Browder book Amazon suppressed
© Alex Krainer
This Sunday, we're interviewing Alex Krainer, hedge fund manager and author of The Killing of William Browder: Deconstructing Bill Browder's Dangerous Deception. Bill Browder is the man responsible for much of the anti-Russian sentiment in the West in recent years through his lobbying for the Magnitsky Act, which sanctions individuals believed to have been involved in the death of Russian "lawyer" Sergei Magnitsky in 2009. Browder told his story in a book called Red Notice, in which he paints himself as a totally innocent victim of a Russian campaign to destroy him. But Krainer dissects Browder's account piece by piece, showing that he was anything but an innocent businessman.

In addition to deconstructing Browder's self-serving lies and rampant Russophobia, Krainer gives a concise history of the crisis Russia went through in the 90s, how a handful of Russian oligarchs and Westerners like Browder siphoned the country's wealth, and how Putin turned all that around in the years after he came to power in 1999.

Due to pressure from Browder's legal team, Amazon censored the book by delisting it. Krainer has made it available for free here and here. Krainer maintains a blog at thenakedhedgie.com

Running Time: 01:32:11

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Here's the transcript of the show:

Niall: Hello and welcome to The Truth Perspective on the SOTT Radio Network. I'm Niall Bradley, my co-hosts this week Joe Quinn.

Joe: Hi there.

Niall: And Harrison Koehli.

Harrison: Hello everyone.

Niall: We have a guest with us today, Alex Krainer. Alex is a hedge fund manager based in Monaco. He has written a book on this trade, Mastering Uncertainty in Commodities Trading and maintains a blog called thenakedhedgie.com. It's his most recent book however that got our attention - The Killing of William Browder: Deconstructing Bill Browder's Dangerous Deception. To give you an overview of what the book is about I'm going to quote Alex himself from a recent article he wrote.

"My book's main object is to unmask Browder's brazen and dangerous deception. Beyond this I've also sought to put his story into proper context by including a rather detailed account of the relevant events that led to the collapse of the USSR, Russia's subsequent transition from communism to capitalism and what 17 years of Vladimir Putin's leadership have changed. I've also included a section discussing the person and character of Vladimir Putin since Browder relentlessly demonizes him.

The book's last chapter discusses the history of relations between the US and Russia from the beginning of the 19th century including the US civil war when Russia came to Abraham Lincoln's aid and played the key role in preserving the Union and what the future relations between the US and Russia might or should be."

I can only add that I found this book to be among other things, a superb summary of Russia-related events, indeed from the collapse of the USSR through to its revival today. So without further ado, hello and warm welcome to you Alex Krainer.

Alex: Thank you for having me. It's a pleasure.

Niall: Now Alex, I would tell listeners at this point to go and check out your book on Amazon where I purchased a kindle copy some months ago, but it's no longer there. What happened?

Alex: Yeah, that's right. Apparently the book attracted the attention of William Browder and his people and as they do, they moved very swiftly and efficiently to quash it/squash it and to remove it from Amazon so that it can no longer be purchased on any site including Amazon itself. Basically what happened is I think that sometime in mid-September a gentleman named Jeremy Kuzmarov picked up the book, read it and then wrote an article about it on Huffington Post and somebody on Facebook or Twitter alerted me to the article so I looked it up and I was pleased that somebody finally saw the book and said something about it.

But within hours literally, the article was pulled down and I think at that point Browder and his people were alerted to the book's existence and within a week pretty much, I was contacted by CreateSpace, Amazon's publishing arm. They told me that they suppressed the book because a party claimed that the book may contain defamatory content and the party was Bill Browder's legal representative Jonathan Winer.

And so Jonathan Winer wrote a letter to CreateSpace and CreateSpace, no questions asked, removed the book from circulation and informed me that I had to work with the disputing party in order to clear up any issues and once CreateSpace had agreement from both parties then we can put the book back on sale, which in essence means that I needed to obtain Bill Browder's consent to publish my book, which I imagine he would give if I changed the content a little bit, like maybe saying that Russia is bad and Vladimir Putin is evil and Bill Browder is a fearless fighter for justice and human rights.

But that's now how I understand the situation so I wrote back to CreateSpace and I said I have no intention of doing this. So what we're going to do is we're going to put up a website where the book will be available in an electronic format and in the meantime I've been giving the PDF file of the book to people who request it by email.

Joe: We know a bit about that. We've had a very similar experience. Myself and Niall wrote a book that was also suppressed by CreateSpace. I just loved that term when I saw it in the listing of the books, "suppressed".

Alex: Yeah.

Joe: It's very Orwellian.

Alex: Yeah, it's very Orwellian and I think that in the normal functioning of the justice system, as I understand it, if some book defames somebody in an unjustifiable way then that somebody should probably have the recourse against the author; take him to court, perhaps have the court provide proof to the court that the content is defamatory and that it's not true, and then perhaps with the court documents, with the resolution, the judgment, go to the publisher and say "Okay, this book can no longer be published. It's telling falsehoods to the public."

But here apparently, if you can afford a lawyer you're good. They just take you down, no questions asked and it's down to us authors to beg for permission to print from the people that we write about. That's a little bit absurd.

Harrison: Yeah, it's totally absurd.

Joe: Absolutely.

Niall: Or in your case, to effectively publish it for free. They at least ensure that you do not derive income from it.

Alex: Yeah, exactly! I am lucky that I don't depend on the revenue from the book sales. I think that for an author who depends on the revenue, this is extremely...

Niall: It's horrible.

Alex: ...intimidating and so I think that if this system is left to exist as is, it will lead to self-censorship. People will just write about kittens and...

Niall: And how evil Putin is.

Alex: ...irrelevant stuff. Yeah, and obviously everything that the establishment approves of; how evil Putin is and how bad Russia is and how we need to go to war against them for some good reasons.

Joe: Just getting on to our topic here Alex, for those people who don't necessarily know who Bill Browder is and what the Magnitsky Act is, could you give a brief rundown and then we can get into the details?

Alex: Sure. So Bill Browder was an American citizen originally who went to Russia in the mid-1990s, in 1996, set up a hedge fund called Hermitage Capital Management which eventually became the largest foreign-owned hedge fund operating in Russia and investing in Russian stocks and bonds. He got kicked out of Russia in November of 2005 with the explanation that somebody in their state security apparatus declared him a national security threat.

From that point he went from one of Vladimir Putin's loudest cheerleaders to one of his fiercest critics, or as he likes to call himself, Vladimir Putin's enemy number one.

His activism gathered steam starting in I would say maybe 2010 or so and he started lobbying the United States Congress to pass the Magnitsky Act and the Magnitsky Act is a piece of legislation that ostensibly sanctions a group of Russian officials who were deemed to be involved in the death of Sergei Magnitsky. Sergei Magnitsky worked for William Browder in helping him set up the network of Russian legal entities, companies through which Browder's fund invested in Russian companies.

This setup was intended to minimize Browder's tax bill. But on review it turned out that the scheme that Magnitsky set up was illegal in Russia and so Russian courts ruled that Browder's companies owed additional taxes. Instead of paying the taxes Browder bankrupted the two or three entities in question which triggered investigations in Russia, first at the local level in this region called Kalmykia where the entities were registered and where they were entitled to beneficial tax treatment and subsequently at the federal level.

These investigations ultimately led to a warrant for Browder's arrest. He was tried in absentia in 2003 and convicted of tax fraud,

I think to nine years in prison and Sergei Magnitsky was detained in 2008 I think, or 2009 in these investigations. Sergei Magnitsky ended up dying in prison after about 11 months of detainment. But he was not found innocent of this tax fraud. I'm careful in choosing the words I use to describe this because there are certain legal finesses of the Russian legal system which I took pains to understand and I do understand them but it would be a bit complex to convey in this brief summary.

I'll just say that Browder then took up the Magnitsky cause, pretending that Sergei Magnitsky was his lawyer who uncovered a tax fraud for which Browder accuses the Russian state actors. He said that then Magnitsky, because he uncovered this tax fraud, was arrested and killed in prison so to shut him up.

So from there starts his whole big lobbying effort to convince western governments that there is massive infringement of human rights in Russia, that his lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, was killed in a Russian prison, that he was beaten by eight police officers in full riot for one hour and 18 minutes until he died. The United, simply out of moral rectitude and superiority, had to sanction this in order to support human rights in Russia.

I think to my mind there is only one possible explanation for the Magnitsky legislation which not only passed US Congress in 2012 but also now in Canada and I think Latvia, the Council of Europe and Canada if I didn't mention, I think that what it does is it throws up legal barriers to Russian investigations into all these frauds and theft of Russian property. So that's where Bill Browder fits. He's the former hedge fund manager who ran into legal trouble in Russia and he turned the tables on Russians and he's trying to accuse them practically of the exact same things that they have convicted him of.

Harrison: At the beginning of your explanation you mentioned that Browder had transformed from one of Putin's biggest supporters to one of his biggest critics. I thought that was a very interesting bit of the story. Maybe could you talk a bit about Browder's initial public statements on Putin and Russia and how and why they changed and maybe you can talk about your personal interactions with Browder as you do that.

Alex: Sure. That's exactly the interesting thing because prior to meeting Browder - and when I say meeting Browder, I don't want to imply that he and I met. He was making a presentation about his fund and his investing and I was one of 20 or 30 people present at the event. The thing that was remarkable for me, because I think that up to that point I essentially passively believed the narrative about Russia as I received it from the mainstream media,reading western newspapers and watching television. I had a very negative perception about Russia and I also particularly had a negative idea about Vladimir Putin.

And then I went to Browder's presentation, almost by accident, and this was the first time in my life that I heard somebody authoritatively speaking about Vladimir Putin in positive terms. What I mean to say by that is that Browder was walking us through his investment strategy which was essentially to research and then publicize corruption in major Russian corporations in order to boost their stock price. So basically he would invest in Russian companies. He and his team then investigated corruption and exposed it with the idea that once the corruption is cleaned up that the value of the stock shares will go up.

So he explained how every time they exposed corruption at these major companies like Gazprom and Unified Energy Systems (UES), the electricity monopoly and Sberbank, Vladimir Putin's government would come in and they would take measures to clean up the corruption. In some cases they fired the executives and changed the executive suite. Then indeed the share price of the companies would go up. I always thought that Vladimir Putin was the protector of this whole corruption network of oligarchs in Russia. So when I heard that he was actually taking steps to clean up corruption I thought "Oh wow, maybe there's a negative bias towards Russia and Vladimir Putin in the western press".

This is the point in time when I started paying attention to what was even going on there. So it was Browder who alerted me to this and he was speaking very positively about Putin. I saw later in various newspaper articles that he was doing the same. He was praising him. He was justifying the authoritarianism as necessary given the circumstances of lawlessness in Russia and so forth.

So the fact that he became Vladimir Putin's main critic or his enemy number one as he likes to say, is the interesting bit about himself. But I think what changed isn't Vladimir Putin himself but I think that what happened is that William Browder kind of thought that as a foreigner and a loud cheerleader for Putin that he could maybe skirt the law in Russia, that he could get away with things that he shouldn't be able to get away with. When he got the boot from Russia then he turned around and started lobbying against Russia and Putin.

Niall: You explain in the book that one of the ironies here of Browder labeling himself number one enemy of Putin is that it was not Putin's doing to kick him out of the country.

Alex: Yeah, you're completely right. This is something that happened somewhere within the guts of Russian state security apparatus. To this day it's not exactly clear who or why arranged to have his visa revoked and thrown out of the country. I think that Putin became aware of Bill Browder as a person at all, his name much, much later into the game, and I think this was maybe in 2006 because that's where I think Putin mentions him by name for the first time at the St. Petersburg G8 meeting. And this was in response to a journalist's question. He didn't raise the issue himself.

Niall: Yes. Someone had actually leaked it to the western press and that's how it became an issue that he had to respond to.

Alex: Yes, correct.

Joe: It seems to me that it's difficult to divorce this case of Bill Browder and what he was doing in Russia from the relatively well-known case of Putin coming to power and then taking action against these Russian oligarchs who were attempting to loot the country, the most well-known of them being Khodorkovsky. Some people at least accept the fact that Putin probably did a good job because there were these oligarchs who after the collapse of the Soviet Union, went to work trying to make themselves extremely wealthy by taking control of big industries in Russia.

