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Shooting the messenger won’t solve Denmark’s Danske Bank problem

Having read Flemming Rose's opinion piece in Berlingske, I asked myself why a person who’s never written about the Magnitsky case in the past was suddenly weighing in and repeating word for word Russia’s propaganda against me. All of Rose’s claims have been thoroughly rejected by every responsible journalist in the world, not to mention by Interpol, the US, UK, France and Germany.

Sergey Magnitsky's gravsted i Moskva. Han døde i politiets varetægt i 2009. Fold sammen
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Foto: Andrei Smirnov / AFP / Ritzau Scanpix

On November 16th 2009, my Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky was murdered in Russian police custody after uncovering and exposing a $230m government corruption scandal that went all the way up to Vladimir Putin. Sergei was 37 years old and left a wife and two children.

After Sergei’s murder, I made a vow to get justice for him, but Putin tried to stop me. He personally exonerated all the people who killed Sergei. The Russian government gave state honours and promotions to some of the people most complicit. In the biggest miscarriage of justice, the Russians put Sergei on trial three years after they killed him in the first trial against a dead man in Russian history.

No justice in Russia

It became obvious that there was no chance of getting justice inside of Russia so I sought justice outside. Over the last nine years, and many struggles I came up with a concept of justice called the Magnitsky Act, a new law which freezes assets and bans visas of human rights violators. The Magnitsky Act has now been adopted by the US, the UK, Canada, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. There are more than 90 people from 14 countries sanctioned under the Magnitsky Act including 41 who were involved in Sergei Magnitsky’s persecution.

Bill Browder Fold sammen
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Foto: Søren Bidstrup.

I’ve also worked with investigative journalists, law enforcement agencies and NGO’s to track down the $230 million that Sergei Magnitsky exposed and was killed over. That has led to 16 countries opening criminal investigations and more than $40 million of illicit funds being frozen. We have even traced some of the proceeds to Putin’s nominee, Sergei Roldugin, the famous Russian cellist from the Panama Papers, who is reportedly the wealthiest musician in the world worth $2 billion.

The most high-profile of the criminal investigations that we’ve been involved with has been the exposure of $200 million of the Magnitsky case flowing through Danske Bank. That initial discovery played a role in exposing what is now the largest money laundering scandal in the history of Europe.

Putin's anger

As you might imagine, I have really angered Putin. He rightly believes that his own fortune is now at risk by the Magnitsky Act and the criminal investigations that we have played a role in initiating.

Putin is not a man who takes these things lightly. In retaliation, he has made destroying me one of his most important personal priorities. I’ve been threatened with death, kidnapping, arrest, extradition. I’ve been sentenced in absentia in two separate Russian trials to 18 years in a Russian prison colony. The Russian government has made six separate documentaries about me accusing me of everything from serial murder to espionage to fraud and tax evasion. They have hired leagues of PR firms, lobbyists, propagandists and others to try to discredit me in the Russia and the West.

It was therefore surprising to read an article by Flemming Rose on 19 March 2019 in this newspaper making some of the same false claims and smears coming out of Russia. In Rose’s column, he repeated Putin’s claim that Sergei Magnitsky wasn’t killed, but died in detention of untreated diseases. He claimed that Sergei wasn’t a whistleblower, but was himself investigated, that Sergei did not blow the whistle on corrupt Russian officials involved in the theft of $230 million, and finally Rose concluded that my whole justice campaign is an attempt to avoid Russian justice.

Rejected claims

All of Rose’s claims have been thoroughly rejected by every responsible journalist in the world, not to mention by Interpol, the US, UK, France and Germany.

After I read his story, I asked myself why a person who’s never written about the Magnitsky case in the past was suddenly weighing in and repeating word for word Russia’s propaganda against me.

Is Rose an agent of the Russian FSB? I don’t know him, but reading his biography of being a senior researcher at the Cato Institute and a former editor at the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten that seems unlikely.

If he’s not connected to the FSB, who else hates me enough right now to start repeating Russia’s spurious allegations? Other than Putin, I imagine that current and former officials of Danske Bank aren’t too happy with me. I have filed numerous criminal complaints about Danske Bank which have led to investigations in Denmark, Estonia and France in relation to Danske Bank, I’ve given testimony to various bodies about Danske Bank and I’m publicly calling for harsh legal consequences for management of Danske Bank.

If anyone has an incentive to repeat Russia’s lies, it is them. I don’t know what Rose’s relationship is with these people or why he would repeat easily disprovable lies. Maybe he under their influence. I’ve certainly seen this in other places. Or perhaps he just sees himself as just a patriotic Dane, who’s offended that some brash foreigner is insulting one Denmark’s most coveted institutions. I don’t know.

Nobydy asked the tough questions

What I do know is that Danske Bank is in this mess because nobody in Denmark asked the tough questions that could have prevented this money laundering scandal to happen in the first place. The Danish regulator didn’t want to regulate the bank. The bank’s board didn’t want to ask the management why hundreds of billions was flowing through their tiny Estonian branch, and the management ignored multiple red flags over many years.

Even if I was the serial killer that Putin has accused me of, the Danske Bank scandal is real and is not going away. What happened at Danske Bank will require many people to ask themselves some very uncomfortable questions and it’s not going to change the outcome by attacking the messenger.

You can read Flemming Rose's reply in English here.

You can read Bill Browders opinion piece in Danish here.