Bill Browder (@Billbrowder) pioneered a brand-new market after the fall of The Iron Curtain while making powerful enemies — including Vladimir Putin. He is the author of Red Notice and Freezing Order: A True Story of Money Laundering, Murder, and Surviving Vladimir Putin’s Wrath.
What We Discuss with Bill Browder:
- The real purpose of disinformation: not to convince you that it’s presenting accurate facts, but to cast a seed of doubt over the credibility of the position it’s opposing.
- How a timely tweet upon being arrested by Russia-corrupted police officers in Spain may have saved Bill Browder’s life.
- How the Magnitsky Act came about and what it does to sanction Russian human rights violators and kleptocrats.
- How the power of Interpol is regularly abused by genocidal policymakers to retrieve escaped prisoners from “safe” havens.
- Bill’s thoughts on why Putin is making his move in Ukraine now, and what he hopes to accomplish there.
- And much more…
Like this show? Please leave us a review here — even one sentence helps! Consider including your Twitter handle so we can thank you personally!
Vladimir Putin. He’s not just a guy who will authorize countless war crimes while invading your country on false pretenses. He’s also a guy who will steal and launder hundreds of billions of dollars and kill anyone who stands in his way.
On this episode, we’re revisited by Red Notice and Freezing Order: A True Story of Money Laundering, Murder, and Surviving Vladimir Putin’s Wrath author Bill Browder, the man whose team discovered Putin’s money laundering scheme and exposed it to the world — putting a target on his back that has followed him around the world for years. Still, he’s luckier than his lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, who was beaten to death in a Moscow jail for crossing Putin. Here, we discuss how Bill discovered this instance of Putin’s malfeasance, how attempts at retaliation have resulted in some harrowing near misses — including a well-timed tweet that saved Bill’s life when he was falsely arrested, how disinformation and abuse of power keep criminals like Putin in control, and why Bill thinks Putin is making his move in Ukraine now and what he hopes to accomplish in the long run. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
Please Scroll Down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
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Miss the last time we interviewed Bill Browder — one of Vladimir Putin’s sworn enemies? Catch up here with episode 3: Bill Browder | Hunted by Putin!
Like true crime tales? The Court Junkie podcast shines a light on the injustices of the judicial system by delving into court documents, attending trials, and interviewing those close to these trials to root out the whole truth. Check out the Court Junkie podcast on PodcastOne here!
Thanks, Bill Browder!
If you enjoyed this session with Bill Browder, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resources from This Episode:
- Freezing Order: A True Story of Money Laundering, Murder, and Surviving Vladimir Putin’s Wrath by Bill Browder | Amazon
- Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice by Bill Browder | Amazon
- Bill Browder | Hunted by Putin | Jordan Harbinger
- Bill Browder | Website
- Bill Browder | Twitter
- The Global Magnitsky Justice Campaign
- The Azov Battalion: How Putin Built a False Premise for a War against “Nazis” in Ukraine | CBS News
- ‘Such Bad Guys Will Come’: How One Russian Brigade Terrorized Bucha | The New York Times
- Disarming Disinformation | United States Department of State
- Bill Browder: ‘Twitter May Have Saved My Life’ | Financial News
- The Chinese Government Is Hunting Down Uyghurs around the World with Help from Some Surprising Countries | NBC News
- Interpol | Wikipedia
- Jamal Khashoggi: All You Need to Know about Saudi Journalist’s Death | BBC News
- What Is the US Magnitsky Act, and Why Does Putin Hate It? | The Bottom Line
- The Expanding Use of 28 USC § 1782 | Seyfarth Shaw LLP
- Joshua Fruth | The War on Money Laundering and Why You Should Care | Jordan Harbinger
- Oliver Bullough | Why Thieves and Crooks Rule the World | Jordan Harbinger
- What Putin Fears Most | Journal of Democracy
- Bill Browder Is Convincing the World That Vladimir Putin Will Stop at Nothing to Remain in Power | Katie Couric
- Dictators Get the Deaths They Deserve | Aspects of History
- Is Vladimir Putin the Mastermind behind Russia’s Global Web of Poisoning? | Under Investigation
- Navalny in Prison: How a Thorn in Putin’s Side Reaches the outside World | The Hill
- Putin Signs Ban on US Adoptions of Russian Children | The New York Times
- Corrupt Russian Oligarchs Trying to Destroy You? Better Call John Moscow | Literary Hub
- Bill Browder | The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
- Browder Escapes Subpoena Attempt After Daily Show | WSJ
- The Day I Almost Fell for a Russian Honeytrap in Monaco | The Times
- US Charges 4 Belarus Officials With Piracy in Forced Landing of Ryanair Jet | The New York Times
- The Sad and Murky Tale of Roman Protasevich | Vice
- Putin Doesn’t Fear a Coup by Oligarchs. But He Should Fear His Fellow Spies. | The Washington Post
681: Bill Browder | Surviving Vladimir Putin’s Wrath
[00:00:00] Jordan Harbinger: Coming up next on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:03] Bill Browder: So we're driving through the streets and then we come to a square and the car slows down and pulls to a stop in front of a nondescript office building. There's no flags, no insignias of the Spanish national police in front of it. And then, the guys ordered me out of the car. I say, "What are we doing here?" And they don't speak good English. And they say, "Medical exam." Then here, I can just picture I'm going into something that someone holds me down. Some guy in a cheap suit injects me with something and then I wake up in that shipping container on a slow boat to Russia.
[00:00:35] Jordan Harbinger: Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan/ Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people. We have in-depth conversations with scientists and entrepreneurs, spies and psychologists, even the occasional organized crime figure, former cult member, drug trafficker, or tech mogul. Each episode turns our guests' wisdom into practical advice that you can use to build a deeper understanding of how the world and become a better thinker.
[00:01:00] If you're new to the show, or you want to tell your friends about it, I suggest our episodes starter packs. These are collections of our favorite episodes, organized by topic to help new listeners get a taste of everything we do here on the show — topics like persuasion and influence, disinformation and cyber warfare, criminal justice and law enforcement, scams and conspiracy debunks, crime and cults, and more. Just visit jordanharbinger.com/start or search for us in your Spotify app to get started.
[00:01:27] Hey, special announcement, by the way, I'm going to be doing a live show like live in person, in real life. I'm going to be interviewing Ryan Holiday, author Ryan Holiday. That's going to be in Los Angeles at the Venice West on June 13th. So tickets are available. I'd love to meet you in person. Tickets are available at jordanharbinger.com/tickets. Again, jordanharbinger.com/tickets, June 13th at the Venice West in Los Angeles. I'll be interviewing Ryan Holiday and I hope to see you there.
[00:01:56] Today, on the show, Bill Browder returns. He used to be the largest foreign investor in Russia. Now, Putin mentions him by name and wants him handed over to Russian authorities or just dead. We've had him on episode 3 of this show, which I recommend you have a listen to after this one. This is a tale of rampant corruption, theft, murder, and of course, what it's like to go up against Vladimir Putin, one of the most powerful men in the world. And frankly, it's not really a seat you want to be in. Always a great conversation here with Bill Browder. I know you're going to enjoy it. I really enjoyed recording it for you. And this is just one of those that makes you think, and also makes you darn glad you're not in the shoes of the guest with a target on your back.
[00:02:33] Here we go with Bill Browder.
[00:02:37] I do upload videos of shows and interviews like this. And I just uploaded something with the Ukrainian soldier — this is where the comment was on this video. "Well, I don't see you interviewing the fascist contingent over in Ukraine. This is bunch of BS." And I was just thinking, even if we assume, that the worst possible version of what the Kremlin says is partially true are 80 percent true — and that like, let's assume for the sake of this hypothetical, that a huge number of Ukrainians are Nazi-sympathizing fascist, which is ridiculous. And there's no evidence for this. It still doesn't really justify the invasion and the current behavior that we're seeing. I'm curious what you think. How do you handle that when someone says, "Oh, well, Putin is right, and everybody else is just brainwashed"?
[00:03:23] Bill Browder: You just have to look at the videos. I mean, there's like 50,000 dead in Mariupol, civilians killed by Russian rockets. There is no argument. It's 100 percent clear that Putin is a war criminal. Yeah, you'll get the people in Bucha, you know, hands behind their back and killed them. The women were raped. I mean, there's no argument.
[00:03:44] Jordan Harbinger: It's hard to say — believe it or not, same video, similar comment. "What we're seeing right now is the use of precision weaponry. And the Russians could be so much worse if they really wanted to, you know, this is all being spun by the West." And I just thought like, one, they're not using precision weaponry, very much. They're using artillery and they're showing civilian targets. And we can see that plain as day with the execution of civilians. It's just crazy to me that people think this, but also given the level of disinformation from Russia, I've just always sort of 50/50 on whether I'm looking at a comment from a kook or somebody who thinks they're an independent thinker, or just an absolute Russian bot that's based out of a suburb of St. Petersburg sitting in a cubicle next to a bunch of other people, posting comments like this on every YouTube video they can find. You know, like, is this just someone's job or what?
[00:04:31] Bill Browder: Yeah, no, it's definitely someone's job. I mean, I used to get these comments from like Swiss television. I would go on Swiss television and tell the Magnitsky story. This was a long time ago.
[00:04:39] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:04:39] Bill Browder: And then I see the journalist the next year — we do this in Davos and then I'd go there the next year. I see the journalist and he's saying, "It's so interesting. Every time I interview you, you know like I get tons of emails," and I was like, "Those aren't real emails, dude."
[00:04:52] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Last time I interviewed you, there was a guy or somebody, some organization who claimed to be like — I'm going off memory here, but like a French journalist who was like, "I've exposed Bill Browder. And here's all this evidence." And I looked through and it was just kind of confusing and I thought, "Okay, it's translated. You know, give the benefit of the doubt. What could this person be saying?" And then I realized, I'm not even sure how coherent this is, or if it's just somebody who says they have evidence for something so that it plants a seed of, "Well, maybe Bill Browder is lying because they just don't even expect people to look at the evidence." They just go, "There's 18 attachments in this email. There must be something to the story." And I'm like, "But these aren't — it's just kind of like weird finance, like spreadsheets, what is this for? What am I looking at?" You know?