To me with this William Browder business, he just happens to be an American who was doing the same thing and he shouldn't have been doing it and he was booted out and everything since then is just sour grapes because he wasn't allowed to do what no Russian was allowed to do and Browder was an American!

Alex: Yeah.

Joe: 2012 is very interesting because effectively this Magnitsky Act was the first major salvo in terms of Russian sanctions. Is that right?

Alex: Yeah, I think that the Magnitsky Act is essentially where the new cold war started.

Joe: Right. In 2012, yeah. And that's one year before Ukraine. The timeline of it is all very interesting. But speaking about Bill Browder, it's hard to see what he did and what he's been doing since. It's hard to divorce that from the official US government policy towards Russia which is rabidly anti-Putin and anti-Russia. So does Bill Browder, to your knowledge, have any connections, ins, with people in the US government or anywhere else within the US establishment?

Alex: Well he clearly had connections with the people he knew as government but it's very difficult to say whether those connections came before his whole lobbying campaign for the Magnitsky legislation or after. There's a lot of speculation on the internet that Bill Browder is a CIA asset or an MI6 asset and so forth. I don't know whether that's the case or not and I ultimately believe that it's an irrelevant point.

I think that behind the curtains of the global power system there's a structure of power that relies on these intelligence agencies to do their illegal work, the things that they cannot do through legal acts of Congress or laws and so forth; Essentially people who can kneecap others, who can kidnap children and assassinate individuals as needed. So my speculation - and it really is speculation, I couldn't prove this - is that Bill Browder is an actor within this network and that this network helps him do what he does and that if whatever their agenda is, requires cooperation and assistance from MI6 or CIA or the Mossad or French intelligence or German intelligence or whoever, then that's arranged. But whether he's on their payroll, whether he gets to stamp his timecard every morning, I don't think that's the case and I don't think it's relevant either.

I think it's more relevant to understand his role in the bigger agenda and what the bigger agenda is. And my sense about the bigger agenda is basically what happened during the 1990s when Russia went from communism to "capitalism". There was a massive, massive transfer of wealth from Russia to the west. So western financial institutions and some government organizations like the United States Treasury and the State Department, USAid, International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and so forth, arranged this massive transfer of ownership over Russian assets to the western hands, some of it illegally, some of it legally. But they so completely infiltrated the Russian government that they made laws that suited this purpose.

So between $200 and $600 billion, depending on who you ask, between $200 billion and $600 billion of Russian assets were moved to western ownership.

Harrison: Wow.

Alex: And Bill Browder himself made I think maybe $100 million, maybe a few hundred million dollars for himself, but the reason why his ability to frustrate Russian investigation of this tax fraud and theft of Russian assets that he was involved with and at the same time protect all of the people and organizations like Barclay's Bank and HSBC and Bank of New York and who knows who else, it's creating legal immunity from prosecution for all of them. So not just Browder's few hundred million, but up to $600 billion of stolen assets so that when Russians go to western courts they are obstructed because what happens if Russians hire, let's say, High Street legal teams to investigate these things, they will depose actors, they will depose witnesses.

All of these depositions will go on record, there will be freedom of information requests made, so a lot of documents are going to come out in the open and so little-by-little, Russians would perhaps be able to reverse some of this theft. But they're frustrated at every step of the way. Now apparently Browder's legal team managed to frustrate their Russian investigation into the Cyprus legal entities through which Browder's company and HSBC were laundering money out of Russia, then it's very, very difficult for Russians to get all these investigations wound up.

Joe: Exactly. I know that at this point Russia has asked for Interpol to put Browder on a list so he can be brought to justice but every time the answer is "No, sorry. That's a politically motivated claim or accusation". So everything that happened around this topic of US theft of Russian assets and if there's anybody identified and Russia asks for them to be brought to court or whatever, they would say "No, sorry. That's just politically motivated" because it's all politically motivated, right? Everything between Russia and the US is political.

Alex: Well yeah except by the Interpol treaty it shouldn't be that way. If a country convicts somebody of a crime through their courts and they're signatories to these international treaties, then the other countries have to respect the arrest warrant and extradite the person. The whole point of it is to disallow people to commit crimes in one country then move to the other country and then be legally in the clear. But for some reason - and I think that the reason is at least vaguely discernible - Bill Browder is in this network where laws don't apply to them.

Joe: Right.

Niall: Indeed. You mention an interesting couple of interviews that Bill Browder had in the US while he was still there. Can you explain what that was about? I think there were cases where he was indirectly involved and he was interviewed.

Harrison: Just one second, before we....

Alex: I didn't understand the question.

Harrison: We'll get Niall to rephrase it in a second. I just want to say one thing first of all Alex. We're getting some scratching noises from your mike. I'm just wondering if you're too close to the mike or there's something going on next to it, but we're getting a little bit of noise.

Alex: Not sure. Maybe my microphone is rubbing against my clothes as I'm moving around.

Harrison: Okay.

Alex: Is this better now?

Harrison: Yeah.

Alex: Okay, it must have been rubbing against my clothes. {laugher}

Joe: Or your beard.

Niall: Okay, I'm going to try and rephrase my question a bit.

Alex: Yeah, please.

Harrison: It was the depositions.

Niall: Browder was a US citizen. He's not anymore. He's now a UK citizen. But just prior to that, was he investigated or interviewed by US authorities concerning his...

Alex: I don't know. I'm not aware of it. I just know that he renounced US citizenship in 1998 just after the American tax rules changed and now Americans working abroad had to report their worldwide income. So at this point I think that Browder would become tax liable for income he made in Russia or UK. I think that this is the reason he renounced his US citizenship and then I think the IRS put him on some name and shame list of people who renounced citizenship in order to ditch paying taxes.

But whether he was investigated for it or anything like that, I honestly have no idea.

Harrison: But there was the thing that you talk about in the book where I believe it was in the case against the Russian company, Prevezon, where he was involved in this lawsuit and the lawyers on the opposite side of him were trying to depose him and had some trouble getting hold of him. Could you describe a bit about that process because what you show in the book is that in his book Red Notice, I believe was the name of the book Bill Browder wrote giving his side of the story, that was pretty much the only thing in the public domain where people could go for information on it. And of course it's the kind of go-to source for anyone in the western media or any westerners in general.

