s been really victimised by these kleptocrats, not just in Russia, but those corrupt individuals from around the world.
Ian Austin MP: Brilliant, thank you James.
James’ work and success should be an inspiration to those of us in other parliaments who want to see these measures introduced elsewhere. Before we take questions, there’s just one thing I want to say which is this. I think Vladimir drew the comparisons between Soviet Communist Russia and the Putin regime today, and anybody who wants any proof of that should just look at what happened 11 years ago here in London when Alexander Litvinenko was murdered clearly on Putin’s orders. This is a man who murders his opponents at home and here on the streets of London. And I just wanted to say that because I’ve noticed that we’ve been joined by Marina Litvinenko who’s here.
We are really grateful to you for being here with us today, and for your continuing fight for justice in the name of your late husband and other victims of this brutal regime, so thank you very much. Okay now we’re going to take some questions. I’m sure there will be lots of questions, let’s take them in groups of three and then the panel can answer them. Let’s keep questions brief so we can get as many in as possible.
Question: For all of you, particularly Mr Browder, where is the progress being made and where are the hold ups? Which organisations or people are supporting you and who are not, particularly where perhaps there might be surprise/unexpected problems in either case?
Question: I haven’t read your books but I’m going to and it’s probably covered in your book, but I’m interested in the tax fraud of the $230 million dollars, but who benefited from that? Were they officials? What about the tax officials? What happened to them?
Question: What I’m wondering is whether it’s been applied in the US for instance, and where it’s been first passed? What are the criteria for it?
William Browder: Shall I go first and maybe some of my colleagues can talk about the obstacles? So to answer your question first Sir. We have two prongs in our campaign for justice. One is a political prong which we described here which are the Magnitsky acts, and the second is the criminal justice prong which goes directly to your question: who got the $230 million? I’ve had a team working on this for 8 years and we’ve tracked down who got the money, and we’re going through methodically country by country with law enforcement to freeze and seize the assets of who got the money. There are now 12 cases opened in Europe and North America with law enforcement going after criminals who have been involved in money laundering. There’s about $40 million frozen worldwide so far, there will be more frozen in the future. This really really upsets the Russians, because not only does it expose who got the $230 million, it exposes the entire money laundering system that the Russian government criminals use to launder all the money from tax rebates. The tax rebate of $230 million is the tip of the iceberg. Billions and billions are being stolen from the coffers of Russia and other post-Soviet states. Coming to your question on the issue of legal standards. It’s both sad and happy to say it’s almost impossible to get somebody on the Magnitsky list. I’m sad to say it because we proposed 282 names and we’ve only got 35 Magnitsky killers on the US list, and that’s frustrating because we have evidence for a lot more. I’m happy to say it because the standard of which they apply is so extremely high that there’s absolutely no question of the legitimacy of the Magnitsky Act. It is difficult for other cases to get people on the list. There are 44 names on the US list: 9 of them come from other cases, 35 of them come from Magnitsky. In Canada, we’re happy to say that there’s 52 names: 30 of them come from Magnitsky, and 22 comes from South Sudan and Venezuela. It’s an extremely high standard and it’s not easy to get on the list. Every country takes it extremely seriously because nobody wants to be accused of sanctioning improperly.
James Bezan: I’ll just say on the sanction list front. I’ve actually – with Maria Litvinenko here – criticised the government for missing on our list Dimitri Kuvton and Andrei Lukovov, because both of them are responsible for the death of Alexander. So I want to see them on our list in Canada and we’re going to move on that as quickly as possible. Just on the money laundering part of it. One of the things through Bill’s work is that we were able to find in Canada that there was over $13 million from the Magnitsky fraud itself that Sergei had uncovered. That tax fraud had made its way into Canadian banking institution and into private corporations and into numbered companies. One thing our legislation does is: placing agencies, intelligence agencies, our banking system, are all now compelled to provide information to the government in Canada so that they can take appropriate actions when we have to sanction these individuals.
