In this episode of Hidden Forces, host Demetri Kofinas speaks with Bill Browder. Bill is the founder and CEO of Hermitage Capital Management, the largest foreign investor in Russia until 2005, when he was deported from the country and his $4.5bn in assets liquidated. Since 2009, when his lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, was murdered in prison after uncovering a $230 million fraud committed by Russian government officials, Bill Browder has been leading a campaign to expose Russia’s endemic corruption and human rights abuses. Before founding Hermitage, Browder was vice president at Salomon Brothers.
Today’s story begins with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. It is a story about the plundering of Russian industries and resources by the oligarchs and the consolidation of power in the hands of Vladimir Putin. How did the promises of reform and the opening of Soviet Russia by Mikhail Gorbachev in the 1980’s, lead so quickly to the traumatic redistribution of wealth into the hands of a tiny kleptocracy? What were the mechanisms that facilitated this plundering, and what role have ill-gotten gains played in the mechanics of post-soviet Russia? How important is corruption to the functioning of the Russian state? How would a curtailing of bribery, fraud, and murder represent an existential threat to the current regime? Finally, what does the personal story of Bill Browder – a story of high finance, corruption, and murder – portend for the future of this powerful nation?
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Producer & Host: Demetri Kofinas
Editor & Engineer: Stylianos Nicolaou