But then when he was deposed, a lot of things ended up being revealed in this deposition that brought into question a lot of the things that he wrote in his book. So maybe you could talk a little bit about that deposition process and the kinds of things that were exposed once he was eventually deposed.

Alex: So basically this was a case of US versus Prevezon Holdings. Prevezon Holdings was or maybe still is, a company owned by one Denis Katsyv, a Russian national. He was the son of the CEO of the Russian rail network. I honestly don't know how this happened, but Bill Browder was not involved in this suit but he went to the US attorney's office in New York and brought them the "evidence" implicating David Katsyv in the tax fraud for which he was accusing a network of individuals within the Russian state.

So what he was saying is that Denis Katsyv, through his Prevezon company, was the beneficiary of this tax fraud. Just to briefly explain the tax fraud; what Browder is alleging is that the Russian state, the network of people within the Russian state, stole his Russian investment companies, that they re-registered them to different owners and then they fraudulently zeroed out the profits that they had during 2006 (I think), about $1 billion worth of profits and then because they showed them subsequently that the profits of these companies were zero where they should have been something short of a billion dollars, they went to the Russian Treasury and they said "The taxes we paid on these profits, we don't actually owe those taxes so please reimburse us."

So at that point the Russian Treasury reimbursed these companies $230 million and then these $230 million quickly vanished offshore. So Bill Browder is accusing Russian corrupt government officials with perpetrating this tax fraud and then he alleged that part of this money was transferred to Denis Katsyv, to accounts of his Prevezon company. So he went to the US attorneys and said "Hey, he's one of these corrupt bastards who received money from this tax fraud and here's the documents I have" and completely on Bill Browder's allegations, without any due diligence whatsoever, US attorneys in the southern district of New York filed a civil forfeiture case against Prevezon. So basically they wanted to take their money.

Katsyv then hired a legal team which then wanted to depose Bill Browder because he was the source of the allegations, not because he was involved in the suit at all. And Bill Browder tried very, very hard never to be deposed on record. His lawyers fought against this deposition for nearly two years. He was doing everything he could to physically avoid being served the subpoena papers and so he was served apparently several times, once in Aspen, Colorado. The judge ruled that the subpoena wasn't served properly because even though Browder has a home in Aspen, Colorado, he doesn't live or work there.

But then I think six months later he was served the subpoena papers in New York and this was recorded on video so that they could prove it. This video is available on YouTube somewhere, where a process server approached Bill Browder, introduced himself, gave him the subpoena papers while he was sitting in a limo after he had an interview for I think the Nightly Show or something like that. On the video you see that Bill Browder opens the door on the opposite side of the limo and literally runs away through traffic on foot. {laughter} So you see that this is not the normal behaviour of a person who has nothing to hide obviously. He has a lot to hide so he was trying very hard to avoid being served the subpoena papers and being forced to be deposed, but this time the judge ruled that the subpoena papers were served properly and then he had to show up for deposition in New York.

He was deposed for one full day, for seven hours he was being cross-examined by Denis Katsyv, Prevezon's lawyers who I think have done a fantastic job because they were very prepared, they asked very appropriate questions. They obviously had original Russian court documents and various other materials translated to English. I put myself through reading the full 360 some pages of this deposition. It's an amazing document because you see that Bill Browder is just a super, super dodgy character. He doesn't know anything. He has no answers to any questions. He doesn't recall anything. I think he said "I don't know" or "I don't recall" something like 200 times. He claims not to be an expert on anything essentially except geopolitics.

So he makes himself look like a super dodgy person, somebody who obviously is not clean, who obviously has a hidden agenda and who's obviously hiding the truth. Worse than that, after I read the deposition I had a very strong suspicion that he was actually directly or indirectly responsible for his "lawyer" Sergei Magnitsky getting arrested in Russia and I think that the intent was for Magnitsky to take the fall for the tax fraud that Bill Browder perpetrated.

Niall: So the guy he's running around defending and using as a means to attack Russia...

Alex: Yeah, correct.

Niall: ...it sounds like he is a suspect in setting him up.

Alex: Well yeah, Bill Browder is now using Sergei Magnitsky because Sergei Magnitsky died in a Russian prison and that's clearly a bad thing. Russians messed up big time by allowing Sergei Magnitsky to die in prison because first of all, he was their key witness because all other key employees that Browder had in Russia fled the country. Sergei Magnitsky is the only one who didn't and I think that the reason why he was detained and arrested was so that he wouldn't escape as well.

But now that Sergei Magnitsky is dead, essentially Bill Browder can say whatever he likes because Sergei Magnitsky cannot say his side of the story. He misrepresents Magnitsky first by claiming that he was his lawyer, second by claiming that Sergei Magnitsky was the whistleblower in the tax fraud that Browder claims corrupt officials in Russia perpetrated, and third, he claims that Magnitsky was killed in prison. He wasn't killed. He died apparently through medical neglect.

The story about him being beaten by eight prison guards in full riot gear for one hour and 18 minutes turned out to be impossible because where Andre Nekrasov tried to make his documentary following Bill Browder's narrative, that was one of the first clues Nekrasov had that something was wrong with the story because they went to film in the very cell where Magnitsky died. So when he prepared his eight riot gear police officers to bust into the cell and beat Magnitsky to death he realized that he couldn't possibly fit eight policemen into the cell, that he couldn't fit even seven. These people couldn't enter the cell let alone spend one hour there beating on poor Magnitsky.

Anyway, Browder is using this narrative to pretend that he is persecuted politically in Russia and that his actions are predicated on getting justice for his lawyer. I think that his whole construct is false.

Joe: Was there any evidence or do you think that Magnitsky died as the Russians say he died?

Alex: Okay, so on the account of him being beaten to death, even Magnitsky's mother who saw his body after he died, doesn't support this. She said herself, "No, he wasn't killed. He wasn't beaten. He died because he had certain health problems that went untreated for too long." And then when he died she was shown the photographs of his body and she was given the whole file and the only injuries that are evident on his body are bruises on his knuckles and lacerations on his wrists. Bruises on your knuckles you could have from punching an object. You're in prison, you're in pain, you're frustrated, you might punch the door or the wall or whatever, so you'll get your knuckles bruised. And lacerations on the wrists could be obviously from handcuffs which he was wearing when they were taking him to court and here and there.

