Ireland a ‘soft spot’ for money laundering, says Browder

Anti-Putin campaigner says ‘strong evidence’ presented to Garda but nothing happened

UK-based financier and anti-corruption campaigner Bill Browder.

UK-based financier and anti-corruption campaigner Bill Browder.

 

Ireland is a “soft spot” for international money launderers and will continue to be used for nefarious purposes unless action is taken to stop it, UK-based financier and anti-corruption campaigner Bill Browder has said.

Mr Browder, who was speaking to UCD’s Literary and Historical Society after receiving its James Joyce Award, said he previously presented the Garda with “strong evidence” of money coming into Ireland from suspicious sources but that it came to nothing.

Mr Browder, an anti-Putin activist dubbed by the New Yorker as “Russia’s most wanted man”, said the money related to the proceeds of a complex fraud and tax evasion scheme by Russian officials who used assets stolen from a hedge fund.

The scheme was uncovered by Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky who acted for Mr Browder and was beaten to death in a Russian jail in 2009. Mr Browder has since campaigned for the introduction of the Magnitsky Act in countries all over the world.

The legislation targets the perpetrators of gross human rights abuses and high level corruption, and grants powers to seize illegally gathered assets, including bank accounts, homes and luxury goods.

“In addition to the Magnitsky Act, the other things we’ve done is to trace who got the $230 million that Sergei Magnitsky exposed and was killed over,” Mr Browder told the debating society. “We found it going to a lot of different countries including Ireland.

“We had strong evidence of money going into Ireland, going into real estate in Ireland. We filed that evidence with the Garda Economic Crimes Unit and nothing happened. Zero.

“This was a very well-known case. Many other countries have investigated and opened criminal cases, seized money, but Ireland didn’t.

“As long as Ireland remains the soft spot for money launderers and they think that nothing is going to happen, they will continue to launder money there. That’s a problem.”

Versions of the Act have been introduced in the UK, US, Canada, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

Ireland was considering introducing a similar measure in 2013 but backed down after the Russian ambassador to Ireland said there would be trade consequences and a likely prohibition on the adoption of Russian babies by Irish citizens.

Mr Browder met TDs in Leinster House last year to revive the project, and said on Wednesday he is working with Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy to bring forward fresh legislation.

“We’re working on an Irish Magnitsky Act which she is going to submit,” he said. “So it’s all moving along nicely.”

He added that the “hostage-taking strategy” of threatening adoptions was “very heinous” but that Russia has made similar threats over a range of other issues.

“They don’t allow countries that have same sex marriage to have adoptions, and things like that,” he said.

“This Magnitsky Act is so important for dealing with genocide, mass atrocities, really terrible things, that we can’ let it get side-tracked by blackmail and extortion.”