[00:05:30] Bill Browder: That's the purpose of disinformation. It's not to convince you that they're right. It's just to plant a seed of doubt.
[00:05:34] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:05:35] Bill Browder: And that's the whole point is just to like pollute your mind. So you think, "Well, maybe, there is something wrong with that argument."
[00:05:40] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. The argument that — and we'll get into this a little bit in the show, the argument that they're making, which is that the Kremlin likes to point on you. "Oh, well, Bill Browder actually and his fund stole all this money and now this is a big smokescreen." And I was talking to some investigator friends of mine, and I was like, "You know, what do people do when they steal hundreds of millions of dollars? Do they stay in the spotlight as much as they can, write books about the whole thing, lobby Congress and make a bunch of high-powered connected friends and get in the media as much as possible, or do they vanish, refuse to comment to anyone, sit on a yacht, live a low-profile life?" That's what they do. They vanish. They go and they vantage and they spend their money. They don't sit around spending 60 hours a week away from their family and friends doing shows like this to convince everybody that they didn't steal the money. That's like the most inefficient use of a financial criminal who's essentially gotten away with its time, right? Like it's just that the behavior doesn't match.
[00:06:34] Bill Browder: Well, moreover, the money has been tracked down and went to Russian government officials. We know who it went to.
[00:06:39] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:06:40] Bill Browder: So I stole the money that I put it in the accounts of the tax officials and Putin himself so that I could somehow steal the money and blame it on them. And then it's the absurdity of it is just — and this is what they do in Ukraine. They're saying to the extent that anyone believes any of these trolls. It's like, "Well, actually the Ukrainians killed all these people in Bucha." That's what they said. I was listening—
[00:07:00] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:07:00] Bill Browder: —to this Russian parliamentarian the other day. He was being challenged by BBC. And they were saying, "Well, what about all these people in Bucha with their hands tied behind their back?" And he said, "No way, we were through on this day. And these were killed by Ukrainian soldiers."
[00:07:12] Jordan Harbinger: It's just like, yeah, to make a big media incident, to gain sympathy, et cetera, et cetera. And it's like, wow, that's a pretty heavy lift to assert that Ukraine did this because they just didn't have enough sympathy for their war effort. It's like, no, no, man. Probably we wouldn't have seen what we saw in satellite photos. And it's like, oh, and the west is colluding, which is why we see evidence on satellite photos of the Russians actually doing it.
[00:07:33] Bill Browder: And then they said those were private companies. They always stress that those were private companies that provide those satellite photos.
[00:07:39] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:07:40] Bill Browder: Somehow that, that makes it like if they—
[00:07:42] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. They're private companies. So they can totally make this stuff up to collude with the US government. It's just like, none of it really adds up. It's almost like, you know, that scientific or I should say psychology principle where somebody wants to cut in line at a print shop. And so they say, "Can I cut in front of you?" And people say, "No, well, I'm waiting in line." But if you say, "Because I need to do something else," like 87 percent or whatever, if people say yes, but then they found out that you don't have to have a valid excuse. You can say, "Can I cut in front of you in line? Because I'm thirsty." And it's like, that has nothing to do with you getting printed faster. But people will say, "Okay," because you have a reason for it.
[00:08:17] This is almost like what the Kremlin does, right? They go, "Well, here's this reason for this." And if you think about it for two seconds, you go, "This reason makes absolutely no sense," but they don't even care about that because they don't need to be convincing. By virtue of the fact that they've made some BS reason up, another double-digit percentage of people who hear it go, "Okay, sounds plausible." And they just move on with their lives. And then they're like, "Well, I haven't made my mind up about who's bad now because it was a private company. Well, why would that affect anything? I don't know. I haven't put that much thought into it. What else is on the buffet of news for the day?" And that's kind of like the extent of critical thinking I'm seeing with a lot of this stuff.
[00:08:52] Now, the book starts with you — the newest book starts with you getting arrested in Spain. Tell me what happened there because this is a, one, hell of a way to start a book and two, a terrible way to start what probably would have been a decent vacation or at least business trip.
[00:09:06] Bill Browder: Well, it wasn't a vacation. I was actually invited to Madrid by the chief anti-corruption prosecutor of Spain. We had found money connected to the murder of my lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky that had gone into buying luxury real estate on the Spanish coast. I had written a criminal complaint to the prosecutor. He invited me to give him a formal testimony about the evidence. And so I showed up in Madrid, I go to my hotel, I sleep there overnight. I woke up the next morning. I'm about to go to the prosecutor. I opened my door and there are two Spanish police officers, uniformed, standing outside my door. They asked me for my ID. I show it to them and they say, "You're under arrest." I say, "What for?" "Interpol Russia."
[00:09:50] So basically I've been arrested by the Spanish police, one branch of the Spanish police, on the instructions of people in Russia who were being investigated by another branch of the Spanish police for money laundering. So thankfully, I tweeted out that I was being arrested. They throw me in the police car. By the time we get to the police station, 50 journalists have called up the Interpol, 50 more have called up the Spanish Interior Ministry. And everybody realized what a complete, unbelievable mess they had gotten themselves into. And a few hours later, I was released, but my god, I mean, you know, you're right. It's a terrible way to start anything. And that's been the story of my life for the last 12 years.
[00:10:30] Jordan Harbinger: You're so fortunate that you thought to tweet this out. It makes me want to get more Twitter followers. I barely use that platform. I answer DMs for show fans and stuff like that — by the way, I'm at @JordanHarbinger on Twitter for everyone listening. I post somewhat funny memes and other nonsense and the occasional report of my unjust arrest and detention overseas. So you tweet this out and everybody who sees it is like, "Wait, you got arrested by Interpol?" So they're interested in why, what — they probably also have figured out what's happening if they're journalists that cover this. And then thankfully, the Spanish police/Interpol is inundated with enough calls that they take another look at the arrest warrant and realize that it's just Russia trying to, what? Abuse Interpol's red notice system.
[00:11:11] Bill Browder: Well, in fact, this was like the sixth time I had been put on Interpol's red notice lists since Russia started trying to chase me. So after the Magnitsky Act was passed, this is legislation that sanctions and freezes assets of Russian human rights violators and kleptocrats, Putin has gone after me in every way possible. And he's been chasing me all over the world with these Interpol arrest warrants. And so this is like the sixth one. And it also raises some pretty disturbing questions about Interpol. This is supposed to be the International Police organization. They're supposed to be chasing fugitives. They're not supposed to be chasing people who are reporting crimes of Russian government officials—
[00:11:48] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:11:48] Bill Browder: —on behalf of the Russian government, trying to shut them up, get them back to Russia and kill them. And Interpol is effectively become weaponized by the Russian government/Russian mafia to go after their enemies.
[00:12:02] Jordan Harbinger: This is terrifying because I can imagine a country like Iran or China saying, "Oh, we have a political dissident that speaking out on social media, let's get him arrested on his way from Mexico to the United States.
[00:12:15] Bill Browder: This is exactly what happens over and over and over again. And those two countries, plus a whole bunch of other really bad ones— Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, you mentioned Iran and China in particular. You've got all these people, Uyghurs, Muslims from Jinjiang in China, and the Chinese have decided to pull a Hitler on these people. And they're now trying to basically exterminate the entire population, not just the population in China. They put them all in concentration camps, but anyone who escapes, they chase them down in Dubai and all sorts of places with Interpol. And this is supposed to be the organization that the International Police organization. It's shocking.
[00:12:54] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. That's really — do you think it's malicious? I mean, of course, the country is doing it are malicious, but with respect to Interpol, is it just, it's a bureaucratic nightmare and nobody's really paying attention, or is it like somebody in there has it out for you or is on the take maybe from these countries? Like, how is this happening? Is it sort of like negligence or malicious, malice?
[00:13:16] Bill Browder: It's kind of a combination. So on one hand, Interpol is not like a being, it's a collection of countries that belong to it. 192 countries belong to it. It is a bit malicious. So they have all these different committees. So one of the committees they have is the committee to review the files of cases that are deemed to be politically motivated like mine. And like one of the seven people who used to sit on that committee was the guy from the Russian Interior Ministry who issued these politically motivated red notices. I mean, it's like Saudi Arabia is sitting on the UN human rights council. I mean, it's all—
[00:13:47] Jordan Harbinger: I'm just going to use that exact same example. It's Saudi Arabia is sitting on the UN HCR and being like, "Yes, we believe in human rights, except for that guy that we chopped into little pieces at the embassy, but let's not talk about that."
[00:13:58] So, you'd think, well, they're going to have to select these folks better. Nope, no, thanks. We're just going to — I mean, it's almost like, "Hey, if we want to get somebody on that committee," by having them, that's their career goal to sit on that committee so that they can push things like that, arrest warrants for people like you through Interpol and make this international organization that's supposed to catch human traffickers, turn it into something that can be used to catch people that Vladimir Putin doesn't like. That's terrifying.
[00:14:22] Bill Browder: That's exactly what happens. And I'm a very high-profile guy. I've written two best-selling books. I'm on TV, I'm on your show, I'm on this stuff. And also I've got the money to hire lawyers. There's a lot of people, you know, some journalists from some small town who had exposed the regional governor who doesn't have all my resources, you know, who finds themselves arrested by Interpol. And there's nothing they can do. They sit in a Spanish jail sweltering for six months, begging for mercy. And maybe the Spanish give it to them. Maybe they send them back to Russia where they're then killed back in their regional prison by the regional governor.
[00:14:53] Jordan Harbinger: Horrible, horrific. When you got arrested in Spain, did it occur to you that the cops that arrested you might not even be police officers? Because my level of paranoia that I would have if I was an enemy of Vladimir Putin would be higher than up. This is a mistake made by the Spanish police. I'd almost be thinking, "Are these actually Spanish police, or is this FSB officer posing as Spanish police? Or are they Spanish police that just accepted a hundred thousand dollars bribe from the FSB? And I'm actually going to end up in a container going back to Moscow."
