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Bill Browder: We need a Navalny Act

Bill Browder speaks at a Senate hearing in Washington, DC in 2017. Credit: Getty

February 20, 2024 - 10:30am

Bill Browder, the financier and political activist who previously campaigned for sanctions against Russian human rights abuses, has said that he is ready to lead a second effort in response to the death of Alexei Navalny.

Browder has been targeted by the Kremlin as an alleged criminal fugitive since his deportation from Russia in 2005. He led the global campaign for jurisdictions including the US, UK, EU, Canada and Australia to introduce Magnitsky Acts, named after his former lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died suspiciously in a Russian prison.

Speaking to me a few days after Navalny’s death in a Russian penal colony on Friday, Browder said the only way to hit Russian President Vladimir Putin where it hurts would be to take his money. Building on previous comments made on X, he claimed this would involve seizing the roughly $300 billion in Russian central bank assets and giving them to Ukraine.

“Now is the moment. We should call it the Navalny Act,” Browder told me. “Putin is willing to lose one million men, but to lose $300 billion would be a cataclysmic loss.”

He went on: “All world leaders are looking for a way to hit Putin back for this murder. I’ve been working on confiscating these assets for the last two years, and the Navalny murder is the impetus to get it done.”

Browder added that it was vital to send the funds by the end of the year and before the possibility of Donald Trump being re-elected US president in November’s election because “then it’s all bets off for Ukraine”.

These statements follow an IMF forecast from the end of last month which claims that Russia’s economy is growing more quickly than any of its Western counterparts, with a predicted GDP rise of 2.6% this year. Commentators have argued that previous efforts at sanctioning Russia have fallen short of their aims, with private consumption returning to pre-invasion levels.

In a joint statement issued soon after the announcement of Navalny’s death, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and the bloc’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell said the EU would “spare no efforts to hold the Russian political leadership and authorities to account”, but made no mention of the frozen assets.

The bulk of Russia’s assets are held by the Brussels-based central securities depository Euroclear, whose head recently warned against such a move. Chief executive Lieve Mostrey told the Financial Times that it would be tantamount to an indirect seizure of sovereign assets, which would trigger legal claims as well as potentially undermine market confidence in the euro.

Permanently confiscating Russian assets, as opposed to using their profits, is opposed by France, Germany and Belgium, though a similar idea to Browder’s has been proposed by former UK foreign secretary and Tory leader William Hague who, writing in the Times, said: “We have passed the point at which those assets will ever be returned.” Current Foreign Secretary David Cameron also raised the possibility of further Russian sanctions on Monday.

Navalny’s death and the Russian state’s alleged involvement has sent shockwaves through Europe, with leaders fearing it shows an emboldened Putin, following Trump’s open encouragement of Russia to attack Nato countries which do not pay enough for their defence and the fall of the Ukrainian city of Avdiivka.

Yulia Navalnaya, Navalny’s widow, released a video yesterday saying she knew why Putin killed her husband and would reveal the reason soon. She vowed to continue her husband’s fight for a freer Russia and urged his supporters to “unite in a strong fist” to “defeat Putin” and the “bandits” who comprise his allies.

Russian authorities are still refusing to release Navalny’s body. Asked if he was willing to campaign for a Navalny Act as he had done for Magnitsky, Browder said, “Yes, I am.”


Latika M. Bourke is a journalist and author based in London with more than twenty years of experience covering Australian politics, British politics and international affairs. She writes at www.latikambourke.com.

latikambourke

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JĂŒrg Gassmann
JĂŒrg Gassmann
4 months ago

Browder is a creep who has no compunction about exploiting the deaths of others for his own aggrandisement. Navalny does not deserve this.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
4 months ago

Is that not using the deaths of others for your own aggrandisement?

V G
V G
4 months ago

A creep? And who are you? Lonely keyboard loset

Fck Trump Putin Lovers
Fck Trump Putin Lovers
4 months ago

A creep? Who are YOU?

Martin M
Martin M
4 months ago

Pity we can’t insert music clips, because that Radiohead song would work right about now.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
4 months ago

Don’t we first need a Trump Act to prevent the weaponizing of the machinery of justice in the US against political opponents

Jae
Jae
4 months ago

If you mean how they’ve treated Trump, you’re right. If you mean it against Trump, then you’re way too late, the “weaponizing of the machinery” is well under way. Democrats have been using it for years.

V G
V G
4 months ago
Reply to  Jae

Booo hooo. Poor Trump
. Booohooo

Martin M
Martin M
4 months ago
Reply to  Jae

Yes, prosecuting Trump “for all them crimes ‘e done” seems a bit rude.

A D Kent
A D Kent
4 months ago

 Bill Browder is a fraud. His version of events of the Magnitsky death were found by no lesser institution than the judges at the ECJ to be “manifestly unfounded”. Likewise the German media regulator and courts threw out his objections to Die Speigel’s many criticisms of his various stories and there are plenty of other criticism to be found. This is a man who messes with his citizenship status for purely tax purposes (he’s that kind of patriot). That Unherd promotes his views without such context shouldn’t really surprise me now that I’ve been a subscriber for a few months and seen the ‘voices’ it likes to promote, but it’s disappointing nevertheless.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
4 months ago
Reply to  A D Kent

There’s no promotion going on here. The very concept of Unherd – which you knowingly signed up to – provides for the airing of voices from many fronts. Of course you’re going to disagree with some of them – as i do – that’s the point.
To start whingeing about it is pretty pathetic really.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
4 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Too many don’t want discussion, they want an echo chamber

A D Kent
A D Kent
4 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Actually I joined because I’m an old school-Bennite leftie and unrepentant Corbynista and love to get outside the echo chamber – it would just be nice to see something from my persuasion above the line here every now and then.

