Book Review: Freezing Order by Bill Browder

Financial Crime News, published a book review in 2019 on Bill Browder’s first Book titled “Red Notice” a tribute to the eponymous Sergei Magnitsky of “Magnitsky Act” notoriety who was tortured and murdered in custody by Russian authorities who stole hundreds of millions of dollars that Magnitsky a Russian Tax Lawyer had uncovered. See  HERE.

In the sequel, “Freezing Order” Browder chronicles how a global money laundering investigation targeting powerful adversaries, is almost an impossible task, has cost many innocent lives but improbably resulted in millions of dollars of money and assets frozen. 

It’s a must read for financial crime fighters, with the technical aspects well known but come to life with a context and a storytelling that reveals an uncomfortable truth that following the money, even in such a celebrated case is a huge challenge and wouldn’t have been possible without Browder, his friends and Sergei’s supporters persistence and journalistic and other private sector support and bravery, enabling public sector action. 

The author used to think following the money was the answer but it’s only part of the answer and where it involves high politics it becomes in some cases almost an impossible task, without strong political will and international co operation. Because of the difficulties surrounding insufficient transparency, tracing assets, corruption and state actor involvement, it can be stymied, despite global agreements by all countries to comply with international standards we have yet to fully address the known weaknesses decades later. Add into this lawyers and journalists and PR agencies that were turned and became inside guns for hire, disinformation from those that perhaps invented and mastered the art, Browder produces a heady cocktail where as Mark Twain reminds us “truth is stranger than fiction, because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities”. 

The idea behind the Magnitsky Act passed in the US in 2012 and followed by over 30 Countries including Canada the UK and the EU predates the Western sanctions against Russia and Russian elites imposed comprehensively since 2022 – but all these sanctions are really Magnitsky sanctions, many of which target Russia’s elites in hoc to Putin. Today there are more Russian targeted sanctions in place in the West than on any other country and assets frozen exceed US$200 billion and counting. 

Browder’s Freezing Order reminds us that money is often the route of all evil but following the money may provide some kind of redemption. Thanks to Browder, and of course Magnitsky, and to those that refuse to let his life be forgotten and his legacy be celebrated.

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