Vladimir Kara-Murza: Very quickly I’ll go through the questions in the reverse order. You asked about the legal basis. The main legal basis is international law. All of the countries we are talking about where the Magnitsky law has been introduced so far and hopefully will be introduced soon, all of those countries are members of the organisation for security and cooperation in Europe, as is Canada, as is the US, as is of course the United Kingdom, and as is Russia. The founding documents of that organisation, including the document that was adopted of all places in Moscow, the OAC Moscow document clearly states, black and white, that matters relating to human rights, fundamental freedoms and democracy cannot be considered ‘internal affairs’ of that or another country, they are subject to international oversight. So when Mr Putin and Mr Lavrov are telling Western countries ‘human rights don’t matter and our internal affairs’, they are lying. These are not internal affairs. Human rights abuses are subject to international concern, and it’s our responsible that human rights abuses have an international nature and this is what this whole Magnitsky process is about. Bill already spoke about the rigorous standards that needs to be passed to name somebody on a Magnitsky list. I can say that even according to those very rigorous standards – and by the way I agree with this too, the difference is Western countries have rule of law unlike the Putin regime so it’s right and proper that there should be for example a mechanism to appeal and go to court to challenge this as it exists – there are many more people who deserve to be on these lists. There are only 44 people, as Bill mentioned, on the US list. I would say that for a long time the American government was very timid about implementing the Magnitsky law, only putting some low level people on the list. And I’m not saying they shouldn’t belong there, they are human rights abusers too, but the Magnitsky Act was passed without any glass ceilings in mind. It’s targeting human rights abusers without regard for rank or influence. And it was only in January of this year, in the last two weeks of the Obama administration when it was politically more easy for them than before, when they added really some of the big shots to the list. These include Kovton and Lukovoi, the people who according to a British public enquiry were involved in the murder of Alexander Litvinenko. It also included General Alexander Bastrykin, the head of the investigative committee, the top law enforcement official in the Putin regime, one of the closest people to Putin, his old university friend. And I think Bastrykin’s case really illustrates – I mean, if you can’t put somebody like Bastrykin on the Magnitsky list and they couldn’t for the first 4 years, then what is this law really for? And when we talk about standards and proof and evidence… So this guy, General Bastrykin, a few years ago he personally took an independent journalist to a forest near Moscow, took him out of the car, walked him into the forest, took a gun out and said ‘if you continue writing what you’re writing and I’m going to kill you and bury you right here and ha ha I’m going to be the one in charge of investigating this, because I’m the head of the investigative committee. And this is not disputed, he admitted this. He also said sorry afterwards, but I don’t think that’s quite the responsibility we have in mind. So if you can’t put somebody like this on the Magnitsky Act then what is it for? And I have to commend the Canadian government for putting Bastrykin on within two days after the Canadian Magnitsky law was passed. Of course there are many more people who belong to these lists. One glaring omission that everybody notices for example is Ramzan Kadyrov, Putin’s Viceroy in Chechnya, Putin’s man in Chechnya. Chechnya today, even by the general standards of human rights in Putin’s Russia, which are not high, Chechnya is a black hole. They have daily disappearances, murders, tortures, he kills his political opponents not just in Chechnya but in Moscow, in Dubai, in Vienna. These people behave with impunity including on an international level, and it is absolutely clear that Kadyrov or his people were involved in the assassination of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. And yet Kadyrov is not at least in the open section of the US Magnitsky list. He certainly belongs there, he certainly belongs on the Canadian list, he certainly belongs on these other lists, and we’re hoping that governments will be more forthright and more courageous in putting these names up.
And on your question of where there is progress and where there is lack of progress. I think as a general rule I would say – and I’m proud to have been a small part of the efforts in getting these laws passed in several countries – the main drive for it always comes from legislatures, from members of parliament. And the executives everywhere try to stop it and stifle it and kill it. Big business, in some countries like Germany, is relevant, but I have to say in our experience in the US – I don’t know if Bill had a different experience – but I never really encountered any opposition from business per say, but a lot of opposition from the US government.
Bill Browder: That’s not entirely correct. Goldman Sachs had hired lobbyists to lobby against the Magnitsky Act.
