When William Browder, a grandson of an American Communist and a former presidential candidate Earl Browder, decided to invest in Russia in 1996, everything seemed rather easy. The fund registered in London was thriving with its assets reaching $4billion in a short time. The profits were so high that more than $200 million tax was paid to Russian tax office in its financially best year.
Looking back, it is worth to recall that in 2003 Mikhail Khodorkovsky was incarcerated, while the foreign barons were still left unbothered by Moscow authorities.
Browder’s story ended up at Moscow airport on one Sunday night in November 2005, when he was told that his visa had expired and he was expelled from Russia for posing a national-security threat.
It wasn’t that surprising though. The same thing had already been done to many others.
The ruins of this previously booming institution were taken over by the treasury and the remaining money was transferred to private accounts.
This could have been the end of the story if it wasn’t for Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who proved and described the robbery and was sent to prison as a consequence. All in all, this wouldn’t have been much of a surprise as well – not the first and not the only Magnitsky to be treated this way in Putin’s Russia. But the thing is he was murdered there, in prison.
There wasn’t much protest shortly afterwards until the U.S. Congress passed a law prohibiting those responsible for his death to enter the U.S. This was a bit like a come back to Cold War rhetoric. Until a turning point appeared. In return to U.S. act, Russian Duma introduced a ban on adopting Russian orphans, mainly disabled ones by Americans.
The decision proved Putin´s great cynicism. His team ran out the heaviest guns to pay off. And what was even worse for Russian, an American actress Angelina Jolie decided to defend the orphans and request Putin to abolish the “Herod´s law”
President’s response was arrogant. He agreed to do so if Jolie and her partner Brad Pitt would get married in Moscow or St. Petersburg.
From that moment onwards, people started to ask what was really going on?
And so, through Russian orphans, Hollywood, to Moscow Lubyanka, all interested parties learned the less known face of a cranes guide and a leader of the great country.
Apparently, Putin shot both himself and Russia in the foot.