Martin M
Martin M
4 months ago
Reply to  A D Kent

Really? I joined the Guardian because I’m an old-school libertarian with Thatcherite/Reaganite economic tendencies! Spooky!

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
4 months ago
Reply to  A D Kent

You could try reading Sqwawkbox, or the Canary, or Canker

Martin M
Martin M
4 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

You’re thinking of ConWom.

A D Kent
A D Kent
4 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

 I’d be more persuaded by that if there were any real difference of opinion shown here on many matters. On the Navalny issue – how about one that didn’t start from the assumption that he was indeed murdered by the Russians and Putin in particular. Maybe one that took a look at Qui Bono and explored the possibility that there were other actors who might have gained from his death in the months prior to the Russian elections and at a time when when the US are wavering on dishing out more billions to the Ukrainians. It is, after all, just a little coincidental that that’s when the Salisbury Poisonings were supposed to have taken place. Knocking someone off in a Russian prison wouldn’t have been the hardest bit of espionage to pull off I’d have thought.

The plain fact is that, Thomas Fazi aside, everyone here is towards the right end of the Overton Window and, identitarian issues aside, that’s easily the most Herd in our Establishment media.  

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
4 months ago
Reply to  A D Kent

.

Martin M
Martin M
4 months ago
Reply to  A D Kent

Thomas Fazi does balance it up though. Just as a matter of interest, who do you think blew up the Nordstream, pipeline?

A D Kent
A D Kent
4 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

On the very strong balance of probabilities I’d say the Nordstream was a US job. Doesn’t mean it was executed in the way Seymour Hersh described – there were plenty of opportunities for them to lay charges during the exercises they held a month before the bombing. The benefits to them are clear – even if you consider only the financial ones. That the Russians could have just turned it off or otherwise mess with it for ‘maintenance’ makes them very unlikely and if it were the Ukrainians the Swedes would have had much less reason not to come to the ‘I suppose we’ll never know’ conclusion they have arrived at.

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
4 months ago
Reply to  A D Kent

I think it’s just providing a point of view, while adding necessary context – France, Germany, Belgium are all opposed – Hague referred to something similar. The idea that it is ”promoting bad people” is silly.
I don’t know if the ECJ would have omniscient access to what goes on in russian prisons, or omnipotent control over how mysterious events should be defined – I can’t find any info about that judgment. EU seems to have adopted the Magnitsky act in 2020.

JĂŒrg Gassmann
JĂŒrg Gassmann
4 months ago

That wasn’t what it was about – Browder learnt of a tax loophole in one of minor Russian republics where you could halve your taxes if your work-force was more than 50% handicapped. So Browder moved the headquarters of his hedge fund to the republic, employed a bunch of handicapped people to do nothing, and claimed the tax break. The Russian tax office was not amused.
Magnitsky was Browder’s accountant, he wasn’t a lawyer, and he was in jail while the Russian prosecutors were investigating Browder. Magnitsky didn’t deserve to die, of course, but he also had severe health problems, which were not adequately dealt with by the prison and which ultimately killed him.
Browder has been suing left right and centre to keep the story from being told.

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
4 months ago

I see. Well that provides some good extra context, thanks. The article does call him an ‘alleged criminal fugitive’, but doesn’t go into depth on the allegations.

V G
V G
4 months ago

Misinforming again?People have google, you know?

Fck Trump Putin Lovers
Fck Trump Putin Lovers
4 months ago

Eeeeh, not true.

Martin M
Martin M
4 months ago

The Russian tax office was not amused.
I haven’t had anything directly to do with the Russian Tax Office, but I doubt it is famous for its sense of humour.

V G
V G
4 months ago
Reply to  A D Kent

How come he is a fraud? Please explain. Don’t forget to tell us about yourself. Bot

Fck Trump Putin Lovers
Fck Trump Putin Lovers
4 months ago
Reply to  A D Kent

How come? You know we can google, right?

Fck Trump Putin Lovers
Fck Trump Putin Lovers
4 months ago
Reply to  A D Kent

Lol

Ian Folkins
Ian Folkins
4 months ago

Navalny didn’t deserve to be die, or be poisoned in the first place. However, it appears he was playing a dangerous game in accepting American funding for his political efforts:
Cable from Wikileaks about the funding by NED-CIA of the party that Navalny created in 2005 : “Democratic Alternative”
(C) DA!: Mariya Gaydar, daughter of former Prime Minister Yegor Gaydar, leads DA! (Democratic Alternative). She is ardent in her promotion of democracy, but realistic about the obstacles she faces. Gaydar said that DA! is focused on non-partisan activities designed to raise political awareness. She has received funding from the National Endowment for Democracy, a fact she does not publicize for fear of appearing compromised by an American connection. She told us that DA! was a complement to Oborona, not a competitor, and is an effort to widen the democratic base. “People who would want to join Oborona would not want to join DA! and vice versa, but we work together for a common goal.” Gaydar told us that DA! was more a forum for open discussion than a political movement. She has organized a series of debates among people with controversial viewpoints. She is also planning to hold a summer camp in 2007 to train up to 2000 students in the ways of democratic activism.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
4 months ago

Because sanctions have had such a magical effect so far.

Martin M
Martin M
4 months ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

They haven’t been enforced properly. There needs to be a “nothing in or out for any reason” policy applied, with some stick put around by way of enforcement, including jail time for those in Western countries who are breaking sanctions.

Jae
Jae
4 months ago

Browder’s wrong on Trump, he’ll back Ukraine. He’s the one who gave them weapons in the first place for goodness sake, when Obama wouldn’t do it.

V G
V G
4 months ago
Reply to  Jae

Really? Obama? Keep the crack mate

Martin M
Martin M
4 months ago
Reply to  Jae

Seriously? It is exceedingly obvious that Trump is a Putin fanboy!