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British businessman Bill Browder tells MPs he fears for his life as police probe 'poisoning' of former Russian spy

'What the Russians would like to do more than anything is arrest me and get me back to Russia and then kill me in the control of their own system'

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Tuesday 06 March 2018 12:26 GMT
Bill Browder: 'I am definitely at risk'

British businessman Bill Browder has told MPs that he fears for his life, as police probe the suspected poisoning of a former Russian spy in Wiltshire.

Asked if he believed Vladimir Putin’s regime would harm him, Mr Browder - a London-based hedge fund manager who has fought a long battle with Moscow – replied: “I do.”

“What the Russians would like to do more than anything is arrest me and get me back to Russia and then kill me in the control of their own system,” he told the inquiry.

And he added: “I’m at risk, at high risk. I don’t spend my life living in fear, but I am definitely at risk.”

Mr Browder has been one of Russia’s most high-profile public enemies for many years, once being labelled a “serial killer” by President Putin himself.

His Russian lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, uncovered a £174m fraud believed to have involved Russian officials against an investment firm called Hermitage Capital Management.

Mr Magnitsky was imprisoned on what were widely considered to be false charges and died in jail amid claims he was tortured. A Home Office minister called it an “atrocious murder”.

Mr Browder was giving evidence to a Commons committee’s inquiry into “fake news”, as Colonel Sergei Skripal fights for his life in intensive care in a Wiltshire hospital.

The former Russian agent, convicted of spying for Britain, was exposed to a mysterious substance as he sat on a bench poisoned near a shopping centre in the city of Salisbury.

A 33-year-old woman who was with him, believed to be his daughter Yulia, is also in a critical condition. Both had collapsed and were unconscious when they were discovered.

The incident bears similarities to the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, the ex-Moscow intelligence officer who was fatally poisoned by radioactive polonium in a London hotel by two Russians, a public inquiry found.

Speaking to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Mr Browder said the UK authorities were paying the price for their failure to take firm action following the killing of Mr Litvinenko.

“The consequences of the Litvinenko inquiry were laughably inadequate and basically have given the Russian government and Vladimir Putin a green light to do more hits on UK,” he said.

He added: “If it is determined that he was poisoned and there is a reasonable amount of evidence to show that it came from Russia, then the Achilles heel of the Putin regime is to go after Putin-connected oligarchs in the UK by seizing their assets.”

The businessman said the Russian state had also branded him a spy and a tax cheat and accused him of stealing £4.5bn from the IMF.

“I have been threatened on a number of occasions with death,” he told the MPs.

A former Russian prime minister had once told journalists it was “a shame that Sergei Magnitsky is dead and Bill Browder is still alive and running around”.

Russia had tried to extradite him from the UK several times and he had been detained at Geneva airport, on a request from Moscow.

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