[00:15:21] Bill Browder: Well, that was exactly my fear. So interestingly, they didn't pat me down or take away my phone, which was very un-police-like
[00:15:28] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:15:29] Bill Browder: They threw me in the back of the police car. And in fact, I had an opportunity to take a picture of the back of their heads and then tweet that out just in case nobody believed my first tweet when I was first arrested, just so everyone could see what was going on. And then what was really scary is that they put on the sirens. We're sort of going through the streets of old Madrid. It's a lot of traffic. We're ground to haul for a little while. And I'm looking around for any kind of sign of a police station because I'm thinking to myself exactly what you said which is what if these guys had just bought a couple of uniforms, stolen a police car, pretended they were police officers came to the hotel — what if they are just a bunch of kidnappers?
[00:16:07] So we're driving through the streets and then we come to a square and the car slows down and pulls to a stop in front of a nondescript office building. There's no flags, no insignias of the Spanish national police in front of it. And the guys ordered me out of the car. I say, "What are we doing here?" And they don't speak good English. I don't speak good Spanish. And they say, "Medical exam."
[00:16:27] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, yeah.
[00:16:28] Bill Browder: I'm thinking, "Medical exam?" And then here I can just picture, I'm going into something that someone holds me down. Some guy in a cheap suit injects me with something. And then I wake up in that shipping container on a slow boat to Russia. I like balled my fists and I kind of got into this, like, you know, adrenaline mode. These guys could see that there's about to be trouble. There's two of them. They're definitely bigger than me, but then one of them starts frantically making a call. And he makes a call and then he comes back and puts his phone in front of me and with a Google translate and says, "This is standard protocol." And I say, "I want my lawyer." And he's like, "No lawyer." I said, "No medical exam." It was sort of standing off there for a little while. And then he makes another call and then they pushed me back into the car and then off we go again. And then we finally arrive at the police station. And even though I'm being arrested on a Russian warrant, I'm relieved. I'm at the police station—
[00:17:16] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:17:16] Bill Browder: —and not being carted off, put on a rendition flight or in a container back to Russia.
[00:17:22] Jordan Harbinger: No kidding. Yeah. It's almost like I'm imagining being there and going, "Oh, thank God you guys are actually the police," and they're just confused, right? Like you get arrested, you're freaking out in the beginning and then you end up at the police station. You're like, "Ah, yes, thank goodness. I'm actually at the police station, not at a small airport with a rusty plane about to take off or whatever, the equivalent thereof.
[00:17:40] At that point though, people are doing a lot of work while you're, I guess, I don't know, sitting there staring at your shoes, right? And finally, they end up letting you go, which seems like a really lucky break. How long were you in the police station?
[00:17:54] Bill Browder: Not long. Like a couple of hours, maybe.
[00:17:56] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:17:56] Bill Browder: What's interesting about it is when I walked in there with these police officers, all these guys in the police station where there was like this air of excitement. They thought that they have like — I mean, it's not every day that they catch an international fugitive wanted by Russia. They thought they had like had the modern-day, Carlos the Jackal or something. And so everybody sorts of popping their head into the holding cell to get a good look at me and all this kind of stuff. And you could kind of feel the excitement of the air, that this was like a big deal for these people.
[00:18:22] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:18:23] Bill Browder: And when they finally got the notification from Interpol to let me go, you could like feel it the whole place that deflated, like you know, somehow this guy's going to walk. And interestingly, the guys who had arrested me, one of them came up to me with a translator and she said, "You know, you posted a picture of the back of his head on Twitter. Can you remove it?" And I said, "Is it illegal for me to do that?" And they kind of both looked down and sort of shrugged. I said, "No, I'm not going to do it." And that picture is still up on Twitter as of today.
[00:18:51] But the most interesting part is that then they said, "Well, you know, we'd be happy to offer you a ride wherever you need to go." And I said, "Well, I don't really want to do that at this point."
[00:18:58] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:18:59] Bill Browder: And they said, "Where are you going?" And I said, "I'm going to meet with Prosecutor Grinda." This is like this big name and the attorney general practically or whatever—
[00:19:06] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:19:07] Bill Browder: —Spain and all of a sudden their faces drop like, oh my god. And they said, "No, no, no. You don't have to go to that car. We have a much nicer car to take you there." And they took me to the prosecutor's office. And let me tell you, the prosecutor was so unbelievably mad.
[00:19:19] Jordan Harbinger: I bet.
[00:19:20] Bill Browder: If there was any uncertainty about him investigating this case before that happened, he was going to investigate this case until the final freeze.
[00:19:28] Jordan Harbinger: That is — he must have been so embarrassed. Like, "Yeah, come and meet with me. It's going to be great." You get arrested on the way to the meeting. And then you get dropped off at the meeting by the cops that arrested you. And he's like, "What's going on?" Because he's on the fence, but he's willing to hear you out. "Well, what happened was we got a red notice for this guy. So we went to his hotel, took him out of the hotel in front of the manager and all the staff. And then we told the whole police station that we arrested this big criminal. And then we got an email from, or I don't know, a bunch of emails from 50 different places at Interpol saying, 'Actually this is a huge mistake. Sorry about that.'" And then it's like, "Oh, okay. I no longer really need you to convince me that the Kremlin has its tentacles into this because if they had you arrested on the way to my office, I think maybe you're onto something," right? It's like, they don't need to sniff for the smoke anymore. There's already flames.
[00:20:16] Bill Browder: I think he was going to do it anyways, but he's not going as steep into this case as hard as one can, because that doesn't happen. That shouldn't happen.
[00:20:23] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I'm going to keep your phone number and email on speed dial in case I get arrested overseas for some of these interviews that I'm doing with people like you.
[00:20:32] Bill Browder: I mean, everybody criticizes Twitter, but Twitter saved my life.
[00:20:35] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I guess you're going to stay on it no matter what happens with Elon here at least. It's going to take a lot to get you off the platform now, I suppose.
[00:20:42] Bill Browder: Elon is not a big friend of Putin, so I think that's good for me.
[00:20:44] Jordan Harbinger: That's true. Yeah. You know, I thought about that. I got Tesla stock and I was thinking, what are the risks involved with having a lot of Tesla stock? And I thought, who else makes rockets? Vladimir Putin and Elon Musk, and that's pretty much it, maybe some Chinese company that won't sell internationally and you know, what kind of quality are there. And I thought, okay, so the only competition to SpaceX is a Kremlin-owned state-backed Soviet-era rocket company. I hope he's got good personal security. So yeah, he's probably no friend of the Kremlin, or at least the Kremlin's no friend to him as well.
[00:21:16] A lot of people might be surprised by the fact that you started off as a major investor in Russia. And you came on, this show is episode 3. We're going to have a trailer for it at the end of the show. So people don't forget if they want kind of full background, but essentially — and correct any points that I get wrong here — you discovered a massive corruption. You researched the corruption and the graft. You used it to expose the graft to the international media, naming oligarchs, shaming these guys, getting them arrested with the aid of, several years ago, Vladimir Putin. And then he just sort of became the king oligarch, right? And then decided actually, "I don't really want of watchdog authority, activist investor anymore." And he raids your office and murders your lawyer who lives in Russia. There's obviously a lot more to this story, but this is a really interesting investigation. And I have a few more questions about it because I think it is such a fascinating story and Sergei Magnitsky, your lawyer, who's like this young guy really principled going after the stolen funds because he believes that Russia should not have hundreds of millions of dollars of tax money stolen from the people, he ends up dying in jail. Tell me how you started to investigate this because it became not just, "Where's the money?" but also, "Who killed my lawyer?"
[00:22:31] Bill Browder: After Sergei died, it was the most traumatic, heartbreaking life-changing thing that ever happened to me. And I shouldn't say after Sergei died, after Sergei was brutally murdered because he was killed by eight riot guards with rubber batons, as they beat him to death after they had deprived him of medical attention for six months after he had developed pancreatitis in jail. They tortured him by denying him medical attention and all sorts of other terrible things, and then they killed him. And for me, that was just an unforgivable act of malice that I just had to do something about.
[00:23:02] And so I've put aside all of my business as a fund manager and became a full-time activist using all of my time, all of my resources, and all of my energy to go after the people who killed him to make sure they face justice. That's what I started doing. And so a lot of the things that we knew about what they did to Sergei, he had actually written down during his 358 days in detention. He wrote 450 complaints documenting who did what to him, where, how, and when. And he would file these complaints. He'd write them up by hand. He would give them to his lawyer. His lawyer would file them. They would ignore them, but his lawyer gave us copies. And so after getting these things, we had the most granular case of torture and abuse that's ever come out of the Russian prison system.
[00:23:48] And then, when somebody was killed, it was 2009, and so it was during a four-year period that Putin wasn't in power from 2008 to 2012 — I should say it wasn't in power.
[00:23:57] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:23:57] Bill Browder: He wasn't the president. He was the prime minister when a guy named Dmitry Medvedev was president and Medvedev is a total corrupt POS. He was not sort of as ruthless as Putin. And during this time of Medvedev, there was like this NGO that had been set up to review prison deaths. And normally these NGOs are all kind of fake, but this was a real one and they hadn't had time to cover anything up. And so they, NGO went in and so very brave investigators from this NGO went and interviewed everybody and looked at all the documents. And there is a document that the prison kept where the guys who beat him, signed a form saying, "As instructed, we beat the prisoner," with all eight signatures on it. I mean, it's like, you know, they weren't even trying to cover it up.
[00:24:41] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:24:41] Bill Browder: And then there's pictures of his body. You can see him beaten. There's all this terrible stuff they did to him. We have all the evidence, but they don't care about that. Even with factual documentary evidence, they just make stuff up and they say, "There was no sign of violence. Sergei Magnitsky died of natural causes, no sign of violence." This was the announcement from the prison service. Russian prosecutor's office said, "We've investigated and found no foul play." And everybody just repeated it all the way through the line, right up to Vladimir Putin. It was this remarkable cover-up, which was just so brazen because all the evidence said that there was this terrible crime committed. And you know, the crime is one thing, but the cover-up was just as much of a thing, which is we could see Vladimir Putin personally getting involved in the cover-up of murder. You know, Vladimir Putin didn't hit him with a cup rubber baton, but Vladimir Putin participated in the exoneration and the false narrative that they then started spreading that Sergei Magnitsky died of natural causes and there was nothing to it.
[00:25:39] Jordan Harbinger: It's crazy to see this kind of mafia-state behavior, but now we're used to it. And we'll talk a little bit about how much more brazen Russia, and I should say the Kremlin has become. The investigation itself was pretty interesting. Tell me about this 1782 subpoena and how you use this to trace the money trail. I'm a lawyer, so I'm a little bit nerding out on some of this legal stuff, but I think this was interesting enough, even for non-lawyers because I'd never heard of this.
[00:26:02] Bill Browder: And there were two parts of the investigation. The first part was, you know, the physical violence, the murder, and the second part of the investigation, which took place after he was killed, was who got the money who got the $230 million that Sergei, Magnitsky had discovered, exposed, and was killed over. And we knew that none of these guys kept that money in Russia. They keep the money outside of Russia where it's safe. After they've stolen it, they want to keep it safe. And we knew that they kept it in dollars.
[00:26:29] And there's something really unbelievable about the world financial system that most people don't know, which is that anytime a bank, any bank in the world wants to send a dollar to another bank in the world — so let's just say there's two Russian banks. One wants to send a dollar from one Russian bank to a second Russian, they don't send it directly to the bank. They've got to send it to, let's say that Austrian bank that has a correspondent account within JP Morgan in New York, that then sends it back to another Austrian bank with it. And for a split second, the money between those two Russian banks goes through JP Morgan in New York or Wells Fargo, or there's one of seven that they call the money-centered banks.
[00:27:09] And what's interesting is all those banks are in New York. If you want to get information on money flowing from one Russian bank to another, and as long as it's in dollars, you can go to the court in New York and you can file something called the 1782 subpoena. And the 1782 subpoenas say, "We want JP Morgan to hand over all dollar transfers between this bank and that bank." And guess what? JP Morgan doesn't care or Citibank or whoever it is you're subpoenaing that they're being asked by a court to hand over it. They hand it over and we did that and we got all these dollar transfers between all these Russian banks. And we can start using that and we have this amazing database. And we can start using that database to start tracking down who got the money.
[00:27:53] Jordan Harbinger: You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Bill Browder. We'll be right back.
[00:27:58] This episode is sponsored in part by IPVanish. If you think it'd being sleek by browsing online in incognito mode, if you think incognito mode is protecting you from hackers and prying eyes, you're totally wrong, actually. If you want to stay truly private and secure on the Internet, you really need to get a VPN. And IPVanish is a VPN service that helps you safely browse the Internet. It encrypts a hundred percent of your data. It's all your private details like passwords, communications, browsing history, all that stuff's going to be shielded from falling into the wrong hands. IPVanish makes you virtually invisible online. It's really simple. I know you probably think, "Well, I don't have anything to hide." If you're at a coffee shop, in airport, even at home, someone can grab that data. So I'm using IPVanish pretty much ever. IPVanish is really easy to use. You tap a button, you're protected. You won't even know it's on.
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[00:30:55] Now, back to Bill Browder.
[00:30:58] This database, this money tracing database that you created, I think, is really interesting because I'm imagining that it just shows a pretty clear — this genius guy who if traces money laundering, I guess, that you'd hired. It really is impressive because you can see the money and I'm visualizing it, of course, because I read about it in an audiobook, but like, you can see the money go from Alfa Bank or whatever into these other accounts. And because everything is sort of pinging this bank in New York — it's almost like blockchain where it's like, "Well, we just have to have a record in New York. That's it. No big deal. We're not going to step into the transaction. We're not going to do anything with the transaction. It's just a little line in the spreadsheet," but those things add up to just a map of where the dollars are. It's incredible.
[00:31:38] Bill Browder: It's incredible. But it's also worth pointing out that you have to be highly motivated to figure it out because it's so complicated. It's like a huge puzzle that you have to spend a lot of time to recreate. The guys who put it together didn't expect that anyone would have the time, the energy, or the resources to put it all together. But the other thing that's really important to know is that when someone launders money, there's no such thing really of money laundering because all dollar transfers don't leave an indelible trail. The only real way of laundering money is to do it in cash—
[00:32:06] Jordan Harbinger: Cash.
[00:32:06] Bill Browder: But you can't take out or deposit more than $10,000 in cash without filing all sorts of things with the regulatory authorities. All money gets transferred. And so what money launderers think is that if they just make it complicated enough and nobody's ever going to figure it out, but they never anticipated that Bill Browder and my colleague Vadim Kleiner, and a bunch of other guys who were heartbroken about the murder of our friend and lawyer, were going to spend our lives, recreating the trails so that we could then take that information and get them prosecuted.
[00:32:35] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, it's really incredible. I mean, we're making almost sound like these guys are sort of geniuses with their dollar transfers. The bulk of these guys that are doing this are kind of, they're not really trying that hard to obfuscate what they're doing, right? There's public servants on a $15,000 a year or less salary, flexing on Instagram and VKontakte, which is like the Russian Facebook with a picture of a yacht and a villa. And it's like, "Well, where'd you get the money for that? You could work your entire career and not make the down payment on this."
[00:33:02] Bill Browder: These guys are just like knuckleheads. I mean, true knuckleheads, up and down the chain. That's so brazen. So you've got these guys. They don't seem to care. They go on first-class vacations to Paris and staying at five-star hotels for $1,500 a night rooms and wearing Armani suits on their police raids in their Porsche Cayenne on $15,000 a year salary. Right? What do they think? That like, nobody is going to notice.
[00:33:28] Jordan Harbinger: It just shows you that the culture of corruption is almost the desire to show status in that culture outweighs the desire to hide the fact that they're stealing the money, right? Which is incredible because it just shows you that there's so little consequence for actually stealing the money that the benefit from flexing online is actually larger because they've made that calculation.
[00:33:51] Bill Browder: There's no question. And by the way, we've just been talking about these sort of knucklehead cops, but you know, you'd go up to like the minister of something in Russia who was sitting on a $500 million superyacht.
[00:34:03] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:34:03] Bill Browder: I think it's actually an important part of their whole culture. They have to show off because that's the only way that they can sort of show who's more important than the other guy. It's kind of like wealth begets wealth and anybody who doesn't do that is assumed to be a weak loser and then they just gobbled them up. And so they're much more worried about each other than they're worried about consequences for their actions. They're worried about somebody saying, "You're a nobody. I want to steal from the people that you're stealing from." So they've got to be like doing all this superyacht, Porsche Cayenne, Armani suits stuff.
[00:34:35] Jordan Harbinger: It reminds me of some of the old school, Middle Eastern culture where they try and out gift each other, because the more you are able to sort of waste, the more you look like you can afford to waste it, right? So they're like, "Oh, I'm going to invite you over for a meal." And there's like enough food for 150 people. And they send you back with your annual salary worth of gifts on camelback or whatever. And you're like, "Why do that?" And it's like their enemy or somebody they don't like. And the whole point is to be like, "I'm so rich and powerful that I can waste all of this on you without batting an eye."
[00:35:07] Bill Browder: Yeah. I mean, it's some version of that. And by the way, everyone always asks me when you take it right up to the top, "Why does Putin need all this money?" They say, "Well, why does he need $200 billion?" And my answer is always that you can't be the most powerful person in the country, unless you're also the richest person and the most brutal person, and the most everything-est person because that's just how it works. And so it's just one of these sort of you've got to just be showing everything off at all times about everything. And it's not just that, you know, like there's not a person in the world that Putin has ever met with on time.
[00:35:38] Jordan Harbinger: Ah.
[00:35:38] Bill Browder: He leaves the US president sitting for an hour and a half just to show him that his time is more important than the other guy.
[00:35:46] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. It's just a more advanced version of the guy who shakes your hand by putting his hand on top, and then they do the same thing and then they put their hand on top of yours and it's like, okay, all right, I get it. You know, the stuff you outgrew in high school or college, the guy who tries to grip your hand really strongly, they're just doing that but they're 70 years old and they've never outgrown it. It's part of the culture.
[00:36:04] It's interesting that you mentioned that Putin has to be the everything-est guy, right? Because when I think about what he's doing now in Ukraine, my initial thought was, "Oh, now he's thinking about his place in the history books," but I sort of scratched that idea now because what does a guy who's going to be remembered for stealing everything from his people, murdering his opponents, clamping down on free media and ideas. I don't know I'm on the fence. Like, is he trying to be remembered for something more than just being a horrible, you know, Stalin 2.0, or is this whole thing having nothing to do with legacy? Because a guy like that doesn't care about legacy. He just cares about like, not getting murdered.
[00:36:40] Bill Browder: You hit the nail on the head and I'm so glad you said that. I mean, there's so many people that are, all these specialists, saying, he's trying to create this grand Imperial Russia, or he's something about NATO that's causing them to do all this. No, the reason he's doing this is because he's a scared little man.
[00:36:54] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:36:54] Bill Browder: Vladimir Putin is tiny, by the way. Sometimes he actually wears platform shoes and he still looks tiny. I mean, he's a tiny, tiny little man who's been picked on and beaten up as a child and brutalized in all sorts of terrible ways. And he's got unbelievable psychological problems and he thinks everybody's out to get him. And after a period of time, everyone is out to get him because he's stolen all the money and done all this stuff. And so every once in a while, when he starts getting really scared, he starts a war. He started a war in 2008 and his approval rates went up. He started a war in 2014 with taking Crimea. His approval ratings go up and he starts this war and his approval ratings go up.
[00:37:30] This is all about a scared little man, a greedy, scared little man who's stolen a lot of money, who was desperately afraid that his people at one point were just going to snap. He looks at those pictures of what happened to Ceaușescu, the dictator of Romania, hanging from a lamppost or watching what happened to Gaddafi, getting killed in an underground tunnel. And he thinks, "I don't want that to happen to me. And the best way to make sure it doesn't happen to me is to create a war," straight out of dictator's playbook 101. Start a war, get everyone to rally around the flag, do a whole bunch of propaganda. And by the way, let's get rid of all other media. So nobody knows what's really going on.
[00:38:06] And that's what this war is about. And it has nothing to do with legacy. It has nothing to do with grand vision. This has to do with a scared little, greedy man who doesn't want to get overthrown.
[00:38:15] Jordan Harbinger: I understand his perspective. Not that I'm not approving of it at all, but of course, if I'm looking at Ceaușescu or Gaddafi, I mean, I think Gaddafi was executed — it might be a little crude here, but I think someone literally like shoved a pistol up as keister and shot him in a drainage ditch. I mean, it was pretty undignified and I think it was probably a little bit slower than you'd want to go out as well. Saddam Hussein was lucky to get hanged after being captured by the United States and allies. And that was also a pretty bad way to go to, right? They found that guy in a hole.
[00:38:43] So it makes sense what he's doing, but it also seems like Russia constantly overplays their hand during the Magnitsky case, they did the same thing, right? They're sending crime bosses to meet with government officials in public. And you found like a camera crew in the lobby of a hotel to go and film it, right? They're lobbying officials to remove discussion of the Magnitsky Act and sanctions to get it off the docket of the US Congress. And it just seems like Russia constantly overplays their hand, just like with the Ukraine war. But on the other hand, they get away with it a lot, right? They poison people in the UK. They poison a former FSB agent or dissident and they poisoned Alexei Navalny and throw him in prison. And it's just — what do you think about this?
[00:39:23] Because they do seem to get away with a lot, but they also really seem to miscalculate. And is that just the pitfalls of being a dictator who is surrounded by people who are afraid to tell him, "Hey, this is a bad idea, man, you're going to get caught"?
[00:39:35] Bill Browder: No question. So it's like the people who ended up working for Putin or like C students from D universities that have like no motivation. They're only motivated by money. And so every operation that they execute on is just a failure. My whole story if you read my book, it's just like one unbelievable mess up after another, when they're trying to get me and trying to get my colleagues and trying to do all these things that they're doing. They can't get it right once because they have an unlimited amount of money, nobody gets into trouble for this. They just say, "Okay, well, you know, we can do a hundred operations. All we have to do is have one of them be successful and we're happy and we don't care how much money has been wasted." There's no like government accounting office. That's going to look into to see how many of these surveillance operations or influence operations succeeded and how many didn't. They just try everything and see what happens and nobody cares. And they've been doing that for a long time. And every once in a while they succeed and do something really horrific. And as you said, nothing happens to them or nothing has happened to them.
[00:40:31] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:40:32] Bill Browder: For 22 years, nothing happened. Putin poisoned Alexander Litvinenko with polonium-210 in London. What did the British authorities do? Nothing. They poisoned Sergei Skripal with a Novichok. It was a chemical weapons attack. They had to close down an entire town in the UK. What happened after that? All sorts of British people went to the World Cup six months later.
[00:40:51] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:40:51] Bill Browder: Nothing happened. And on and on and on, they shut down passenger planes in Bay, Georgia, do all this kind of stuff, nothing happens. And so Putin was very much of the opinion that he could go into to Ukraine in a full-scale invasion. And we're also scared, timid, appeasing, and greedy, not wanting to upset the flow of Russian money that we're just going to protest. Say, we condemn this thing, sanctioned a few soldiers and go back to business. And that's what gave him the confidence to do this. And this is the first time that something is happening. I mean, there are real dire consequences for Putin and for Russia. As a result of finally waking up to his evil, but boy, oh boy, if we had just woken up earlier, we could have avoided such unbelievable tragedy that we're watching on our television screens every day.
[00:41:35] Jordan Harbinger: I was just going to ask you. I have it here for the end of the show, but it's got to be a little irritating, I guess — I'm trying to find the right word. You got to be a little annoyed, for lack of a better word that you spent 10 years going after these oligarchs and all their illicit and stolen funds and very few people, or at least not enough people, cared until there was this invasion or does all of it just sort of make sense, given the context and circumstances? Because he has done so many horrible things, Georgia, Crimea, poisoning in the UK. Let's not forget to mention he murdered your attorney, right? That's one of the reasons you brought the book and that we're talking. And it's like, you must just be thinking, "For God's sake. How many times do I have to shake you before you wake up?"
[00:42:14] Bill Browder: Well, you know, you say annoyed, furious is probably the right—
[00:42:17] Jordan Harbinger: Furious.
[00:42:18] Bill Browder: Beyond furious, infuriated to the degree you can't even imagine and not for my own vanity or anything like that, but infuriated, because I'm watching all these children and women and men, everybody just getting obliterated in Bucha that people being shot with our hands tied behind their back and women raped. You know, this didn't have to happen. And all these so-called leaders that were just not leading us, they were just sitting there twiddling their thumbs and talking self-important policy talk in their own bubbles. When this guy with this mass killer was on the loose for 20 years and nobody wanted to do anything and it just breaks my heart and it infuriates me to see that what he's been allowed to get away with, and now everybody is acting. It's way too little way too late. God help us. We're just beginning to see the tragedy of this situation.
[00:43:09] Jordan Harbinger: A lot of people in Russia have also been killed for opposing Putin. Alexei Navalny who many people have heard of got poisoned and then went back to Russia and now ended up in prison as well. So a lot of people have been asking me, like, "Why does nobody oppose this guy? "And the answer is they do, they end up dead or in prison. And those are just two examples that come to mind. When he was trying to cover up the theft and the murder of your attorney, Sergei Magnitsky, he banned adoption. And a lot of people don't really understand what that all means. Can you speak to that a little bit? The adoption thing is kind of like — it's almost like a code word, right? But also it does end up killing real children in Russia.
[00:43:45] Bill Browder: Yeah, it's horrifying. So the Magnitsky Act, which is this legislation that I've been working on after Sergei Magnitsky was killed, passed on December 14th, 2012. And Vladimir Putin was just apoplectic. He just couldn't have imagined anyone would disrespect him in such a way. His immediate reaction was to ban the adoption of Russian orphans by American families. Now, that sounds bad on the surface, but it's actually a hundred times worse than you can imagine. The way the adoption system worked in Russia was that only the sick ones were put up for adoption. The ones with down syndrome, spinal bifida, fetal alcohol syndrome, the ones that Russian families didn't want, they would put up for adoption and Americans would come with open arms and open hearts and take these sick children back to America and nurse them to health and provide them with a good life.
[00:44:40] And by banning the adoption, what he did was basically sending some of these kids to death because the orphanages, they don't have the resources to deal with these problems. And so Vladimir Putin was effectively killing his own orphans in order to protest a piece of legislation that would sanction corrupt officials in his government. And if that didn't tell you what kind of person Vladimir Putin was. I don't know what would. I mean, you know, killing defenseless children to protect corrupt officials is the definition of evil and the definition of Vladimir Putin.
[00:45:12] Jordan Harbinger: So he's a big fan of you for reasons we've discussed here. You get sentenced in absentia to nine years of hard labor by Russia, which is probably like not even the worst-case scenario of what might happen if you actually ended up getting caught by them, anyways. You're very successful with this legislation, right? The European Union starts to take comparable legislation on board. They start freezing apartments in the old building. I used to live in JP Morgan's old bank on Wall Street. It's an apartment building now, and there's all these empty units in there. And we just assumed they were investments. And I guess we were kind of right. Many of them were later seized by the government because they were kind of just wallets for corrupt officials that would go and buy a really expensive condo. And then just say, "Well, it's better than having cash in a Russian bank or in a foreign denomination."
[00:45:58] And the legal case here that you go through is really something else. You're fighting these Russians in US courts, but they are throwing so much money at this. I'm wondering, was it hard to retain counsel just because of who your opponent was? I mean, when there's hundreds of millions of dollars, potentially billions in legal fees going anywhere, you're going to have people who just don't want to work with you because the other side has so much money.
[00:46:22] Bill Browder: Even worse than that. So get this. So in order to find the money from the Magnitsky murderer that went to America, we hired the best money-laundering specialists that existed on the planet. At the time, it was a guy named John Moscow. I'm not making a joke. His name is John Moscow. He was a former New York district attorney prosecutor who did all sorts of famous money-laundering cases. So we hired him to find the money for us. He does a bunch of stuff to help us find the money then disappears when the Madoff bankruptcy comes in because they make so much money on Madoff. He just let us hang out to dry because he wasn't a good guy, but that's kind of horrible and sleazy, but not the worst thing in the world, but pretty bad.
[00:47:03] Then all of a sudden, once we get a few more leads, we find out where all the money has gone. We filed a complaint with the New York district attorney's office. They pass it up to the US Department of Justice. Department of Justice seizes $20 million worth of real estate in Manhattan, including in that building and the JP Morgan building you lived in. And then who shows up on the other side, but none other than John Moscow represented the other side. He switched sides on the same case. Okay. Talk about sleazy. And so he knew — and by the way, at this point, I'm being threatened. I'm getting all sorts of death threats and other threats from the Russian government. He knew about that because we talked about it—
[00:47:40] Jordan Harbinger: Uh-huh.
[00:47:40] Bill Browder: —when he was my lawyer. The first thing he does is he issues a subpoena asking me to hand over unbelievable numbers of documents, including my own personal security arrangements, my travel records—
[00:47:50] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:47:51] Bill Browder: All this kind of stuff. I mean monstrous like you can't believe and why is he doing it? Because they're paying them a lot of money.
[00:47:56] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. First of all, for people going, "Wait, lawyers can just switch sides?" No, they can't actually do that. It's called a conflict of interest. You're supposed to be conflicted out. I've had to switch lawyers because a lawyer that was representing me in something joined the law firm with another lawyer who used to represent another client who I'm also in a dispute with years ago. And they go, "Yeah, just to be safe. I'm going to have to refer you to someone else." And it's like, this is just a very remote chance that there might have been some overlap, not even with the same person, but now with the same firm. And this guy just switches sides with this packet of documents, you gave him in one hand, in a packet of instructions from your adversaries in another, and is trying to pretend like there's nothing wrong with that. It's like the most unethical thing you can possibly do as an attorney, one of.
[00:48:41] Bill Browder: And why did he do it? Because he got paid millions and millions of dollars by the Russians to do it. And millions and millions of dollars to basically to try to subpoena me for all information that the Russians wanted to get hold of which could, in theory, put my life in grave danger.