If eight riot gear police officers beat him for an hour and 18 minutes as Browder claims, they wouldn't just beat him on his knuckles and his wrists, right?

Joe: No.

Alex: His whole body would be bruised. (bad audio) kind of changed his story along the lines and he said that actually no, Magnitsky died chained to his bed on the floor. But I think he got caught in one too many lies so his story keeps subtly changing. I was able to see under Nekrasov's documentary called Magnitsky Act, Behind the Scenes...

Niall: Behind the Scenes.

Alex: Yeah, correct. So in this film you see Browder, because Nekrasov interviewed him, first said about how he died beaten by riot police in his cell but then later says "No, okay he wasn't beaten. He just died chained to his bed lying on the floor." And then I think what the film also shows is that some of the photographs that Bill Browder has been presenting were also not - I'm talking about one of Sergei Magnitsky's colleagues who got allegedly beaten up by the police when they raided Magnitsky's offices. But Browder presents on one of his websites, a photograph that was completely from some other event.

I don't recall what it is, but Andre Nekrasov found it and the photographs he shows of his beat-up colleague are not those photographs at all. This is something completely different from some US event and I don't exactly recall which.

Unfortunately Andre Nekrasov's film has also been banned, as my book has. So it's another thing that you can't tell your listeners where to go and see it because it's unavailable.

Niall: Can I ask how did you get to see it?

Alex: Well I got in touch with Andre Nekrasov through some people and I asked him if I could see the film and so they created a private viewing for me through Vimeo. They set up the view, they give you a password, you type in the password and then you can watch the film. And I think that they're pretty open to doing that for other people on request, on a one-by-one basis.

Niall: Okay.

Joe: What's the official reason why the documentary was banned?

Alex: What is the official reason? I'm not sure that there is an official reason. There's this story that it's perpetrating Russian propaganda, something like this. I'm not sure if any specific official reason has been formulated.

Niall: But the way in which it's been banned is similar to yours. It's Bill Browder's legal help coming in...

Alex: Correct.

Niall: ...and telling people "You must take this down or else".

Alex: Yeah, "or else we're going to sue you" and blah, blah, blah. And people get intimidated because these lawyers are pretty powerful people. They can make your life miserable for a very, very long time. So people think "I like my job, I like my career, I'm just going to..."

Joe: I wonder if the documentary makers would be liable if someone else hosted it, or if it would only be the people who are hosting it.

Alex: I think that their reasons is to make this documentary, they took money from various organizations. I don't know what organizations they are exactly but they're various human rights and blah, blah, blah because the way Nekrasov started was Andre Nekrasov the filmmaker was a critic of Putin's government. So when he approached this whole project he believed Bill Browder's narrative. He believed that Bill Browder was politically persecuted by Putin's government. So when he started making the film he followed Bill Browder's narrative and I think that some of the organizations that gave him money to make this film financed him with the idea that this is going to be an anti-Russia film.

So now they are not letting go of the film. I think that they are disallowing Andre Nekrasov and his team to put the film on YouTube in public domain and let people see it. They are demanding to be repaid for the money they gave for the film which is I don't know how much money, but a substantial amount of money, and Andre Nekrasov cannot meet that payment so under the guise of retaining their intellectual property they're not releasing the film.

Joe: Well the solution to that for Andre Nekrasov is, being in the internet age now, that the documentary somehow gets hacked by Russians or something, somehow or other gets on the website.

Alex: That's right. Russians are very good at hacking. We know that. {laughter}

Niall: Yeah.

Joe: Exactly. So we can use that and say "Listen." If you give it to someone like us, we can put it up on various different places on the internet and then it spreads and someone wanting to take it down has a big job to do to get all of it removed from the internet. So if he really wanted to get it out there he could.

Alex: I suppose you could. It would be very difficult. When they released the film for an individual viewing, there's a watermark throughout the whole film. There's a watermark across the screen that states your name. So when I was watching the movie I had "Alex Krainer" on top of the film. So if I wanted to use some funny way of recording what I was viewing and then letting it out, then this would always have my name. They would know who leaked the film and then I guess whoever owns the intellectual property rights to the film would be able to come after me or whoever tried to leak it. So I guess in this way it's well protected. But hopefully, hopefully at some point it'll be released.

Niall: It speaks volumes about the whole story.

Alex: Yes, I think it speaks volumes about the story, that they cannot allow a story to be told to the public.

Joe: Are there trailers?

Alex: To most people that says "Okay, so you don't want me to know what this guy has to say so you have something to hide, not him."

Joe: I'm just looking at YouTube right now and there's a trailer for the movie. It's just a minute long on YouTube. And there's also a place where it says "full movie" and it's one hour, 19 minutes.

Niall: But no, try clicking through and it's not. It's a placeholder. I've been to a few of them. They're placeholders saying "Now go click to this website" and it's porn or spam. I have a feeling you can't get anywhere.

Alex: I have found the film freely available on some Russian websites but it's in Russian. There's no subtitles. The whole thing is in Russian so if you don't understand Russian it would be difficult to follow.

Niall: Well if we get that we know people who know people who can do captions once we get hold of that.

Alex: I could look it up and I'll send you the link if I find it.

Joe: Put it this way: if we ever get an email with a link to a download website, just to download the movie, then we have no problem making it available for as long as we can.

Alex: Sure.

Joe: And whenever we get the lawyer's' letter we just engage in a long, protracted email exchange saying "What? What's wrong?"

Niall: Yeah. "We didn't know. We weren't sure." We'll do the Bill Browder routine.

Joe: "Us? Who? What? What's wrong with this picture?" And then a week later we get a response and then a year later we're still discussing it and by that time it's already done. The short version I suppose is it's pretty horrifying. This guy Bill Browder seems like a shockingly disreputable character, to be honest.

I've watched a few interviews with him on shows in the US, real fawning, softball interviews with US anchors and stuff. But the idea that he would have gotten this $230 million back from the Russian government as non-due taxes and that goes offshore, and then he turns around and accuses the Russian authorities, or Putin or whoever, of actually stealing that money when it was HIM who stole it or his affiliates who stole it, and then also organizing the arrest potentially of Magnitsky and therefore being liable in his death and then turning around and appearing with Magnitsky's wife and saying "Oh, the evil Russians", talk about having no scruples and no morals at all! The guy just doesn't ring true.