Vladimir Kara-Murza: Well there we go, there’s an example. But the US government, they tried to block it and stop it at every stage. I think I’m going to write about it one day with names and all. It’s astonishing to see members of the United States government basically acting as proxies for human rights abusers, which is what they did by trying to stop it. But when it was passed, as Bill mentioned, by 92% in the senate, and 89% in the house of representatives, there was not a lot of choice for the government to do this. Just as a very quick comment, a general comment on all of this. It’s important to remember that this whole process, the Magnitsky process, this is a palliative, this is a pale shadow of real justice. Justice for killers shouldn’t be to have their bank accounts suspended, they should be tried and they should face responsibility. This is a palliative while we do not have rule of law in Russia or a real justice system in Russia that will be able to hold these people to account, this is the only thing, as Bill said, that we can do. When we have rule of law and democracy in Russia, the Magnitsky Act will become redundant, because we will have a real due process and a real justice system that will be able to do to these people what they deserve.
Marcus Kolga: Just quickly on the question about progress vs hold ups. At least in the Canadian experience there were three main areas where we faced real resistance. One of them was big business. For example, Bombardier, which is one of our largest companies, it builds trains, planes etc. There are mining companies as well who banded together under a Kremlin organised umbrella, which is a business association for Canada business – CERBA, the Canada-Eurasia-Russia business association, which is guided by the Kremlin, and they put up stiff resistance. Bombardier – I’m sure you’re all familiar with their troubles in Azerbaijan – they lobbied hard and continue to lobby for Vladimir Yukunen, who’s the former chair of Russia Railroads to be off of our list. He’s on the US list, but somehow he remains off of the Canadian list. The Kremlin was also fairly effective in exerting influence on the Prime Minister’s office. The Prime Minister very much wanted to re-engage with Russia, but the Russian embassy in Ottawa threatened retaliation if they adopted any more sanctions in Magnitsky legislation, so it was because of that that the Prime Minister resisted. The Kremlin also sets up other proxy groups (e.g. Canada-Eurasia-Russia business association). There’s a Russian group called the Russian-Canadian Congress. This is an organisation that suddenly popped up around 2014, claiming to represent Canadians of Russian heritage. This organisation absolutely parrots every Kremlin talking point, and they have been pushing hard against adopting Magnitsky legislation. Luckily just about two weeks ago they were outed, so to speak, in the house of commons when a member of parliament stood up and called them for what they were, and the New York Times picked up the story and they’ve lost all credibility. So we’re a bit ahead of the game in Canada in that regard, but that’s basically where the three areas of resistance came from, and if you follow them all back it all starts in Moscow.
Ian Austin MP: Three more questions?
Question: A question for Ian and Bill Browder. Given that we’ve managed to put a small coalition successfully together to get the Magnistky clause on to the criminal finance bill last year, what is stopping us putting together that coalition together once again to get a full law through in the UK now that the UK government is weaker?
Question: With the Magnitsky law, because you have got the list of people and you can track the movement of money, then guilt should be proven quickly. But how do you bring them to account and in which jurisdiction and can it be pan-European rather than single jurisdictions?
Question: Do you think you’re making progress with the law in the UK?
William Browder: The weaker the government, the better it is for activists because we only need 7 votes from the Tories to pass a piece of legislation. We will come up with a much stronger Magnitsky Bill in the sanctions law going forward because of this political situation. Having said that, what I’ll say today is that this country is levitating on a sea of dirty Russian money, and it’s levitating in a highly concentrated way here in this building. Because the people in this building are connected to people who are making a lot of money off of Russians. London is effectively the concierge for Russian oligarchs. The London law firms, the London investigation agencies, the public relations firms, the real estate agencies…and there’s a lot of people who are very close physically proximity-wise and socially to the people in this organisation and some people even in the parliament and the house of lords directly taking money from Russians. So it’s always going to be difficult here and strangely even though there’s only 7 votes to get a piece of legislation passed, there’s a lot of undercurrent people just not wanting to rock the boat because of the establishment. In terms of your question on justice, we don’t have an opportunity to prosecute people for torture and murder here in the United Kingdom or in Europe for a torture/murder that took place in Russia. It just doesn’t exist as a matter of law. So as Vladimir said, this is as good as we’re going to get in the short term, and I should point out it isn’t justice to prosecute somebody if they have tortured and murdered Sergei Magnitsky. Taking away their visas and bank accounts is hardly justice. However, the fact that they are so upset by it gives us some comfort that we are hitting them in their Achilles’ heel.
