The US businessman who made life hard for the Guptas

US businessman Bill Browder was Russia’s biggest foreign investor – until he took on the corruption endemic to the system. However, when he did, it was his lawyer Sergei Magnitsky who paid the penalty. In 2009, Magnitsky “was tortured for 358 days and killed in police custody”, Browder said. Since then, Browder has made it his life’s goal to make it hard for corrupt governments and individuals to move their dirty gains offshore. “The people who killed Sergei Magnitsky, killed him for money. They keep it in the west, in the US, in Canada, etc.,” Browder said. He lobbied US senators to freeze assets gotten from corruption, and to ban the visas of those involved. This lobbying led to the Magnitsky Act, originally passed against Russia in 2012. Seeing Putin’s reaction, they decided to make this global. Since 2015, the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act enables the US to impose sanctions on foreigners suspected of human rights violations and other crimes. Matching laws have since been adopted in Canada, the UK and some parts of eastern Europe – with the EU likely to follow soon. “This is a game-changer for all anti-corruption human rights work around the world,” Browder said. A major plus of the legislation is that it enables bad guys to be punished worldwide – this is especially important where their own governments have not been able to bring them to justice. For South Africa, this means the Gupta brothers and their lieutenant Salim Essa. Once the individual is added to the global Magnitsky list, bank-transaction-monitoring databases can then track them. “Let’s say that the Gupta family has $100m in a Dubai bank. Then they instruct the Dubai bank to send that money to India,” Browder said. A fine of $300m would immediately be imposed on a bank that carries out that transaction, in violation of US Treasury sanctions. Stopping the flow of dirty money is a very powerful way of cutting off the head of the beast. However, there are still loopholes in the legislation which need to be closed; for example, ways of “cheating” including transferring assets to family members. To find out more, go to

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