[00:48:56] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:48:56] Bill Browder: And so what do you have here? You have an American lawyer. Who's basically subcontracting to the Russian security services.
[00:49:04] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Trying to figure out how to get your location so that he can go, "Well, I don't know. Maybe they made it did misuse the information." But you could end up like you said, in a container on the way back to Russia, or just dead in the streets somewhere like other opponents of Putin. And that would be because of the information that he tried to get out of you with a subpoena and he just didn't care enough about anything other than money to think that that would be a problem. I mean, the guy sounds like a sociopath. That's just my non-professional opinion. I wouldn't want to get in any trouble saying anything like that, but it certainly sounds that way. It sounds like something a sociopath would do. I mean, you talk about going to Aspen, people tailing you, chasing you. People approaching your children when they were playing outside. Trying to see if you were home, they accosted you after The Daily Show. Tell me about that. That's not usually something you hear. You know, usually you go to a talk show, you go back to your hotel, order room service and that's that. You had more excitement.
[00:49:54] Bill Browder: So, my first book, which was called Red Notice had launched the book and it was just at the same time that John Moscow and all of his Russian backers were trying to subpoena me for all of my personal documents, all my private information. And why would they subpoena me? Because I was the key witness to the government in the case. And so they were saying, "Okay, we need to depose him and subpoena him for our defense." Which I was like, "Why do you need to know, my security arrangements for your defense? Why do you need copies of my passport, where I traveled to, for your defense? Why do you need all of my conversations with government officials for your defense?
[00:50:30] Anyways, they're chasing me all around and my assistant was really good. I had this great assistant named Sophie and she would contact like Fox News or MSNBC and say, "Listen, we have some security things we've concerned about, you know, we don't want to come in the front door. We want to come in the loading dock." And they said, "Yeah, yeah, no problem. We completely understand." For the full day on my first day, you know, I was going to the loading dock and John Moscow and his colleagues would see me on TV and send someone over to Fox. And I'd already been over MSNBC, by the time, they got over.
[00:51:00] And the last show of the night was on The Daily Show. In The Daily Show, we said, "Don't advertise me in advance." So we showed up at The Daily Show, they have a side entrance for us, and we like drive up and down to the street. Nobody there. We jump out of the car and go into the side entrance. And The Daily Show is a pretty big deal and I've never done a comedy show. So, I kind of started forgetting about all the John Moscow and all his nonsense. And you know, it's like, what do you do on a comedy show? And you're supposed to try — you know, I've got really serious stuff to talk about. How am I supposed to be funny? No. So Jon Stewart was in charge of The Daily Show at the time. He comes in. I say, "You know, I'm a bit confused here. He was, "Don't worry. Just tell your story as you always tell it. I'll do the comedy. You just be yourself."
[00:51:37] Anyway, so I go and studio audience is like, you know, clapping while I sit down while the lights shining on me, I do my thing. And it went really well. It was a great show and he really brought out the issues and did it in a good way, in a funny way, in a respectful way to Sergei. I was so relieved after the show was over, go back into the green room. You know, Sophie was there. Some other friends of mine were there. We were all like, you know, beaming. And I completely forget about the whole John Moscow thing. We step out of the side door to the car. And some guy who's like 300 pounds comes running towards me and he physically pushes out of the way Sophie and the other person who's with me and I'm getting into the car. I'm trying to close the door to the car. He's watching the door open. I'm not even sure who this guy is.
[00:52:16] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. You could just be getting robbed at this point, right?
[00:52:18] Bill Browder: Or not robbed, but this could be some kind of—
[00:52:20] Jordan Harbinger: Worst.
[00:52:20] Bill Browder: And so I scurry out the other side of the car. I kind of make my way. It was a snowy day. I eventually find a taxi. I jumped in the taxi and like tell him to go to some hotel I'm not staying at. And it turned out that this was John Moscow's subpoena guy, trying to serve me after The Daily Show.
[00:52:35] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, just a processor. I'm surprised they don't have more security at The Daily Show because they also have really big a list of celebrities there that could get accosted by somebody on the streets of New York if it's that easy to just walk up to the car that the person's going into. It's a little bit like rarely. It's a little bit surprising.
[00:52:51] Bill Browder: Yeah. Well, I mean, in fact, you know, the guy gave me the whole clear look like anyone was there. He just come out from behind a car. I mean, I guess anything could happen, but these guys were definitely playing for keeps. These guys are working for the Russians.
[00:53:05] Jordan Harbinger: This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Bill Browder. We'll be right back.
[00:53:10] This episode is sponsored in part by MUD/WTR. MUD/WTR is a coffee alternative with four adaptogenic mushrooms and Ayurvedic herbs — you know, I'm so tempted to joke about this, but all right, whatever — lion's mane, chaga, cordyceps, which offers a huge range of benefits. What I'm here for though is it's got one-seventh of the caffeine of a premium cup of coffee. So you get energy and focus without crash without the jitters if you're a jittery coffee drinker. I'm very caffeine sensitive myself. So I take MUD/WTR in the afternoon when I'm craving a coffee, but I don't want to go to bed at four o'clock in the freaking morning after vibrating myself to sleep. It comes in powder form. It smells really good, kind of like a hot cocoa chime mix there. I like to throw in a scoop of MUD/WTR with a little steamed vanilla oat milk, because hashtag yuppie and it's good. I like it's not pre-sweetened because of the sweetened stuff that you get at a coffee shop. It's just kind of gross. On days when I'm feeling a little sweet tooth, I'll throw a little drop of vanilla Stevia in there.
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[00:56:45] Now for the rest of my conversation with Bill Browder.
[00:56:50] You hire this lawyer, by the way, Michael Kim, whatever you paid this guy, it was absolutely worth every penny, right? This guy seems like a genius. He decides, "Okay. We can't avoid the subpoena," because the judge is sort of — we'll spare the poor judge here, but he was too old to be doing a good job and he just couldn't even follow the case. So he lets the subpoena go through. And this lawyer, Michael Kim says, "Oh, you want all that? All right, we'll give you everything you want and more." So he sends over — it's like malicious compliance. Tell me what happened here.
[00:57:18] Bill Browder: This is genius. So they wanted all this stuff, like all this dangerous stuff that I didn't want to hand over, but they also couched it in a list of like 45 different categories of information. So Michael said, "Okay, let's just calm down." You know, I was like really agitated. You know what the Russian intelligence couldn't get by hacking my computers because we had such good computer security. They were going to be able to walk in the front door of the US courtroom and get an 83-year-old senile judge to demand that I hand over, which they succeeded in doing.
[00:57:45] So I was really just bouncing off the walls with like worry and worry for me, my family, my colleagues, and everything. And he said, "Bill, just calm down. I've got this, but let's just look at what they want." And so there's like 43 categories of documents. He said, "Is there anything on this list that wouldn't put you in danger?" Then I said, "Yeah, actually this one and this one and this one and this one and this one," and he said, "Okay, let's give them the stuff that doesn't put you in danger." And so I had it over like the first day, 345,000 documents—
[00:58:12] Jordan Harbinger: On paper, I assume, right? Not in a pen drive.
[00:58:14] Bill Browder: —above stuff that didn't put me or my colleagues in danger. And then four days later, we handed over another a hundred thousand documents of things that didn't put us in danger. These guys started to like, you know, understand what was going on. They wanted the stuff that was going to put us in danger. So we just kept on handing over the stuff and they also wanted to do a deposition. And so depositions where they put you into a room and they have a video recorder and then you have to answer every question they ask. And if you don't, then you're in contempt of court. And the Russians really like they had been so desperate to get me into a Russian court and they never succeeded. They wanted to get me into a New York deposition, at least and like put me on trial. However, they want it to. The deposition was coming up and the lawyers we had given them everything they asked for. I mean, not everything, but we've given them what they asked for, just not in the order that they asked for it.
[00:58:58] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:58:59] Bill Browder: And the deposition was approaching. And so my lawyer, Michael Kim said, "We can delay it. You know, if you want to just delay the deposition, you can delay it for as long as you want." And the Russians were so eager to get me into that deposition room that they said, the lawyers, "No, we have to have him." And at that point, I hadn't handed over a single document that would put me in jeopardy. So then we go into the deposition room and Michael Kim, he has all sorts of other good advice. So we did our little deposition training before the deposition and he hands me a document, which was the complaint I filed.
[00:59:26] And he said, "Pretend I'm them. Here's the document. What's this document?" I said, "This is the complaint I filed." He said, "No, no, no Bill." And I think it was like a 50-page document. He said, "How do you know what they handed you as the complaint you filed? Maybe it's the front page of the complaint you filed with 50 pages of stuff you've never seen before." He said, "It's your job to read through every page." And I said, "But that will take me like half an hour." And he said, "Well, who's half an hour is that? They only have seven and a half hours to depose you." And so he said, "You have to read through every page." And he came up back and said, some other thing, like, "You stole the money, didn't you? The 230 million," which is what the Russians have been accusing me of. I said, "Of course, I didn't and that's ridiculous." He said, "No, no, that's not the answer. Any time they ask you a question, you just say yes or no, or I don't know. And just remember, you're not talking to people. Pretend you're talking to a mannequin and just say yes, no, I don't know."
[01:00:12] And so when I got into that deposition room, first thing they did was hand me a copy of that complaint, you know, and I read the first page and I read the second page and I read that — and everybody was just sitting there like burning up time. And you could just tell, like just within minutes, they were already getting furious. And then every time they asked me a question, I said, yes, no, or I don't know. And they spent like literally millions of dollars getting me into that room.
[01:00:33] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:00:34] Bill Browder: By the end of it, they hadn't done a single thing to put me or anyone else in danger. And so it was like a total success.
[01:00:39] Jordan Harbinger: Man, it must've been so — I know it was really stressful, but how satisfying was it to have them waste millions of dollars of Russian money, a ton of time, and then, you know, later on, spoiler alert, the judge says, "Well, you complied with everything and you know there's nothing here, so you can leave now," and you're leaving. And they're just like, "The whole point of this was to get this guy in trouble and he's walking out the door and we've probably spent five to seven million bucks in legal fees and all this other crap at this point. And we have nothing to show for it." And I can imagine these FSB agents and these sort of crooked lawyers sitting behind the glass in Moscow or St. Petersburg watching this via live feed and just having a terrible day.
