We interviewed a bunch of experts about the significance of Russia’s March 4 election.Bill Browder is the head of Hermitage Capital Management, which one controlled almost $4.5 billion worth of investments in Russia. He was barred from entering the country in 2005, and the death of Hermitage lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in a Russian prison in 2009 led to international condemnation. His comments are below.
“It is completely naive to think anything is going to change after this election.
“First of all, Putin has been in power for the last 12 years. Anyone who made the mistake of thinking Medvedev was in power, at this point, it’s pretty obvious that he wasn’t.
“If you go back and read any of Putin’s speeches, he said all sorts of things that looked good on paper. But none of them have ever been implemented, and it’s very clear why: because implementing real reforms would mean that Putin and the people around him could not be able to engage in all these financial crimes, which have made them so wealthy.
“The Russian government doesn’t function to serve the national interest by collecting taxes and providing services as most governments do.
“The current regime collects taxes so that the people in the government can steal that money. They steal it either directly, as Sergei discovered when he came across a $230 million tax rebate fraud involving government officials, or they steal it through other means, like enormous kickbacks from building roads and pipelines, and kickbacks from buying equipment for hospitals.
“In the end, most of the money that’s supposed to be spent on the people of Russia just doesn’t get spent on the people.”
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