Skip to main content

World Putin critic watching to see if Liberals impose new sanctions

Bill Browder, CEO of Hermitage Capital Management and author of Red Notice, speaks about Vladimir Putin and the future of Russia.

Roger Askew/REX/Rex Feature Ltd.

A prominent international critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin is hoping Canada's new Liberal government will make good on pledges to issue new sanctions against a list of human-rights violators in Russia.

Bill Browder, a U.S.-born hedge fund boss who turned into a human-rights crusader after the 2009 killing of his Moscow lawyer, said he was "delighted" to see Toronto MP Chrystia Freeland named to cabinet as Minister of International Trade. She has been a staunch supporter of his call for sanctions on Russians who were involved in his lawyer's killing or its coverup, and on other human-rights violators in Russia.

"It's a no-brainer, it's easy to do, it fits with the times, and I am confident that with a bit of light lifting we will be able to work with the new government to make it happen," Mr. Browder said in a phone interview Wednesday from London.

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Browder's London-based Hermitage Capital Management was once among the largest foreign investors in Russia but in 2005 he was kicked out of Russia and had to pull his fund's holdings out of the country.

One of his Russian lawyers, Sergei Magnitsky, then uncovered how Russian officials and organized crime figures later seized his holding companies and used them in a $230-million (all figures U.S.) tax fraud. But Mr. Magnitsky was arrested, imprisoned, beaten, and left to languish for 358 days before he died in jail at age 37..

Mr. Browder convinced U.S. legislators in 2012 to bring in what is known as the Magnitsky Act. The law bans 32 Russians – who allegedly were involved in the slaying of Mr. Magnitsky and subsequent cover-up – from dealing with U.S. banks or travelling to the U.S.

In March, Canada's House of Commons voted unanimously in favour of a motion by then-Liberal MP Irwin Cotler calling on the then-Conservative government to do the same, but it did not pass before Parliament was dissolved, thereby killing it.

Just last week, Mr. Browder met with Ms. Freeland while he was in Toronto for speaking engagements promoting his bestselling memoir, Red Notice, which was released earlier this year. He said they discussed her party's commitment to bringing in Magnitsky legislation similar to the bill passed in the U.S.

"We had a nice conversation in which she said she was quite proud of [the Liberal pledge to bring in Magnitsky legislation] and that she intended to follow through on that, whether she was in the backbench or in the cabinet," Mr. Browder said.

Ms. Freeland, a former senior editor of The Globe and Mail, was a correspondent in Moscow for the Financial Times when Mr. Browder's hedge fund was active in Russia. He counts her as a friend.

Story continues below advertisement

In his memoir, which he's shopping around in Hollywood hoping for a film deal, he describes her as an "attractive brunette" with a "zealous fire in her belly." He also describes how she warned him that Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev had issued a veiled threat against Mr. Browder in 2013.

Ms. Freeland, who is of Ukrainian heritage, was one of 13 Canadian officials who were subject to sanctions issued by the Kremlin, which banned her from travel to Russia last year in retaliation for Western sanctions imposed on Russian officials close to Mr. Putin after the seizure of Crimea.

Mr. Browder said on Wednesday that while many in the West remain insufficiently jaundiced about Mr. Putin's Russia, Ms. Freeland "probably has the most realistic perspective on Putin and what Russia's all about of any government official I know anywhere."

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter