William Browder, CEO of Hermitage Management Capital, knows Vladimir Putin and his political machine very intimately. It was Mr. Browder’s former Russian lawyer—Sergei Magnitsky, killed by the Russian State apparatus under Putin’s control in 2009—that led to the passing of the Magnitsky Act under President Obama.

The Magnitsky Act punished Russians believed to be connected with the death of Sergei Magnitsky and includes sanctions for those making money doing super shady stuff with Vladimir Putin. During his testimony in front of a Senate Committee, Browder explained that Putin has been working to get rid of the Magnitsky Act, which, in turn, is why he was interested in Donald Trump’s campaign.

BrowderVladimir Putin, I believe him to be the richest person in the world, I believe him to be worth 200 billion dollars. That money is held in banks all over the world, in America and all over. The purpose of Putin’s regime has been to commit terrible crimes to get that money, and he doesn’t want to lose that money by having it frozen. So he personally is at risk of the Magnitsky Act. It’s a very personal, venal issue which is why, the first reason, he’s so upset. 

The second reason is that in order to get that $200 billion, he has had to instruct people working for him—let’s say ten thousand people working for him—to do terrible things: to arrest, kidnap, torture, and kill to take people's property away. And as a result, the only way to get people to do such terrible things, is to say, if you do them, there will be no consequence. You will enjoy absolute impunity.

As a result of the Magnitsky Act, he can no longer guarantee absolute impunity, because all-of-a-sudden, we have created consequences in the West. I would not understate the value of the Magnitsky Act in terms of the consequences, because not only does it freeze the assets that are held in America, but the moment you get put on the Magnitsky List, you get put on the OFAC Sanctions List—which is a Treasury sanctions list. No bank in the world wants to be in violation of Treasury actions. And therefore, any bank, even if it is in South Korea or Dubai, if they see somebody on the Treasury sanctions list, [they] will close their account that day. And as a result, you basically become a financial pariah, and so it’s a real consequence.

So it may be a bit more than simply wanting to mess with our electoral process.