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Der Spiegel exposé of Bill Browder could begin takedown of fraudster

Lucy Komisar
The Komisar Scoop


William-BrowderTwo years after I wrote the first exposé of fraudster William Browder and his Magnitsky hoax published in the West, by the investigative website 100Reporters, and after growing social media and some alternative media reports about his fabrications, a major western publication, the German Der Spiegel, has run a story by Benjamin Bidder, a reporter posted to Russia for seven years, who exposes Browder as a fraud and his Magnitsky story as a fake.

The lead by Bidder says: “When the US imposes sanctions for human rights violations, they invoke the case of one prisoner allegedly murdered in Russia. They are based on the reports of the investor Bill Browder. Is the West taken in by a fraudster?”

Yes, and he proves it.

The story was published November 23 and an English version put up three days later. So far, no reactions from the western press. If you want to read a more comprehensive report of the Browder hoax, go here. But what Bidder writes is as good as you will get in the mainstream press.

Bidder begins by telling how Browder created the Magnitsky story to get the U.S. Congress to pass the Magnitsky Act, which put sanctions on people who said were responsible for the death of his “lawyer.” To expand it to other countries, he meets with government officials, most recently in Norway, Sweden, France, Germany.

He tells them how his “lawyer,” Sergei Magnitsky, was murdered for exposing a corrupt Russian scam. Bidder says that the politicians welcome him: this is “a ticket to politics,” to political advantage. So do the human rights advocates.

Bidder starts with the story Browder tells to the West, rather than with the story of Browder himself. So, you have to pick that up as you go along. Which is how Browder scammed the Russians for $100mil in evaded taxes and illicit stock buys and to build a wall against their collection of the cash, created the Magnitsky hoax.

Bidder writes that West Europeans and Americans argue against Russia from a position of moral superiority. But were they harnessed to Browder’s cart? Does their good cause sanctify his methods?

He says the other version of the story is contradictory to Browder’s and is based on thousands of legal documents. Was there a political murder? Or is the West aligned with a fraudster? He says the charges against the Russians are questionable and that Browder is involved in contradictions.

Bidder talks about the arrest of Sergei Magnitsky, a key figure in the drama, who at the end was left in prison in a critical condition for 1 hour 18 minutes, according to the Moscow Public Oversight Commission. He had been arrested, detained as a witness in Browder’s tax evasion.

He writes that Browder’s version is the dramatic revenge against an anti-corruption activist. That Browder commissioned his “lawyer” Magnitsky in 2007 to investigate a $230-million tax fraud by police and government authorities. According to Browder, two “rogues,” interior ministry police officers Kuznetsov and Karpov, started fake tax investigations against Browder’s Hermitage Fund, then used stolen company documents to hijack three of his shell companies. They were then taken over by middleman who created fake losses and got a tax refund of $230 million Hermitage had paid in taxes.

He writes that Browder accused tax investigators Karpov and Kuznetsov of arresting Magnitsky and killing him. He told it to the U.S. Congress and Canadian parliament. But Bidder says — unlike what Browder claims — that there is no evidence of a deliberate murder.

And there are contradictions. Bidder cites Browder as declaring that the officials who interrogated Magnitsky tortured and murdered him. He cites a “commission of inquiry.” But the reporter says there is no such reference there to killing. He doesn’t identify the report, but Bidder says the names of the two police investigators do not appear in the Russian original, only that Kuznetsov appears in Browder’s website English translation. The only likely report is Magnitsky’s testimony in an interrogation by authorities investigating Browder’s Hermitage tax evasion.

The report cites Council of Europe reports based only on Browder’s documents. A German “rapporteur” Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger calls Magnitsky a lawyer. But the article says a look at online documents would show he was a tax expert at an accounting firm working for Browder.

He talks about how the western media believe Browder, how he has framed their stories on his office wall. Washington Post, Financial Times, even the anti-Putin Novaya Gazeta.