Ian Austin MP: There are people on all sides of the House of Commons who are committed to pushing the government to do much more on this. And there will be people on all sides who will support the proposals that Bill has set out. Alongside that though, we’ve got to use every opportunity to raise these issues and to push the government to show that there is widespread cross-party pressure to take more action. For example, we are applying next week for a backbench business debate where we’ll be able to discuss all these issues in the chamber of the House of Commons. We tried to get an urgent question this morning on Russian influence in British politics. I think what the Prime Minister said on Monday about social media and all this stuff, I thought that was really interesting and is quite a big step I think, and it shows the sort of information that she’s getting I imagine from intelligence services. I think there is growing momentum and there are lots of people who, like me, are absolutely committed to do much more on this. So we are looking for every parliamentary device, every opportunity to raise these issues, tabling questions, continuing to push away. Bill’s support on this has been really important, and the Henry Jackson Society as well. There are a lot of us working on it, and we will continue to work on it.
Vladimir Kara-Murza: Just quick follow up. When we’re talking about jurisdictions and all this process let’s not forget that we’re not talking about criminal prosecutions or indictments. These are not really even sanctions; this is denying of privileges. This is what this whole process is about. There’s no inherent right for a Kremlin oligarch to open a bank account in the UK. That’s not a right, he’s not entitled to it. So this is just a denying of privileges. When Western democracies say we don’t want torturers and murderers and crooks on our territory buying up our assets, this is all it is. And again, it’s just a pale shadow of what there needs to be, and I’m sure one day will happen when Russia has a real justice system that will be able to take care of these people. And also, when we talk about the resistance from some parts of Western governments to this whole process, let’s not underestimate how many people there are in Western political elites who still want some sort of accommodation with the Putin regime, who still want to work them, who want to cooperate with them. Back in the early 80s, Vladimir Bukovsky, one of the best known Soviet dissidents, wrote a few books and one of them was dedicated specifically to the attitude then of Western governments towards the Soviet regime. He had a phrase in that book which I think is still very relevant today almost 40 years on: “for many Western political leaders, frying their morning bacon on Soviet gas is much more important than human rights”. Replace Soviet with any other name of an authoritarian regime and that will still ring true today. We don’t have to look further than a former chancellor of Germany who now works for Putin as the chairman of Rosneft – frying his bacon literally almost – and don’t forget that Rosneft is not only a state and Kremlin-controlled company, but it’s also a product of loot because the assets of Rosneft are assets that used to belong Yukos that were stripped from it by the Kremlin in a politically motivated case, and sealed Yukos’ Mikhail Khodorkovsky spending more than 10 years in prison on politically-fabricated charges. The former chairman of Germany is now legitimising this by being chairman of it. What’s there to be surprised about?
Ian Austin MP: Absolutely scandalous isn’t it. Let’s take some more questions.
Question: This is all terrible and I agree with all the criticisms being made. But there’s a kind of hypocrisy here as well. Look what’s happening in Saudi Arabia. Look at the close ties between the American government and the European governments and Saudi Arabia, and look at the influence they have on our politics. In America 13% of the economy is owned by the Saudis.
Ian Austin MP: Okay I know, but not being able to tackle corruption in every country is not an argument for not dealing with these issues.
Question: What do you think we ought to be doing to ensure that what laws are passed are actually enforced?
Question: The US is due to report on the assets of oligarchs and other individuals as part of the recent sanctions bill by early next year, I wonder if you’re optimistic about that process or perhaps putting into it either from a governmental perspective or (*inaudible*)?