Alex: This appears to be the case. I can't tell you because I don't know him in this sense personally, but ever since I published the book, a variety of people have contacted me and one of the people who contacted me is a hedge fund manager based in Russia who told me that he knows Bill Browder, that he has worked with him personally in the past and he told me "Look, I can tell you this. He's the" - okay, I'm not going to use the f-ing word but he said essentially that he's the most evil person he has ever worked with in his entire life. I didn't ask why and how and what but definitely everything taken into account, we're not dealing with a nice person.

Joe: And he comes across as a liar because his claims that he likes to repeat about Putin having enriched himself in the way that Browder enriched himself through corruption, he claimed Putin did this (loud noise) - did somebody get shot?

Alex: No, I just knocked over a PC. I'm fine.

Niall: Phew!

Joe: We got worried there. And he claims Putin is the richest man in the world with $200 billion.

Alex: Oh, is it only 200? I thought it was $400 billion.

Joe: Well he makes it up as he goes along. He was speaking to some guy on a news show in the US and he says that "Whenever the US passed the Magnitsky Act, Putin went completely crazy." How does he know Putin went crazy? Putin doesn't seem like the kind of guy who would just go crazy. He presented this image of Putin just freaking out and wrecking the room because of the Magnitsky Act. But then that's what passes for news and truth in the US on CNN.

Alex: I think if you're not credulous, if you don't listen to Bill Browder with the idea that he's telling you the truth, if you're only slightly critical, you realize that his lying is really childish. The stories he tells in his books, if you just look at them with a small grain of salt you realize that they're actually quite comical.

Niall: Outlandish.

Alex: They're outlandish. This is just an aside, but throughout his book he paints himself as this romantic family man but throughout the book you see that he's actually quite the opposite of a family man. He sacrificed his marriage to his money management activities in Moscow when his wife was begging him to come back to London and live a normal life and he says, "No, no, I have an obligation towards my clients. I'm going to stay here." And then she divorces him. And then he tells about his family vacations where he doesn't spend any time with his children because he's in conference calls all the time figuring out what the Russians are up to.

And then when his wife gives birth and she calls his office to say that she's going into labour and he doesn't call her back for one hour and then when he does call her he's like "Oh, I thought it wasn't urgent." As if he didn't know that she's about to give birth!! And then he has the whole paragraph describing how long it takes to get from his office to the hospital because it's so crowded. You can tell that the paragraph was written for one reason only and that is because he probably got a pile of shit from his wife. {laughter} And then he had to write the whole thing about "Oh my god, it's so crowded and taxis can't move and all this traffic and I couldn't get to the hospital in time and then when I got there everything was already - I got there at the last minute" or whatever.

Niall: It's constant...

Alex: It's like a high school kid constantly fibbing and spinning tales.

Niall: Non-stop perception belief.

Alex: Whether you buy it. Yeah and the only way you could buy this shit is if you start with the book that he writes and you starts with the conviction that what he's telling you is the truth, which is I think why the book starts with all these blurbs saying that the whole thing is absolutely true, it's all true, it's all true, repetitively before the book even begins. And I think this is why the book has been so effective because I think they've been very, very clever in getting people to willingly suspend disbelief.

Niall: Well they say that the best form of defense is attack and he went on the attack by writing this book, promoting the hell out of it. That's certainly all over Amazon.

Alex: Exactly.

Niall: Everyone in certain circles anyway, knows about William Browder and his own self-authored glowing report. It's genius in a way.

Joe: Like Alex said, there's so many people in the US government who are willing and eager to believe the story that he's spinning. Certainly John McCain and people like that are very happy to believe what he's saying.

Niall: It's not just there. Alex summarizes at one point. He writes "None of Browder's allegations could stand up in a court of law" and I wrote as a note "But they do stand up without any objections whatsoever in the US Congress and the European parliament.

Alex: Yeah. But I think that that's because people in US Congress take money from lobbyists and Bill Browder and whoever is backing him have plenty of that money to spread around to the Congress people. So they will vote in the way of keeping their lobbyists happy and approving and the money flowing. Somebody sent me some materials to the effect that - I don't know about John McCain - but Senator Ben Cardin received money from Bill Browder in some form. I don't know exactly but apparently Cardin got well compensated for his backing of the Magnitsky Act.

Harrison: Well the last I heard, I think a week or two ago and I haven't seen any follow up to it, but apparently what I read at least, was Bill Browder had his US visa denied. Did you hear about that?

Alex: Yeah, yeah I did. Basically what happened is the Russians filed their fifth consecutive Interpol arrest warrant and I think that the way it works is that if the person is in the United States, the United States automatically voids their visa. They suspend their visa and then they're meant to be arrested and extradited to Russia. That would be the normal course of law. But in Browder's case they reinstated his visa I think within two days and then in another few days they, for the fifth consecutive time, dismissed Russian Interpol red notice.

Niall: And, instead of arresting and extraditing him who do I see pop up in US Congress last year - speaking of lobbyists - but Bill Browder. He has testified in some way concerning Russiagate and Fusion GPS. Do you know what his links are there?

Alex: I'm not sure exactly what the links are but I think that they needed to pump up the Russiagate in the best way they could and I think that Browder is simply a very useful person to whip up Russophobia in the west. He's perceived widely as an expert on Russia. He's presented as such. And then these friendly senators asking questions where he says things with full 100% confidence where he goes into interpreting the mind of the Russians, the mind of Vladimir Putin, what they think, what their intentions, what their agenda is and so forth. And he's not challenged by anybody.

Niall: Making stuff up, yeah.

Alex: Yeah, yeah, I think he's completely making stuff up but he's not challenged on it so may as well.

Joe: But that's perfect. It probably suits the Russians very well to have someone like Browder inform Congress about the mind of Putin because he's going to tell them stuff that's completely wrong and they're maybe going to take action on it and then they're going to shoot themselves in the foot probably.

Alex: Right.

Joe: You know Dunning-Kruger? These people don't know how stupid they are. They think they're intelligent but they're really actually quite stupid.

Alex: I don't even know whether they're stupid or if they're cynical, if they know that what they're doing is wrong but they're doing it anyway because it suits whatever purpose they care about.

