Ireland urged to clamp down on corrupt Russian officials
US tech firms at risk of spying here – Bill Browder of Hermitage Capital Management
Bill Browder, head of investment fund Hermitage Capital Management, has spearheaded a campaign against Russian officials.
Meanwhile, Mr Browder, who runs a major investment fund, claimed that US tech multinationals based in Ireland were at risk of spying because Ireland was not able to combat foreign agents.
The head of investment fund Hermitage Capital Management has spearheaded a campaign against Russian officials whom he blames for the death in 2009 of Sergei Magnitsky, whom he employed as a lawyer, in a Moscow prison.
So far, Mr Browder has helped to pass legislation – so-called Magnitsky Acts – in five countries, including the US, that grants powers to seize illegally gathered assets, including bank accounts, homes and luxury goods.
However, an effort to introduce an Irish Magnitsky Bill were scuppered in 2013 after the then-Russian ambassador warned that passage would threaten negotiations on an agreement to let Irish citizens adopt Russian orphans.
“There are a lot of people in Ireland who are doing the Russians’ bidding and who are feeding at the trough servicing Russian money,” Mr Browder told The Irish Times.
“We have the same problem in the UK where we have accountants, lawyers, estate agents, restauranteurs, jewellery sales people and others who are wholly surviving off the crumbs of Russian oligarchs’ table.”
Mr Magnitsky was arrested in 2008 after raising the alarm over a $230 million (€187 million) tax fraud committed by Russian government officials. Mr Browder claims that Mr Magnitsky was tortured and killed “by eight riot guards with rubber batons” in 2009.
The Magnitksy Act freezes assets of people alleged to have been involved in the Magnitsky case through visa bans, and has been used to seize property, yachts and bank accounts.
Mr Browder had been invited to come to Ireland in 2013 after meeting and discussing his campaign with then Senator Jim Walsh at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
“I came to Ireland on a mission to try to get the parliamentary committee of the Dáil to introduce a Magnitsky Bill and it was extraordinary how much support I had,” he declared.
“Ireland is very similar to the US and the UK in terms of right and wrong, good and evil, and it was an easy pitch to get a parliamentary resolution calling on the government to do it.”
He claimed that two FSB (formerly the KGB) agents had sat through his testimony to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade: “Someone caught them speaking Russian in the lobby afterwards,” he said.
Despite early declarations of support for a Magnitsky Act, Mr Browder said he returned to Dublin for a second time in 2013 to finalise details for the legislation, but the campaign floundered.
“There was a number of adoptions in process at the time and a number of parliamentarians didn’t want to go ahead and the initiative failed,” he said. “It was the one and only time that Russia intimidated a country into not doing a Magnitsky Act.”
Former Fianna Fáil senator Jim Walsh said there had been cross-party support for a Magnitsky Act, but the then government, led by then taoiseach Enda Kenny, had been concerned about the economic repercussions.
“It really is an important human rights matter and we should stand up and be counted,” said Mr Walsh. “We should have a better chance succeeding now considering the appalling events that we have seen in the UK.”