[01:01:16] Bill Browder: And even worse for John Moscow and his colleagues, it's like getting ripped a new one by their clients to spend all that money and they didn't deliver the goods.
[01:01:27] Jordan Harbinger: Right. He's thinking, "Oh, I'm going to make these Russians happy. They're going to hire me for everything else." And now he's like, "I really hope they don't kill me for this. Guess, I'm not going to sleep well for the next decade." You know, it couldn't happen to a better guy, right?
[01:01:39] Bill Browder: Indeed.
[01:01:40] Jordan Harbinger: Your wife, she must be very patient. I know she has crisis PR experience. And given that a decent percentage of your life, especially at that time, is a legitimate crisis, it probably makes her the perfect partner for you at this point in your life, at least.
[01:01:53] Bill Browder: So my wife was a crisis manager in Russia at a big American PR firm and being a crisis manager in Russia, there was a lot of crises. And we ended up getting married and I kind of think it's similar to marrying a tropical disease specialist and then encountering the exact tropical disease that the person specializes in. I mean, she was just, always knew what to say, knew what to do, knew how to support me. I would be in Russian prison or dead if I hadn't married my wife. I mean, she is just the best person in the world.
[01:02:25] Jordan Harbinger: They've actually tried to meddle with you in the romantic front as well, right? You went to Monaco. Tell us what happened in Monaco. This kind of ridiculous ham-fisted attempt to honey trap you.
[01:02:35] Bill Browder: So I go to Monaco Monaco in 2012 was the country hosting some big international political conference called the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. It stands for the organization for security and cooperation in Europe. I think there was only like 10 people in the world that actually know what the organization does, but the OSCE is a very important human rights body that brings together parliamentarians from all different countries. And it was a great, great place for me to go and meet members of parliament from all these countries to pitch them on doing a Magnitsky Act in their countries.
[01:03:07] And so I've been invited to go to this OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. And I had been given a platform to show a movie where I showed a movie about how a major organized crime figure had basically merged with the Russian government and had become part of the Russian government to do all these dirty deals, like the theft of the $230 million, which led to Sergei Magnitsky being killed. So I go and show this movie, I show it at the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. There's like 50 members of parliament and attendance. Everybody was quite impressed with the movie.
[01:03:39] And at the end of the movie, one of the parliamentarians comes up to me and says, "There's a dinner taking place at the Le Méridien Hotel on the water. We'd love for you to attend. It's being hosted by the government of Monaco." And so I say, "Great." That sounds like a good opportunity. Meet some more parliamentarians, have a nice dinner. I and my colleague, we go to the dinner. As we walk into the hotel, there's all these people speaking Russian. And I'm with this guy who works for me and he knows one of the US staffers, a woman. And he says to her, "Who are these Russians?" And we're out by the pool at this point. And she says, "Those guys over by the bar, the fat ones. Those are the parliamentarians from Russia. Those women with all the jewelry over there, those are the wives. Over there are the much younger women, really, really attractive, those are the mistresses and the kids were up in the room with their iPads."
[01:04:30] Jordan Harbinger: Okay. Some things never change, some things are consistent across international borders. Yeah.
[01:04:34] Bill Browder: And so I'm thinking we got to get out of here. And my colleagues were, "No, no, no. This is really an important thing. We're going to meet lots of other parliamentarians. We've got to make our pitch." I had skipped lunch that day and my stomach was growling. So I go off to the buffet and the Monaco government spared no expense. They've got the best fish and shrimp and charcuterie and all sorts of good stuff. And I grabbed the napkin with a fork and stuff in it and grabbed my plate and I'm standing in line and I feel something bumping into my back because I started to kind of just move forward. I don't know what's bumping in and I feel a bumping in again. And I turned around and there's this six-foot blonde model that's standing behind me, Russian. And she starts talking to me and she says, "What are you here for?" And I say, "I'm here for this human rights for this conference." I said, "What are you here for?" She said, "Well, I'm normally involved in fashion, but I find politics so interesting."
[01:05:21] Jordan Harbinger: Says no one ever, right?
[01:05:23] Bill Browder: And so we're talking a little more. And then, a bunch of parliamentarians eventually come up to me and I start talking to them and she's sort of hanging on the side and we're talking about the film and all this kind of stuff. And at the end of the conversation, they said, "We really want to get involved in your Magnitsky thing. Can we have your card?" And I said, "Yeah, of course." I handed out my card to the first one, the second one, third one, and that there's this Russian girl. And she's got her hand out looking for my car and I handed her my card.
[01:05:46] Anyways, I stick around for a while. I finish my dinner, I go back to my hotel room exhausted, and I get this email from Svetlana Melnikova and she says, "Dear, Mr. William," it says William on my card, "I thought we had a real connection. Would you like to meet for a drink?" And I'm thinking real connection. This is ridiculous. I met this girl for a total of like five minutes standing in line. We have no connection at all. This is like, what is this? Non-sense. I don't reply and half hour later she says, "Dear William, I can't stop thinking about you. Can we please meet?" And I think this is ridiculous. I mean, I'm a five-foot-nine bald middle-aged businessman, 21-year-old, six-foot blonde models don't throw themselves at me for five minutes. It's ridiculous.
[01:06:28] Jordan Harbinger: It's so clumsy. She's not used to having to try. She's used to having to sit there and guys fall all over her and she's like, "What do I do right now?" It's funny.
[01:06:35] Bill Browder: It was ridiculous. It was ridiculous. And, of course, it was a honey trap and the purpose, I don't know what she would have done if I had given into it. But what I did know is that the Russians were ready to like throw resources at this situation in Monaco with a honey trap. You know, it's one of the many, many failed operations that they had executed in these 12-year period.
[01:06:54] Jordan Harbinger: It's got to be scary to have that kind of thing happen because you're thinking, "Wow. What other things do I think are normal that are traps?" Like that was ham-fisted, clumsy, and obvious. But what about the old friend that invites you out for a drink that you think is going to be an interesting person to catch up with? Or what about the — I don't even know. I mean, if someone's sitting there all day, trying to think about this, they're going to come up with a more convincing example, then I can come up with on the spot and you might not even be thinking about it. I mean, you must be on your guard for all kinds of things almost all the time.
[01:07:24] Bill Browder: Yeah. There's no question. I've got to be on guard and I don't do a lot of things that normal people do. I don't just meet strangers. Everybody has to come through somebody. Everybody has to be vetted. I don't go to the same restaurant twice. I mean, many, many things that normal people just take for granted that I don't do.
[01:07:40] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I can imagine. I assume also you would never fly over Russian airspace or not even just Russian airspace, Belarusian, the stands in Central Asia. Is there other places you probably can't even fly over, right?
[01:07:51] Bill Browder: Of course, I would never go anywhere near Russian airspace or any of these aerospace or Iranian aerospace or any aerospace where you have a corrupt dictatorial regime. So, you know, if I wanted to go to Australia from the UK, I'd have to fly via Los Angeles because I couldn't fly over the other direction.
[01:08:09] Jordan Harbinger: Oh yeah. Good point. I didn't even think about something like that for people who don't understand why. In Belarus, there was — you might know this story better than me. I think there was a flight from like Latvia or something or Lithuania to Poland, and they were flying over Belarus and there was a journalist, a Belarusian dissident journalist on the flight and fighter jets were scrambled in Belarus because of a fake bomb threat. They forced the plane to land in Minsk and the guy gets taken off the plane. And I don't think anybody's really heard from him since, except for these fake videos where he says, he's fine, but he's in jail.
[01:08:38] Bill Browder: Well, I was not flying over these countries long before that ever happened—
[01:08:41] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[01:08:41] Bill Browder: —because it was obvious that that's somebody that could happen. And I remember watching that and my heart sunk. I just tried to picture what it must've felt like to be him. He was flying from Greece to Lithuania and they were like 12 minutes or whatever into Belarusian airspace. And they, obviously, had been tipped off about him flying. I think it was a Ryanair flight.
[01:09:00] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, he's a kid. He's 27. I mean, he was 27. He's literally just a young dude who is probably, unfortunately, either going to stay in prison for years or just die in there and we'll never see him again.
[01:09:11] Bill Browder: And they took his girlfriend too.
[01:09:12] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[01:09:13] Bill Browder: Just shocking stuff.
[01:09:14] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Dictator playbook, psychopath-dictator playbook. And, you know, earlier it seemed like Vladimir Putin had one foot in the civilized world, or if you like, at least pretended to be civilized and now most of that pretense is gone. Do you agree with that at all? It seemed like before he would kind of like make head fakes to be like, "We're part of the international community and we care." And now it's like, "You know what, screw it get rid of all opposition media, even the appearance of having fair media and trials, just forget it. We don't have time for that crap anymore." They're just going all in.
[01:09:46] Bill Browder: This was the thing that frustrated me the most was that he would do enough sort of normal stuff. You know, attend the world economic forum and the G20 and invite people for summits and host international sports events so that people who sort of wanted to be doing business with him could say, "Look, you know, he's just a normal guy. Okay, so maybe he's a little tough," but you know, you have to be tough in Russia. Of course, you know, in between, the world economic forum and the World Cup, he's like plotting assassinations with banned chemical weapons. But everybody wanted to give him a pass because they all kind of wanted to deal with him on that basis. And so he had one foot in the civilized world and one foot in the criminal world. And I mean, it was frustrating beyond belief, but in one sense, that's probably why I'm still alive today because you know, if they kill me, they wouldn't do the World Cup there. You know, I don't know.
[01:10:32] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[01:10:33] Bill Browder: Something like that, but now he's put both feet in the criminal world and it's really terrifying.
[01:10:38] Jordan Harbinger: That makes me wonder, I was going to say the same thing, right? Maybe that's why you're still here. Do you feel like you're in more danger now than before? Because he's kind of already facing most of the consequences from sanctions that the world can put on him. Sure, there's other levers, but he has a lesson less to lose now than he did before.
