Foreign Policy Digital

Enemy of the State

Bill Browder helped craft U.S. policy toward Russia. Was it for the better?

On June 6, 2016, Bill Browder, a London-based billionaire, sent an email to Kyle Parker, a congressional staffer, with the subject line “Veselnitskaya house.” The email, which contained no text, included only a picture of the side of a house, framed with pink flowers. The house was believed to belong to Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer who has been battling Browder for the past several years.

The correspondence, which was later revealed in the hack of a State Department official’s private email account (and which has not been publicly confirmed by the parties involved), was part of a series of informal exchanges among Russian experts who followed the battle between Browder and the Russian lawyer.

Veselnitskaya represented Denis Katsyv, the Russian owner of Prevezon Holdings, a real estate company accused of laundering proceeds in Manhattan real estate from a $230 million tax fraud allegedly committed after stealing Browder’s companies. The fraud, according to Browder, was uncovered by Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer and accountant who was arrested and who died in 2009 under suspicious circumstances in pretrial detention.

Browder has dedicated much of the past decade to trying to punish those he holds responsible for Magnitsky’s death, a crusade that had led to the passage in 2012 of the Magnitsky Act, which levies sanctions against a raft of Russian officials. Veselnitskaya, in turn, has spent much of the past several years lobbying against those sanctions and arguing that it was Browder, in fact, who had cheated the Russian government.

While the Magnitsky Act was widely known, the dispute between Browder and Veselnitskaya was the type of convoluted Russian business dealing that only a limited number of Americans, such

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