Joe: Well they certainly haven't been able to predict very much about what Russia has been doing over the past few years in terms of global affairs or geopolitics. They seem to have messed up pretty badly, specifically in Crimea and Ukraine.

Niall: And in Syria.

Alex: And in Syria, yeah. Correct. But also they lost a hugely important ally in Turkey. Turkey essentially has become on much, much friendlier terms - I'm not going to say become allied with Russia, but Turkey has been moving in that direction.

Joe: Right.

Alex: I think the same could be said to an extent, about Egypt as well. Qatar.

Joe: Pakistan.

Alex: Yes as well, which is amazing in itself. So I think that all these shenanigans that they're doing, the big, grotesque kabuki dance of their geopolitics is actually self-defeating.

Joe: Yeah. Just on the Fusion GPS thing, I think the link between Browder and Fusion GPS was that someone in the US government used Fusion GPS to investigate in advance of passing the Magnitsky Act to collect some data on these people that they were going to sanction. So this Fusion GPS group are very interesting. That was back in 2012 and they pop up again in 2016, dishing dirt on Russia again!? So this has been going on for quite a long time.

Harrison: Actually I think there's another connection and that has to do with the Russian lawyer that was at the meeting with Trump Jr. and Kushner.

Alex: Right.

Harrison: The picture that I've gleaned is that apparently Fusion GPS was hired by the law firm that was doing the case for Prevezon.

Alex: Yeah. That's correct.

Harrison: So they were actually looking for information against Bill Browder at the same time. Groups like Fusion GPS are pretty much like mercenary intelligence...

Joe: Yeah, they're equal opportunity dirt diggers.

Harrison: ...dirt on anyone which I find is interesting because Fusion GPS has a reputation for being ruthless in the means and methods that they use to go after their targets, completely demonizing them in the press. So I find it interesting that they have Browder in their targets at least a little bit so I don't know if it has anything to do with that.

Joe: Right. They're equal opportunity dirt diggers but you notice that of the dirt that they produce, only certain types of dirt gets promoted; the stuff on Browder that they might have discovered doesn't appear anywhere and instead Russian demonization stuff gets out there. When they were going after Trump last year they were also going after Clinton. Somebody had been paying them to look into Clinton but we didn't hear anything about that, well so far anyway.

Joe: In your book and certainly in this short article you recently wrote about your book being banned on CreateSpace, you made the point that you thought that the Magnitsky Act and what Browder's been doing since is very dangerous in terms of launching this whole anti-Russian/Russia Phobia, whatever you want to call it, campaign.

Alex: Yeah. Ultimately that is the very reason why I wrote my book. I do other things in life. I'm myself a hedge fund manager. I trade markets, I'm kind of busy and the reason why this subject became very interesting to me is exactly because I think it's very, very dangerous. I'm Croatian originally. I grew up in Croatia. We had a war of secession in 1991. Croatia used to be part of Yugoslavia. It was one of the six federal republics and throughout the 1980s - I was a teenager at the time - there were tensions between various republics and the centre in Belgrade.

So the political events are going towards let's call it decentralization of the country. The centre wanted to centralize it more tightly and all the republics wanted more autonomy and freedom from the centre. You know, I think that to the very last, most people, I certainly among them, never believed that war was possible because you just thought that would be so crazy. Nobody wants war. Why would anybody want a shooting war between Croatia and Serbia and whoever?

I think that this mutual demonization that started between the Serbs and Croats and the Slovenians and Muslims and so forth, I think that nobody took it quite so seriously to think that this could actually land us in the shooting war, but it did. I think that even only days before the war broke out, I think if you polled the people the majority would say "No way, never is there going to be war here."

So when I looked at this relentless demonization of Russia in the west, my experience instructs me that this is kind of a build up to war because when everybody is convinced that Russians are bad, that they're dangerous, that they're coming after us, that they're to blame for everything, for stolen elections, for Brexit for Catalonia, for everything that goes wrong, first it distracts people from the real problem, but second it implants this idea that Russians are constantly plotting against us. So if people buy into this narrative, all it takes is a brazen enough false flag event to say "Ah-ha! Look! Now they really attacked us."

And at that point you will have enough people who will be incensed, who will be ready to fight and who will give their consent to a military confrontation. I think that military confrontation between Russia and the west will be devastating.

Going back to when I mentioned that Browder is part of this power network that actually pulled the strings in the west, I think that this is the very power network that probably has the most to gain out of a military confrontation between the west and Russia. So they are pushing it in that direction. Browder is helping push things in this direction.

He's on record stating that the ideal outcome of his campaign would be a cold war. Well, for a cold war you need a false flag event to move up to the hot war. It is for this reason that Browder's whole story to me has much, much wider ramifications and much more dangerous potential than just whether he got away with stealing so many millions of dollars. I mean, who cares? That's not important.

The important thing is how this all plays out in all these Magnitsky things, in all this constant demonization and the effect it has on the western society because I see, even among people who are well educated, speaking positively about Russia and about Putin is difficult. People raise their eyebrows thinking "Wow, but he's a tyrant. But he kills his opponents and journalists" and so forth. So it seems that people are generally disposed to believe bad stories about Russia and about Putin and that I think is very dangerous for what might happen.

Joe: Absolutely. It's a good point and Browder claimed that Putin went crazy when the Magnitsky Act was passed and I think that's probably nonsense and I think as is the case with all the sanctions, this doesn't really bother the Russians at all. The people who are passing these sanctions have an ulterior motive. They know that they're not really going to hurt Russia that badly but it's more in terms of the knock-on effect or the propaganda effect. If we pass more sanctions against Russia it spreads the message that Russia is still enemy number one of everybody in the world.

Alex: Yeah, yeah. And I think it also in reality undermines the economic linkages between countries.

Joe: Right.

Alex: If German companies, French companies, British companies, Polish companies and so forth do a lot of business in Russia then you're going to have a lot of executives, a lot of employees who are going to think "No! We don't want to have war! We have good business with Russia."

Joe: Right.

Alex: "Why would we want to go to war?" Whereas if you start to tear those bonds apart then there's much less opposition to war years down the line.

Joe: Yeah, and even those economic ties would involve direct personal ties between Europeans and Russians and they'd get to know them...

Alex: Exactly. Yeah.

