How I figured out the Achilles heel of Vladimir Putin | William Browder | TEDxBerlin

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[Music] [Music] [Applause] [Music] if you were to ask my friends to describe bill Browder me in one sentence the answer would be that I'm Putin's number-one enemy now that sounds very self-important might sound a bit exaggerated maybe even ridiculous but when you're done hearing what I have to say I think you'll conclude that that's the right description so how is it that this guy with an American accent ended up being Putin's number-one enemy come on we got to go back several generations my grandfather um who was an American I'm American was from Wichita Kansas and he was a labor union organizer and he was so good at organizing the Union that the Communists spotted him and said if you like labor union ISM you're gonna love communism one should come to Russia and check it out so my grandfather went to Russia and he did what most young American men do when they get to Russia he found a Russian girl who became my grandmother my father was born there and then five years later they returned to America and my grandfather became head of the American Communist Party he ran for president on the Communist ticket against Roosevelt in 1936 1940 he was imprisoned in 1941 pardoned in 42 kicked out of the Communist Party in 1945 for being too much of a capitalist and and then persecuted very viciously in the 1950s during the McCarthy era so this was my family legacy and during I was born in 1964 and during the 1970s when I was going through my teenage rebellion I was trying to figure out a good way of rebelling from this family of Communists I grew my hair long and you can't tell now but it grew into an afro strangely that didn't upset my family as I also follow the Grateful Dead around the country for several months that also didn't upset my family but then I came up with the perfect rebellion technique which was to put on a suit and tie and become a capitalist and that did upset my family I became a capitalist I went to Stanford Business School in 1987 and I graduated Business School in 1989 which was a very auspicious year because that was the year the Berlin Wall came down and like many other students coming out of business school I was trying to figure out what to do next and none of the on-campus recruiting events appealed to me and I couldn't get excited about any of the jobs after business school until one day I had an epiphany which is that if my grandfather was the biggest communist in America and the Berlin Wall has just come down I'm gonna try to become the biggest capitalist in Eastern Europe and that's what I set out to do I first moved to London and then I moved to Moscow and I ended up setting up an investment fund called the Hermitage fund to invest in the newly privatized markets of Russia and Russia had gone through this amazing transformation from communism to capitalism and in doing so they basically gave away all the state property of the country to people for free and so I set up this investment fund to invest in effectively this free property and it was a dramatic and successful the most dramatic and successful launch of an investment fund in the history of investment funds my fund went up eight hundred and fifty percent in the first 18 months I had had an enormous success with with everything I was doing and then I discovered something which I probably should have known all along which is that all of the companies that I was investing in were highly corrupt the companies that I was investing in were basically being robbed by the oligarchs who are the majority shareholders knees openes and so I decided that I was gonna try to do something to address the corruption and what I did was to research how they went about doing the stealing and it is sure that research with the international media and I was my and my team were quite good at doing the research and we knew a lot of journalists and so by putting all this together and putting all this information out there we started to have an effect and it was very interesting the reason why we had an effect because just as I started to do my naming and shaming campaigns was just about the time that Vladimir Putin had come to power and it turns out that he had been fighting with the same guys I was fighting with they were stealing power from him at the same time as they were stealing money from me and so every time I put one of these big expose is out there he would step in and fire somebody or do something dramatic in order to go after his enemies and and also in a secondary way helping me and so for for a brief period of time I had the perfect job because I was getting the bad guys I was making Russia a better place and I was making a lot of money for my clients and my for myself and as very few jobs where you can do good and make money in the same job sometimes you can do good and not make money or you can make money and not do good but I had both for a brief period of time but it turns out that Putin wasn't doing this because he cared about cleaning up Russia he was doing this for another reason he wanted to win his war with these oligarchs and in at the end of 2003 he decided to make his big move and his big move was to arrest the richest man in Russia my cohort akov skee the owner of an oil company called Yukos off of his jet in Siberia he brought him back to Moscow he put him on trial and he allowed the television cameras to come into the courtroom to film the richest man in Russia on trial sitting in a cage now imagine you're the 17th richest man in Russia you're on your yacht parked off the hotel dieu cop in Antibes France you turn on your CNN and there you see a guy five far richer far smarter and far more powerful than you sitting in a cage what's your natural reaction you don't want to sit in a cage yourself and so one by one by one they went back to Putin and said Vladimir what do we have to do to not sit in a cage and he said fifty percent not fifty percent for the Russian government not fifty percent for the presidential administration of Russia fifty percent for Vladimir Putin and that was the point in which our interests diverged I was still trying to expose corruption but I was now exposing corruption in in in situations in which Vladimir Putin had a 50% interest and it didn't take them very long to turn on me and on November 13th 2005 as I was flying back to Russia I was stopped at the border I was put in the airport detention center for 15 hours and then deported and declared a threat to national security following that I evacuated all of my staff we sold all of our securities in Russia and I thought that that was the end of the story it turns out it wasn't the end of the story but beginning of the worst nightmare you could ever imagine 18 months after I was expelled 25 police officers raided my office in Moscow 25 more officers raid at the office of my law firm in Moscow they were looking for the stamps seals and certificates for our empty investment holding companies they didn't know they were empty at the time they got them at the law firm they seized those documents and then the next thing we know we no longer own our investment holding companies they have been fraudulently re-registered using the documents seized by the police at this point I hire the smartest lawyer I know in Russia a young man named Sergei Magnitsky to investigate and to stop whatever it is that they're doing Sergei goes out and investigates and discovers that the purpose of seizing our companies was to try to steal all of our money which they didn't succeed in doing because I had already sold everything before they got to it but he did find out that they had a second scheme which was to steal two hundred and thirty million dollars of taxes that we had paid to the Russian government in the previous year they were able to they they applied for a two hundred and thirty million dollar illegal tax refund on the 23rd of December 2007 two days before Christmas and it was approved and paid out the next day on Christmas Eve no questions asked the largest tax refund in the history of Russia illegally done in one day Sergey and I were convinced this must be a rogue operation there's no way that Putin would have authorized the theft of nearly a quarter of a billion dollars of his own government's money and so we figured if we just put us it put this information out there the good guys would get the bad guys and that would be the end of the story so we wrote criminal complaints to every different branch of the justice system I went on TV radio and newspapers describing the scam and sir gave gave sworn testimony to the Russian state Investigative Committee the Russia the version of the FBI we then sat back and waited for the good guys to get the bad guys it turns out that in Putin's Russia there are no good guys five weeks after Sergei testified the same officer as he testified against came to his home on the 24th of November 2008 arrested him where he was then put in pretrial detention in pretrial detention they started to torture him to get him to withdraw his testimony they put him in cells with 14 inmates and eight beds left lights on 24 hours a day to impose sleep deprivation they put him in cells with no toilet just a hole in the floor where the sewage would bubble up they put him in cells with no heat and no window panes in December in Moscow so he nearly froze to death the purpose of this was to get him to withdraw his testimony against the corrupt police officers and to get him to sign a false confession to say that he stole the 230 million dollars Sergei Magnitsky absolutely refused to perjure himself and bear false witness no matter how hard the torch God and it got worse and it got worse and it got worse and about six months into it his health broke down he ended up losing 20 kilos getting terrible pains in his stomach and developing pancreatitis and gall stones and needing an operation which was scheduled for the 1st of August 2009 a week before this scheduled operation they came to him again asked him to sign a false confession he again refused in retaliation they moved him to a prison a maximum-security prison with no medical facilities where his health completely broke down and they refused him all medical treatment he and his lawyers were 20 different requests for medical attention all of their requests were either ignored or denied after about a few weeks of this of this whole situation in Booty Rica his health could he could no longer tolerate the situation and he went into critical condition on the night of November 16th 2009 the boutique authorities didn't want have responsibility for him anymore and so they put him in an ambulance sent him to a different prison which had a medical wing but when he arrived there instead of putting him in the emergency room they put him in an isolation cell they chained him to a bed and a dryad guards came into that cell and beat Sergei Magnitsky to death that was November 16 2009 8 and a half years ago Sergei Magnitsky was 37 years old he left a wife and two children I got the news the very next morning and it was the most traumatic heartbreaking life-changing news I could have ever gotten Sergei Magnitsky was killed because he worked for me he was killed because he was my lawyer if he hadn't worked for me he'd still be alive today and so when I was able to clear my mind of the hysteria I I'm a dab ow to his memory to his family and to myself that I was gonna put aside everything else I was doing and get justice for Sergei Magnitsky and for the last eight and a half years that's what I've been doing and we finally got some justice I came up with an idea so the Russian government decided to completely cover up the crime Vladimir Putin got involved they circled the wagons he Boonton personally exonerated every person involved he gave promotions estate honors to some of the people most complicit and so I said if we can't get justice inside of Russia let's get justice outside of Russia and I came up with an idea which is that the people who did this crime did it for money and they don't keep that money in Russia they keep that money in the West and so he came up with an idea which is to freeze the assets and ban the visas of the people who killed Sergei Magnitsky and the people who do this type of thing and up from anywhere around the world I took this idea to Washington and I met with two senators a Democrat and a Republican Benjamin Cardin and John McCain and came up with something called the Magnitsky Act this is something that the one thing in Washington everybody could agree on and in November of 2012 it passed the Senate ninety two to four it passed the House of Representatives eighty nine percent and the Magnitsky Act became a federal law on December 14th 2012 there are now seven countries that have Magnitsky acts the United States Canada the United Kingdom Estonia Latvia Lithuania Gibraltar and actually the reason I'm here in Germany today is I'm going over the parliament as soon as I'm done speaking to try to get a German the Magnitsky Act [Applause] the title of my speech today is how I found Putin's Achilles heel and as such as Putin as every dictators Achilles heel and this is it and so I'm hoping that this soon becomes the standard for how you deal with with dictators around the world will never be able to bring Sergei Magnitsky back but at least if we can put a piece of legislation in place in his name that goes after these bad guys all over the world his death won't have been a meaningless death thank you very much [Applause] [Music] [Music]
Channel: TEDx Talks
Views: 436,388
Rating: 4.400342 out of 5
Keywords: TEDxTalks, English, Education, Change, Corruption, Global issues, Politics, Reform
Id: BT254smRufA
Channel Id: undefined
Length: 15min 40sec (940 seconds)
Published: Tue Aug 14 2018
Reddit Comments

Is it just his Achilles heel? A limping Putin is a defeated Putin.

👍︎︎ 4 👤︎︎ u/TheWolfbaneBlooms 📅︎︎ Jul 07 2019 🗫︎ replies
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