Freezing Order

A True Story of Money Laundering, Murder, and Surviving Vladimir Putin's Wrath

by Bill Browder

Number of pages: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

BBB Library: Booklets

ISBN: 978-1982153281

About the Author

Bill Browder, founder and CEO of Hermitage Capital Management, was the largest foreign investor in Russia until 2005. Since 2009, when his lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, was murdered in prison after uncovering a $230 million fraud committed by Russian government officials, Browder has been leading a campaign to expose Russia’s endemic corruption and human rights abuses. Before founding Hermitage, Browder was vice president at Salomon Brothers. He holds a BA in economics from the University of Chicago and an MBA from Stanford Business School.


Editorial Review

When we’d started investigating the $230 million, we had no idea where it would lead, or how much of a reaction it would garner from Russia. Now it all made sense. With more than a trillion dollars at stake, Putin was ready to do anything to protect it. So many people were murdered, lives swept under the rug. As you follow my story, you might wonder: the odds are so incredibly long, and the process is so risky. Why do you do any of this?   At first, it was because I owed it to Sergei. As things escalated, it became a struggle for survival– for me and my family, and my friends and colleagues. But in the end, I did it because it was the right thing to do. 

Book Reviews

"An essential work by someone who understood long before the rest of the world did just how far corrupt Russian officials and businesspeople will go to defend their ill-gotten wealth, and how foreign lawyers, lobbyists and public relations firmsenable them... Browder’sFreezing Orderis not just a cracking good read — it is a reminder of the urgency of addressing the global plague of money laundering."

"Reading Bill Browder’s zesty new book about the theft, extortion, intimidation, lies and murder that are the Russian state’s daily levers of power can feel like reading several books at once. One, a breakneck financial thriller compelling breathless attention; another, a true story, crisply told, of a country’s looting on a gigantic scale; a third, a morality tale of how liars first have to carry on lying, then simply abolish the truth; and fourth, and not least, a stimulating essay on Vladimir Putin’s motivation that sheds light on his monstrous war in Ukraine."

"Freezing Ordercould not have come at a better time. It is among a crop of excellent recent books about Russia…If its subject matter weren’t so grave, the book could be said to have all the elements of a high-octane drama. Murder. Conspiracy. Piles of dirty money. Sexual intrigue.Freezing Ordershudders with the constant threat of assassination, abduction or sudden, extreme violence. It is a tense and gripping read…Good stories cut through, and this is one of them. Bearing witness to wrongdoing is a necessary step in reversing it. A book can be a kind of justice in itself."

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Wisdom to Share

The companies we’d invested in were being robbed by corrupt officials and Russian oligarchs. While everyone accepted this as the cost of doing business, I decided to fight back.

Effectively, their logic was that they couldn’t represent our companies that had been stolen, since they no longer belonged to us.

“Simple. If it’s in dollars, it’s in New York.”

Although Sergei was in constant, excruciating pain, he was refused any treatment.

There was only one I knew I could do– direct all of my time, energy, and resources into making sure that anyone who was involved in Sergei’s fraudulent arrest, torture, and murder, as well as anyone who had benefited from the $230 million, would be put to justice.

Slowly, this sentiment grew into the legislative proposal called the Magnitsky Act, which would ban the visas and freeze the assets of Russian human rights violators, like the ones who had tortured and killed Sergei Magnitsky.

“We’ll make sure these bastards never forget Sergei Magnitsky’s name,” Boris said.

In 2006 Klyuev was caught trying to use Universal Savings Bank in order to steal $1.6 billion dollars worth of shares from a Russian oligarch. The oligarch opened a criminal case on him, but another familiar name showed up to assist him– Karpov, the crooked official. Klyuev got off with a suspended sentence.

It was the first freezing order in the Magnitsky case, but it wouldn’t be the last.

Putin got personally involved in covering up Sergei’s murder, pronouncing at his annual press conference that Sergei had never been tortured, and that he had simply died from a heart attack.

In short, Putin was using the weight of the Russian government to crush anyone who was associated with me and the Magnitsky case.

Sergei Magnitsky died abused and alone. If I did nothing else, I was going to make sure everyone knew about it.

Putin needed people he could trust to hold his money for him. People like Roldugin. If we could trace any of the stolen $230 million to Putin through Roldugin, it could change everything.

Why would Putin go to such lengths to protect a group of crooks? Simply put, he was protecting himself.

The most difficult, most outrageous part of my years-long struggle against the Russians was that they weren’t working alone. Along every step of the way, they were being assisted by Western enablers.

If you could lift the hood on every Western bank, I estimate you would find over $1 trillion worth of dirty money.

I can’t bring Sergei back, but his sacrifice has saved and will continue to save, many lives.