Collaborators Get Their Just Desserts
Once again, we find ourselves in the unusual position of standing to applaud the polices of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.
Two weeks ago, we cheered boisterously as the Kremlin arrested two businessmen who were collaborating with the neo-Soviet regime. Now, the Kremlin is eating yet more of its own children, this time the venal William Browder (the smirking idiot shown at above) and his Hermitage Capital brokerage firm, one of the largest foreign investors in neo-Soviet Russia. As Robert Amsterdam notes: "For many years, Browder has been one of the most enthusiastic advocates of investment in Russia, bullish and confident even while others have recoiled in the face of increased state interference. Once a well known supporter of President Vladimir Putin, he was also known for his occasional (and naturally in my opinion, misunderstood) public attacks against my client Mikhail Khodorkovsky."
The Moscow Times reports the delightful news that not only has the Kremlin raided Browder's firm in a manner eerily reminiscent of what it did to YUKOS, but in the course of doing so it seized and egregiously manipulated all sorts of confidential corporate information. The paper states:
The paper adds more thrilling news: "Kommersant said Thursday that Browder had been charged in absentia with evading more than 4 billion rubles ($169 million) in taxes."
Hermitage says the attack began with an inquiry by Moscow tax officials into a Cyprus-based account it managed. Last June, Interior Ministry investigators raided the Moscow offices of Hermitage and its lawyers at Firestone & Duncan, according to court filings by a unit of HSBC Holdings, the trustee and administrator of the fund. They took Hermitage's corporate seal, tax registration and charter, according to the filings. A month later, Hermitage, once the largest foreign owner of Russian stocks, was defended by lawyers it did not hire in a lawsuit in St. Petersburg that it did not know about, the complaints said. The court ordered Hermitage to pay $367 million, a ruling that has since been reversed, documents show. "None of these events or actions could have occurred, including the falsification of new corporate bylaws and the powers of attorney, without those responsible having gained access to the original corporate documentation and corporate seals seized by the Interior Ministry," wrote Paul Wrench, a director at HSBC's Guernsey branch, in a complaint to the Guernsey Financial Intelligence Service dated Feb. 13.
Go get him, Mr. Putin! These events are the most pure expression of justice we have seen come out of Russia in many a day. Just as was the case with Hitler and Stalin, certain people believe that deals can be cut with madman and great personal profit derived therefrom, only to find out later -- as Chamberlain most famously did -- that they are only being crassly manipulated by the Serpent.
Mr. Browder richly deserves to spend some time cooling his heels in a Siberian prison cell. Maybe then, he might think differently about his attacks on Khodorkovsky and his defense of the malignant little troll who prowls the Kremlin's parapets by night spitting on the last vestiges of Russia's democracy. With any luck, the Kremlin will jail any foreigners even vaguely associated with Hermitage who are foolish enough to remain in Russia, and seize all the company's assets in the country, just as it did with YUKOS.
And we fervently hope that the same fate will befall any other person or business entity which is stupid or evil enough to invest money in Russia, seeking to profit from dictatorship at the expense of the Russian people and international security. It seems such events are the only ones that will ever make these treacherous collaborators understand the harm they are doing. We wish Mr. Putin every success in his efforts to teach them this lesson.