[01:10:55] Bill Browder: There's no question that I'm in great danger. And one hand, so he's given the instruction to get Bill Browder as of 10 years ago. And once he's given that instruction, the apparatus acts amend instruction. Now, I could argue on one hand that he's got a lot of other enemies as bad as I am right now, but on the other, he's already given the instruction and you know, whatever restraint they had before, they're not going to exercise now.
[01:11:20] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Like before maybe they wouldn't do something horrible — I apologize for bringing up these kinds of examples. But before it, maybe they wouldn't just like, try and run you over in your driveway. But now it's like, "Well, screw it. What do we have to lose?" And it's not like he cares about the person doing it in the UK, going to prison. He doesn't care about his own troops. He is sending tens of thousands of them to get slaughtered over in Ukraine anyways. So what's one more, right? And getting arrested and spending life in prison in the United Kingdom, especially if they're just going to deny it and make it, you know, say, "We don't know that guy."
[01:11:48] I think a lot of people are wondering why are we sanctioning oligarchs if they don't have any real influence over Vladimir Putin. A lot of people think, "Oh, these guys, you know, they put him there," but it's actually the other way around with the oligarchs, right? They sort of serve at the pleasure of the king, so to speak in exchange for having no political ambitions. Why are we going after these guys if they can't actually do anything?
[01:12:09] Bill Browder: Well, it's real simple because the oligarchs are the custodians of Putin's fortune. If you want to go after Putin, we put sanctions on him shortly after he declared war, but he doesn't have any money in his own name. He has money held by these guys. And so if you want to freeze his money, you freeze their money. And we basically have to make it so he doesn't have access to any money so that we degrade his financial ability to execute this war. That's why you go after the oligarchs. They're never going to rise up. They're so scared of Vladimir Putin, they behave like, you know, they're practically pissing in their pants when they're in his presence. They're so scared.
[01:12:41] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I think a lot of people don't realize that early in the game, Vladimir Putin put one of the top, the richest men in Russia, behind bars for like a decade Mikhail Khodorkovsky. The idea behind that was, "Hey, look, what I can do to the number one guy. And you're the number 15 guy. What do you think you're going to do? How do you think you're going to fair at the end of this? So what you get to do now is run an aluminum company and give me whatever I want, whenever I want it, and hold the assets in your name or in your company so that I don't look like I have money. And if you don't want to do it, then you're going to die of radiation poisoning. And somebody else is going to take the company."
[01:13:13] Bill Browder: Exactly. That's the deal. That is the Russian system. And that's why no oligarch is ever going to rise up and say anything to Putin. They're too scared.
[01:13:22] Jordan Harbinger: I know you have to run, but one final question here. Has this war in Ukraine— I apologize for phrasing it this way — opened more doors for you in terms of getting the Magnitsky Act passed? You know, getting legislation and sanction of Russian officials. Has this sort of woken up the world? Because it seems like anyone sitting on the fence or burying their head in the sand has now been roused from their ignorant slumber, willful or otherwise.
[01:13:46] Bill Browder: Yeah. The doors are swinging wide open, both in terms of new Magnitsky Acts. And in terms of implementing the Magnitsky Acts in the 34 countries that we have them. So that governments actually started sanctioning people properly. I mean, I was just in Washington recently and it used to be that I'd have to beg for meetings with, you know, senators and members of Congress. And then when I get into the meetings, I would have to beg them to like, take some action, to call on the government, to do something. And then I'd have to like call up their staff member 10 times and then we get something done but it was only like — now all of a sudden they're like asking me for the meetings, "And what can we do? How can we push this further? What can we do?" It's a whole different environment. Thank God I've been patient enough. So that I'm here to be able to like, continue to work on this thing with these people now that there's a red carpet out to do it with.
[01:14:33] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I think the world is lucky that you didn't give up when they tried to kill you, kidnap you, get you arrested the first, I don't know, dozen times.
[01:14:44] Bill Browder: Well, I mean, and the reason I didn't give up was because of Sergei Magnitsky. He was 37 years old. He was in much more dangerous circumstances that I've been in. He stood up to them and he died for doing that and I owe it to him and his legacy to make sure that I don't, that fear doesn't take over me.
[01:15:01] Jordan Harbinger: Bill Browder, thank you very much. I really appreciate your time and your expertise and your work on this very important cause that is now just finally starting to come to light in a big way.
[01:15:10] Bill Browder: Thank you. Good questions and real good in-depth stuff. So I appreciate it.
[01:15:14] Jordan Harbinger: If you're looking for another episode of The Jordan Harbinger Show to sink your teeth into here's a trailer for another episode that I think you might enjoy.
[01:15:23] Bill Browder: Making 10 times your money is the financial equivalent of smoking crack cocaine. And once you do it once, see what you want to repeat it over and over and over and over again. And it was completely, absolutely wild west chaos, gold rush type of situation. The companies were run by these oligarchs and these oligarchs said, "Well, we might as well just cheat everybody on everything."
[01:15:44] And so while I was sitting there down 90 percent, they were going to steal my last 10 cents on the dollar. I took a decision which nobody had ever taken before, which was to take on one of the oligarchs. I did. I fought back, big time. I ended up with 15 bodyguards. There was a lead car, a lag car, a sidecar, three armed guys in my car. When we got close to the home, they would go and scout the rooftops for snipers and look for bombs on cars and secure the stairwells and then escort me into the apartment. And then I had two guys with automatic weapons sitting in my living room. It was very, very intense, very scary.
[01:16:22] And after that, I hired a young lawyer named Sergei Magnitsky to help me investigate it. Sergei and I expose the crime. The same people who Sergei testified against arrested him and then tortured him to try to get him to withdraw his testimony. And they thought, you know, here's a guy, he buys a Starbucks in the morning. He wears a blue suit and a white shirt and a red tie. And he works in the tax practice of an American law firm, he'll buckle it a week. And it turns out that they got him wrong completely. He's the most principled guy in the world. He was really a man of steel.
[01:16:54] On the morning of November 17th at 7:45 a.m., I got the call from Sergei's lawyer, and it was the most horrifying life-changing, soul-destroying news that I could have ever gotten.
[01:17:07] Jordan Harbinger: And if you want to hear more about how Bill Browder took on one of the most powerful men in the world, Vladimir Putin, and continues to fight for change, check out episode 3 of The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[01:17:20] This story is bananas and in the book, it really — he goes into a lot of detail about witnesses in the case and experts in the case, literally falling off of roofs. The police won't investigate it really. It's just cliche, Russian corruption. "Oh, the guy fell out a window while tied to a chair." Literally things like this. It's just crazy.
[01:17:39] The Magnitsky Act further, it doesn't just sanction Russians. There are now sanctions on Saudi assassins who murdered Jamal Khashoggi, that journalist who went into an embassy to get a visa in Turkey and didn't come out alive, came out in pieces after they killed him and chopped him up. A horrible story. Officials structuring the genocide in China, Burmese officials are also on the sanctions list, kleptocrats in South Africa, hundreds of others — this really is a very useful piece of law because kleptocrats, and some of these horrible, horrible people that are stealing from their own people and murdering those who try to investigate it, they are now finally in fear that they will be next because yes, they might have all the money in the world. But if you have to spend it in your own country, that you are busy running and you can't go and buy a villa in France or Spain to hang out with your family on your superyacht. Well, that cramps your style a little bit. And finally, something is being done about this.
[01:18:32] Also the Panama papers, I'd love to do a show about this, but it exposes a lot of financial documents that have — these name and shame people from all over the world, especially cutouts and wallets of Vladimir Putin, lots of shell companies where Russian oligarchs keep their money. And Bill is just always, always a great interview. He said something really smart in the book. He said, "In my years, as an investor, I realized that most people act rationally. If someone appears to act irrationally, it just means you don't have all the information." I find this brilliant. It can be applied to politics, business, police investigations, just about anything so that I thought it was a nice little bonus takeaway from the book. Because as crazy as this story is, we have to remember, Bill is really an expert investor and has done exceedingly well despite getting robbed by the Russian government. So there's a lot to learn from people like this. And I love having people like this on the show.
[01:19:24] By the way, if you're into the money laundering thing, I'm going to be doing a lot more on this. I also did another episode about money laundering through London with Oliver Bullough, that's money land episode 228. And don't forget Bill Browder. He was on episode 3 of this show. So just scroll down in the feed and go ahead and listen to that one right afterwards if you're interested in his story and getting more of the backstory with Sergei Magnitsky.
[01:19:46] Links to all things Bill Browder will be on the website in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com. Please use the website links. If you buy books from guests on the show, it does help support the show.
[01:19:55] Don't forget I'm going to be interviewing author Ryan Holiday live in person in Los Angeles at the Venice West on June 13th. I'd love to see you there in person. Tickets are available at jordanharbinger.com/tickets. That's jordanharbinger.com/tickets. Again, June 13th at Los Angeles at the Venice West. That's me and Ryan Holiday, live onstage. Hope to see you there.
[01:20:17] Transcripts are on the show notes, videos on YouTube. Advertisers, deals, and discount codes, all at jordanharbinger.com/deals. Please consider supporting those who support this show. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram, or just connect with me right there on LinkedIn.
[01:20:33] Speaking of connecting, I'd love to teach you how I manage my network using software, systems, and tiny habits. That's our Six-Minute Networking course. The course is free. I don't want your credit card information. I don't sell anything. Remember? I just shill mattresses and egg McMuffins over here. jordanharbinger.com/course is where you can find it. I'm teaching you how to dig the well before you get thirsty. And most of the guests on the show subscribe and contribute to that course. Come join us, you'll be in smart company where you belong.
[01:20:59] The show is created in association with PodcastOne. My team is Jen Harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Millie Ocampo, Ian Baird, Josh Ballard, and Gabriel Mizrahi. Remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for this show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting. If you know somebody who's into financial crime or is really into the Putin, Russia kleptocrat thing, definitely share this episode with them. They probably heard of Bill Browder, frankly. The greatest compliment you can give us is to share the show with those you care about. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
[01:21:39] Jillian Jalali: Hi everyone. This is Jillian with Court Junkie. Court Junkie is a true-crime podcast that covers court cases and criminal trials using audio clips and interviews with people close to the cases. Court Junkie is available on Apple Podcasts and podcastone.com.
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