Vladimir Kara-Murza: On Saudi Arabia, I’m not in any way an expert on Saudi Arabia, and certainly none of us condone human rights abuses in any country in the world. But let me just say one thing. This is an old trick that many of these old propaganda regimes use, they find somebody else and say ‘oh look, they’re even worse’. I’m a Russian. Russia is a member of the Council of Europe. Russia is a member of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. We are a European country. I expect better of my country than to have a regime that steals from its own people, that tortures people, that puts people in prison for their political views, that rigs elections and censors the media. This is unacceptable. It’s unacceptable that in a European country in the 21st century we have one man sitting in power for 18 years, which is how long Putin has been in power. We have a whole generation of people in Russia who don’t remember anything except his regime. I find this unacceptable. As Mr Austin said, it’s not okay to say ‘oh okay because something worse is going on in another country then ignore this’, no, we are not going to ignore this. This is my country, and frankly I expect my country to be held to a better standard than a Middle Eastern dictatorship. That’s the first question. On enforcement it’s a very important question and thank you for raising it. In fact, you’re right, there are many laws in many Western countries already on the books that should be able to be used to stop money laundering from Russia. I think it’s 3 years ago now that a United States Senator called Roger Wicker – he’s actually one of the original sponsors of a US Magnitsky Act, a republican from Mississippi – he sent a letter to the director of the FBI asking him to investigate a former Kremlin official called Mikhael Lesin, who was a former information minister in Putin’s government, the person that was responsible for the closure of three nationwide independent television channels in the first three years of Putin’s rule. He was one of the founders of Russia Today – RT, the Kremlin’s propaganda outlet – and he was a government official for many years and then suddenly it was discovered that he owned $23 million of real estate in Los Angeles, California. And so Senator Wicker wrote to the FBI saying can we please investigate this guy, we already have the laws in the book for it – the foreign corrupt practices act, and the anti-money laundering legislation. That investigation was never completed because Lesin died, but I’m just saying this as an example that yes existing laws can be used to go after these people but unfortunately they’re not used, and even as we have seen the Magnitsky laws are sometimes implemented very timidly so it’s very important to have rigorous oversight from legislatures, parliaments and also from civil society and independent media to put pressure on governments to use all the existing laws in the book including the ones you refer to against money laundering, and the Magnitsky laws to make sure they fully implement it as it’s intended to be.
And thank you about the question about the section 241 of the new law passed in August. Nowadays in Moscow if you just say the number 241 everyone knows exactly what you’re talking about. This is the section that mandates that by February 2nd 2018, the US government compiles a public report about the names and the assets of people close to the Kremlin, close to the Putin regime, oligarchs and other persons of political interest. This is only a report, so no sanctions directly follow from this. For example, all these people will not be put on the Magnitsky list automatically. It’s only a report, but they are mortified of it. I know for a fact that some of these financial groups close to the Kremlin have sent emissaries to Washington to try to speak to people quietly and ask them if maybe it’s possible not for their name to be mentioned on this list. So they are really taking this seriously. As colleagues mentioned before, I think we should take the cue from the Kremlin and how much importance they attach to it. As Bill mentioned, this is one of the main priorities of Putin’s foreign minister to try to overturn the Magnitsky law. Within 3 hours of his inauguration on 7th May 2012, Putin signed a decree handing out task to his foreign ministry, and one of the top tasks was to stop the Magnitsky Act being adopted in the US. And we know the hysterical reactions that followed the adoption of the Magnitsky law, sometimes open blackmail. When the Irish parliament tried to pass the Magnitsky law in 2013, the Russian ambassador actually wrote an open letter to the Chairman of the Irish Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, publicly saying that if you adopt this, we’re going to ban the adoptions of Russian orphans by Irish citizens. This particular episode was done in relation to the Americans. They have blackmailed and threatened other countries. The Irish parliament succumbed to blackmail and abandoned plans to pass the Magnitsky law because of this. I’ll back exactly what Marcus said a few minutes ago: blackmail should really not succeed and should not be a driver of policy. But I think if you need an image of the moral character of the Putin regime, it is that. That they retaliate against countries who deny their crooks and human rights abusers from keeping their stolen money in their banks by going after defenceless Russian orphans. There’s a prominent journalist in Russia (*inaudible*) and he said back at the time when this law was passed – and Russian citizens called the law the ‘Scoundrels law’ or the ‘King Herod’s Law’, and there was a massive demonstration in Moscow with tens of thousands of people – that there are only two organisations in the world that use their own children as human shields against their opponents: one is Hamas, and the other is United Russia party led by Vladimir Putin.
Ian Austin MP: Bill what’s your assessment of the British authorities and policy’s ability to trace the money and take action against corrupt officials from abroad?