The article cites many western media reports, their inconsistencies and contradictions, and wonders about the basis of their facts. They cite interrogation records that are said to prove that Magnitsky exposed the $230-million tax fraud. They cite Browder’s book that “Sergei made an appointment with the State Investigative Committee for June 5, 2008. He sat down, submitted his evidence and gave his testimony expressly declaring Kuznetsov and Karpov to be partakers.”

But Bidder reports that Magnitsky didn’t go to authorities to denounce the tax refund fraud, but as a witness in another procedure — Browder’s tax evasion. [He was summoned to an interrogation.]

Then, talking about Browder’s Russian investment operation, he notes how Russian investigators point out he paid 5% on his Russian investment profits by citing a Cyprus treaty, but that he should have paid 15%, as the treaty didn’t apply. [It was a double-taxation treaty for Cypriot companies, not for Browder’s pass-through shells.]

He describes how Browder listed disabled people as securities analysts that his shell company hired to get a tax concession and that Magnitsky had designed this. But he said that these “employees” had no knowledge in the field and that courts found this was a tax dodge. He said that in 2006 police had been interrogating Magnitsky about the shell companies that hired the “disabled.” His story also says that (though Browder claimed he hired “lawyer” Magnitsky in 2007) documents show that “accountant” Magnitsky worked for Hermitage from at least 2002.

The story points out that when Browder claims the tax police “struck like lightening” in 2007 to get documents for the tax refund scam, the date was not true. That police had been asking for documents the year before.

Bidder notes that Karpov, the accused Russian tax investigator, in 2012 filed a libel lawsuit in London against Browder. Justice Simon declared that Browder was “not even close to substantiate his allegations with facts,” that his assessment was “a rehabilitation of Karpov.”




But Bidder said that based on what Browder told them, “The Guardian” and other British media wrote of the “crushing defeat of police officer Karpov.”

Then the reporter talks about the Katsyv/Prevezon case, where Browder got the U.S. Justice Department to file a case against a Russian real estate investor who was the son of a Russian railway official, charging him with receiving $1.9 million (under 2%) of the $230-million tax refund fraud. He pointed out that Browder, “otherwise talkative,” eluded questioning, and was even shown on a video evading a subpoena.

Browder attempts to finesse his lies about Magnitsky being a lawyer. Questioned in a deposition by Katsyv/Prevezon lawyer Mark Cymrot:

Was Magnitsky now a lawyer or tax expert?
“He represented me in court.”
Did he have a law degree?
“Not that I know.”
Did he attend a law school?
“No, he did not attend law school.”
How many times have you said that he was your lawyer? 50, 100, 200 times?
“I dont know.”
Did you ever say that he did not have a law degree?

Bidder spent four hours with Browder and his associates in London and says they piled on documents which didn’t stand a test.

He reports that Magnitsky allegedly went to authorities to “reveal” the tax refund fraud but turns out he was delivering a letter from a Browder lawyer.

The reporter wonders as he follows Browder’s actions, “Is this really about justice for Sergei Magnitsky…or does he lead a personal revenge campaign?

His evidence points to a Browder revenge campaign. I have already reported the substance of the story in much greater detail and with extensive documentation. But now that a mainstream western publication has exposed the Browder/Magnitsky hoax, will the American corporate and self-described progressive media report this story?

The intro to the Spiegel story is: The U.S. Sanctions for Human Rights Violations allegedly invoke the case of one prisoner allegedly murdered in Russia. They rely on the reports of the investor Bill Browder. Has the West been taken in by a fraudster?



Lucy Komisar (Website: is an investigative journalist whose beat is the secret underbelly of the global financial system — offshore bank and corporate secrecy — and its links to corporate crime; tax evasion by the corporations and the very rich; empowerment of dictators and oligarchs; bribery and corruption; drug and arms trafficking; and terrorism.

Her dozens of articles on the subject since 1997 have appeared in publications as diverse as The Nation magazine and the Wall Street Journal.

She was winner of 2010 Gerald Loeb, National Press Club, Sigma Delta Chi, and National Headliner awards for her exposé of Ponzi-schemer Allen Stanford, which she brought to the Miami Herald. The Loeb award is the country’s most prestigious prize for financial journalism.


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