Top positive review
13 people found this helpful
A seminal lesson
on 19 September 2017
This book can be read on several levels.
First, it flows like a well-written political thriller but, unfortunately, it is fact, not fiction. That said, if ever Bill Browder gets bored with asset management he would surely be able to make a living writing thrillers like this. He's a natural. He has the knack of reducing sometimes arcane and abstruse business language and legal procedures to an easily understandable narrative.
Secondly, his story is a timely warning to those who wish to work/invest in Russia. It is clear that despite the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, old habits die hard. Stalin's chief prosecutor is reputed to have said in the 1930s that he would consign the rule of law to the dustbin of history. He did, and that philosophy effectively still endures today. Far from being independent of the Executive, the judiciary and law enforcement agencies are its handmaidens. The horrifying events surrounding the interrogation of the author's lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, and his eventual death in custody, testify to the scant regard that some of Russia's institutions have for due process.
Mr Browder is a brave man, perhaps to the point of recklessness; recklessly endangering his own life.
Thirdly, and importantly (without wishing to belittle Sergey Magnitsky's barbaric treatment), it is a contemporaneous record of what is happening on the front line to anybody who crosses the power elite in Russia; from illegal tax assessments and unlawful share dilutions to the employment of "white noise" jamming techniques in meetings - not forgetting Litvinenko's polonium poisoning (in the UK), allegedly by the FSB.
Mr Browder's experiences are just as seminal as the views of those who have spent their lives studying the topic from afar, never having set foot on Russian soil. There is no substitute for the harsh realities of practical experience.
Furthermore, being a writer myself on Russian affairs and culture (both of fact and fiction), I can empathise with his experiences. I, too, lived and worked on the front line in the USSR/Russia in the late 1980s/90s – not as a business investor, but as a lawyer trying to help bring some order to a disintegrating communist empire. And, again, like the author, I have met many Russian individuals whom I admire, respect and love, and who just want to live in harmony with the rest of us. Russian government institutions, on the other hand are, as Churchill said of the USSR generally: "a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma".
This book is a must read, not only by those proposing to invest in Russia, but also by anybody interested in international relations with the country, which at the moment are testy to say the least. If both East and West took more time to try to understand the other side's position, and not judge each other by their own standards, I am sure that the relationship would be warmer, despite the cultural differences.