William Browder: It’s a very good question and a very sad answer I have which is that if you’re trying to open a bank account with £1000, there will be British banks etc will give you the third degree. But if you’re a criminal from Russia having obtained your money through government graft with £1billion, there’s a wide open door. Furthermore, this is the world’s capitol of money laundering. I’m not just saying that, I’m not exaggerating. More dirty money flows through London than any other financial centre. Why does it flow through London? Because there are beautiful laws on the books to prosecute people, but there are absolutely no prosecutions other than those guys with the £1000 who did something wrong. I can say this from experience, and I don’t say this lightly, and I don’t say this casually. We have the same exact body of evidence about the money laundering from the crime that Sergei Magnitsky discovered and we have distributed this evidence to 13 different law enforcement agencies around the world. And there is only one jurisdiction that has not opened a criminal case for money laundering, and that is here. That tells you something. And so I would say that this country is absolutely and completely and utterly failing at any type of money laundering enforcement and it’s a huge problem. Everybody talks – Theresa May and David Cameron and everybody else – tough about it, but there is absolutely no enforcement.
James Bezan: I’ll just follow up on that. It’s not just about enforcement, it’s about the law itself. Canada is an example: until we had the Sergei Magnitsky law, the cracking down on drug cartels, the mafia, bikers, all the guys out there who are laundering money but who are also committing criminality underneath the Canadian criminal code. But the Russia oligarch or kleptocrat that got their money through illicit means in Moscow doesn’t necessarily mean they broke the law in Canada until we brought forward the Magnitsky legislation. So it’s all about criminality in Canada, so the law is necessary. We’re always fighting corruption in Canada, now as parliamentarians, Fintrac are watching out bank accounts as well as our children’s bank accounts. So if you lent your kids some money to go buy a car and then they pay you back, Fintrac is holding your money now and you’ve got to answer a whole bunch of questions before they will release the funds. So that’s the extreme that we take it to for any corruption in Canada. But that’s because it’s Canadian politicians not Russian politicians, or politicians in Venezeula or anywhere else for that matter. So that’s the logic behind it and that’s why Sergei Magnitsky legislation is so important to make sure that our values are projected on to those individuals in other countries.
Marcus Kolga: and we still have a long way to go with enforcement. Because we’ve just started looking at implementation, and I think there’s going to be a real uphill battle when it comes to the enforcement side. And the question about Saudi Arabia. The Canadian legislation allows us to look at any regime that abuses the rights of its citizens, it’s not just Russia. I think other countries are looking at global legislation as well, so Saudi Arabia may fall under that as well.
Ian Austin MP: We were supposed to have finished at 1, but I think this is fascinating and I’m in the chair so we’re going to carry on. We’re going to take three more questions, but let’s keep them brief.
Question: Do you think the Ukrainian government could (*inaudible*) from your Act (*inaudible*)?
Question: How is the Magnitsky Act developing in Germany and Austria?
Question: could you discuss the influence of Russian lobbies on political parties in the UK?
William Browder: I expect the next country to pass the Magnitsky Act will be Ukraine, and I expect that to happen soon, before the end of the year hopefully. We have big support in Ukraine and hopefully that can be used to punish lots of human rights abusers who are doing lots of terrible things in relation to Crimea and many other Ukrainians who are being detained/tortured in Russia.