Joe: And it would be much harder to demonize them.

Alex: We'll get to know each other, exactly, yeah.

Harrison: Alex, one of the things about your book that goes some way to if not remedying the situation, then at least providing a different viewpoint to offer to people, to let them know what's really going on is two particular chapters. One is the last chapter that talks about the history of US/Russian relations going back 200 years. The other one is just a short chapter about Putin himself. I think that when you present the facts about the last 17 years with Putin in charge of Russia in some form or another as President or Prime Minister you get an idea of the kind of man he really is and what he has really done for Russia.

So maybe to close out the show, could you talk a bit about what Putin has done in the last 17 years to really change Russia from the way it was, especially in the '90s and maybe a bit about Putin himself and why all those stories we read in the news are just hot air.

Alex: Putin has a truly impressive track record in how his government has managed to reform Russia since 2000 when he came into power. When he came into power he took a lawless state which was one of the most corrupt countries in the world, on the verge of coming apart at the seams. There were regions and republics that were ignoring the laws passed in Moscow. They were not even sending tax receipts to the federal treasuries, local government who completely ignored the dictates from the centre and so forth, wars against Islamists in Dagestan and Chechnya, which were not going very well for Russia at the time when Vladimir Putin came into power as a Prime Minister in 1999.

So he managed to preserve Russia as a unitary country but more importantly, his government has led a dramatic improvement in the Russian standard of living. Their demographics have improved. Their economy has improved something like tenfold. Their debt-to-GDP fell from 140% to something like 16 or 17%. So public debt-to-GDP went from 140% in the early 1990s to I think at the moment we're talking about 16 or 17% which is amazing because most of the western nations are well above 100% public debt-to-GDP.

The Russian economy has not only grown, it has diversified dramatically. It's simply a country that's steadily catching up with the west, in terms of technology, in terms of all kinds of advancements and diversification.

Russian life expectancy which fell to low 60s at the end of Boris Yeltsin years has increased to I think 72 or 73 years on average, which is higher than ever for the Russian population. The highest number in their whole history. The Russian people report higher levels of happiness than ever in their history since these statistics have been measured.

They report that they are content with the freedom to decide how to live their lives and how to advance. And something like - depending on which polling organization you ask - but between 60 and 70% of Russians say that they approve the way the country is being run.
Vladimir Putin's own job approval ratings are between 80 and 90% and the Russian confidence in Vladimir Putin is something like 60%. So people trust him. People who are there, who live under his government, who feel in their skin the measures that their government is taking, they are content.

So the picture we get in the west is obviously distorted and biased, disfavouring Putin. Then you have intellectuals in the west who like to say that Russians deserve much better and that they should have a better pluralistic government, blah, blah, blah. I think that's ridiculous. I again can use the example of Croatia. Twenty some years ago we were a socialist republic of Yugoslavia that had one party rule which was the communist party and today we have parliamentary democracy, kind of copy pasted from western nations, mostly Germany and the UK. I can tell you that the place has deteriorated dramatically. It is much, much worse. Life is much worse for most people today than it was before the wars and while we were living in the communist system.

I have no nostalgia for the communist system. It was rotten as well and it was going to implode on itself. It was a question of time. It was a question of when and not if. But we have taken a big, big step for the worst with this western parliamentary democratic system that we have imported. So if today Russia has an authoritarian government with a strong presidency where Vladimir Putin essentially rules the place as a sovereign, so what!? If it works for most people then it's a good thing. And today I live in Monaco which is a principality which is run by a sovereign prince. Again, it's not a democracy and I can also tell you that life here is much, much better than it is in most democratic countries in our neighbourhood.

So I think that if we take the maxim that you should judge people by their deeds, not by how people describe them through the rumour mill and gossip, then we have to acknowledge that Vladimir Putin has done a very, very, very good job. In fact it's very difficult to think of another leader who has presided over a more impressive transformation of a society for the better.

Joe: Have you been to Russia?

Alex: I have. I've been twice, once in 2006. It was a semi-business trip which didn't pan out so it wasn't very successful but I saw Moscow and the surroundings in 2006. I went again in the summer of 2015 to St. Petersburg on my own. I enrolled myself in a full immersion course of Russian language and I did that because I just wanted to go there and get the feel for the place, not as a tourist. If you stay in a hotel every country looks about the same, you always get the same things. I just wanted to rent a room in a local family's apartment, commute to school on a daily basis, interact with the teachers, with the students and so forth and just have a little taste of that life and I enjoyed it. My sense of the place is that I could have been in any western city. Simply said, it's a normal place.

But what I saw is not normal if I compare it to cities in the west, is that I didn't see any homeless people in Russia. I didn't see any beggars. I didn't see very many obese people. The only obese people that I saw were actually western tourists.

Joe: We have a question. We have a chat room going of listeners and one of them has asked did you get a sense about the influence on the spiritual manifestation of religion in Russia or have you any opinion on that since Putin came to power?

Alex: Okay. That's a great question and I have to tell you I'm very, very curious about that aspect. I unfortunately did not get any sense of that. I would like to learn about that myself because I'm half Serbian and half Croatian by my background so one side of my family was orthodox, the other side was catholic. I kind of never learned about it to actually be able to tell you anything because maybe the whole religion aspect was scrapped out of our culture to a great extent. But I have this sense that there's something profoundly important in that dimension of social life and I would like to know more about it. I just haven't had a chance to learn.

Harrison: Well I think that's as good a place as any to call it quits for today. Thank you once again Alex for coming on the show. For our listeners, the book is The Killing of William Browder: Deconstructing Bill Browder's Dangerous Deception. As you know why you can't find it on Amazon, we've got links to it in the show description where Alex has provided the PDF. So until his website comes on line, follow those links.

Alex: Yeah, and with the website there's going to be a different title. We decided to change the title to The Browder Hoax - The Grand Deception, something like that. It won't go under the same title anymore just in case somebody finds the word "killing" in the title controversial but the content remains unchanged. It was my pleasure gentlemen. Thank you for having me. It was enjoyable.

Harrison: And if you've got a few minutes, can you just stay on the line and we'll just chat for a little bit after the outro.

Alex: Yes, sure.

Harrison: So thanks everyone for tuning in. We'll see you next week. Everyone take care.