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Book Review:Red Notice

Bill Browder.
November 2009. An emaciated young lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, is led to a freezing isolation cell in a Moscow prison, handcuffed to a bed rail, and beaten to death by eight police officers. His crime? To testify against the Russian Interior Ministry officials who were involved in a conspiracy to steal $230 million of taxes paid to the state by one of the world’s most successful hedge funds. Magnitsky’s brutal killing has remained uninvestigated and unpunished to this day. His farcical posthumous show-trial brought Putin's regime to a new low in the eyes of the international community.

The author, Bill Browder, was at one point in time, one of the most succesful hedge-fund managers in the world; certainly the most succesful in Russia. His Hermitage Fund was the top-performing financial orginisation in the financial world and he was a true 'Master of the Universe' in fiscal terms. He became not only rich and popular but with a strong moral ethic ( not usual in financiers) began to root out corruption in the Russian banks and financial sectors, where entire companies were being stolen and millions - hundreds of millions - of dollars were being fraudulently diverted to police and other officials.

Browder came from a most unusual background for a capitalist; his father and grandfather having both been communists in America, and in the 1930s that was not a Good Thing.Browder went to college, worked hard and graduated with an MBA before beginning his finacial career in unauspicious surroundings. He was the only man of his time who was convinced that Russia would be an emerging and profitable market, and so it was, right up to the time he upset Putin. Then things went very wrong.

The lawyer, Sergei Magnistky, and his death became a cause celebre but only after Browder risked the life of himself and his family to make it so. The end result was worth it.

This book was so far out of my comfort zone that I left it sitting on my end table for ages until guilt made me start reading it, and by gosh, I am glad that I did. Now, I am a finacial moron and understand practcally nothing about high finance, and yet, this book is written like a thriller. It could be Le Carre or some other very good writer of that genre. Once begun I quite literally didn't want to stop reading and , it is one of those rare books that one wants to finish yet dreads it ending. I was enthralled and not a little moved by the narrative.

I honestly believe that this is a must read for anyone but especially for those who are inclined to look rosy-eyed at Russia. It is a searing indictment of the corruption there, the apathy of western governments and the greed of these same governments.

An excellent read and I have no hesitation in awarding 5 Mh to it.
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