Germany and Austria are two of the toughest nuts to crack in my personal opinion. I don’t think they’re such easy places, particularly Austria has always been in this sort of hallway house between Europe and Russia. In a certain way Cyprus has now taken over that role from being a sort of Russian satellite. But I would say that if we could get Germany a Magnitsky Act that would be the most important country in Europe for us. I think it’s probably the most difficult country, I think we’re probably further away from that than we are in other European countries. We have huge momentum: we have now Lithuania, Estonia, and a group of us will be working on other European countries going forward. On the political interference of Russians. I was actually in a room very similar to this one and I was giving testimony in front of the Home Affairs Select Committee about proceeds of crime, and I had the same answer to the question earlier about the lack of law enforcement here, and one of the members of the committee said ‘why do you think that is?’ and I used my same quote about this country levitating off a sea of dirty money and they said ‘well what do you mean by that?’ and I said I mean there are members of the establishment who are receiving cash from Russians. One of the members grumbled ‘that’s an outrageous accusation, can you back that up?’ and I said yeah I can back it up. I said I would need to submit it in writing because I had to go get the evidence, and they said yes please do, and the chairman of the committee said that they could guarantee me parliamentary immunity when I submitted the answers to the questions. So we put together the answers because we had the leak of the emails from one of the members of the criminal enterprise who was responsible for the Magnitsky crime who was paying members of the House of Lords to lobby against the Magnitsky Act. I submitted the names of who was receiving the money, how much money was received etc. I submitted it to the Home Affairs Select Committee, and they redacted all the names in the letter. So…
Ian Austin MP: But it’s still possible to publish it under Parliamentary privilege. We’ve talked about how we can do that. A few years ago there was a battle over control of the all-party group for Russia wasn’t there because there were people who were adopting a very pro-Russian stance who wanted to take that over and run it. Actually in the chamber when there were debates and questions about this there were relatively few people who get up and take a sort of pro-Putin, pro-Russian government stance, and I think there were lots of MPs on both sides of the chamber who were very keen to take this stuff seriously and get some results, and that’s why we’re here today.
So, Bill and the other members of the panel is there anything you want to say by way of conclusion as we draw this to a close.
Vladimir Kara-Murza: Just very quickly, I just want to underscore again the importance of getting away from this Kremlin soundbite that the Magnitsky Law is somehow ‘anti-Russian’. Boris Nemtsov called it the ‘most pro-Russian law ever passed in a foreign country’. This law doesn’t go after the Russian people. It goes after those who violate the rights of the Russian people, and who steal money from the Russian people. So I think it’s very important to keep this in mind and I know it’s a difference of perception for us in Russia, but when colleagues in the West sometimes use the shorthand Russia/Russians to mean the Kremlin and the Putin regime, that’s not the same thing. The Kremlin would like everyone to think that’s the same thing. Mr Volodin, the current speaker of the Duma, former Deputy Chief of Staff of the Kremlin actually said this publicly a few years ago, he came out and said: “there’s no Russia without Putin”. To me that sounds insulting, and to many Russians that sounds insulting. So please don’t play along with that line, and never put an equals mark between our country – a great and wonderful country – and a kleptocratic, authoritarian regime that misrules it.
Ian Austin MP: I think that is such an important point and I’m really grateful to you Vladimir for the way you’ve said it so persuasively and clearly today. These are not measures that are against Russia or against the Russian people, these are measures that are on the side of the Russian people who are having their money stolen. That’s the truth of it, and I’m really grateful for you to spelling it out so clearly.
James Bezan: Just the last thing I want to leave you with is to think about those that are trying to discredit this process and their use of propaganda machines like RT Television – Russia Today – making use of Sputnik, but it’s evolved way beyond that now. One of my roles in parliament as the shadow minister for defence is that we’re looking at hybrid warfare and learning from the Ukrainian experience in particular. But their use of social media is something that each and every one of us have the responsibility to push back against. In Canada there are 35 million Canadians. 9 million Canadians now use Facebook as their number one source of news. It’s not the newspaper, it’s not television, it’s Facebook. Trump has completely revitalised Twitter: it was dying but now Twitter’s back on in a major way. I know that all of us up here get trolled all the time by the Russian politburo that they have sitting in St Petersburg. Because of my support for Ukraine they have called me a fascist and a Neo-Nazi, and they hammer on me all the time anytime I put out anything in support of Ukraine. So we have to make sure that we’re on social media ourselves and pushing back, and correcting the record and pointing out what the reality is so that there is that balanced discussion. Part of democracy is open debate, and that debate also has to happen on social media. So I encourage everyone of you to be engaged.
Ian Austin MP: That is really important. Look, I think this has been an absolutely brilliant meeting. I’m really grateful. We’ve had a fantastic panel, a really good discussion, and it’s certainly redoubled my determination to find ways of moving this agenda forward her in the UK. So thanks to you four, thanks especially to the Henry Jackson Society – Andrew, you and your colleagues for organising this, and thanks to everybody who’s come here to listen and to take part. Thank you very much indeed.