Mr. Simpson, what is your professional background?
I have a degree in journalism from George Washington University and I've spent most of my working adult life as a journalist, much of it as an investigative reporter for the Wall Street Journal. Prior to that I worked as an investigative reporter at Roll Call Newspaper writing about political corruption, financial crime, terrorism, tax evasion, stock fraud, financial scandals, congressional investigations, government prosecutions, money laundering, organized crime.
And when did you leave the Wall Street Journal?
And did you found SNS Global after leaving the Wall Street Journal?
And how many employees and associates did SNS Global have?
There were two partners and in the first part of the time I think we had one employee. No, I'm sorry. We had two employees.
And who were they?
We had a research assistant named Margot Williams, M-A-R-G-O-T Williams, and another administrative assistant whose name I don't recall right now.
And who was the other partner?
Susan Schmidt was my other partner, former colleague from the Wall Street Journal, and prior to that was an investigative reporter at the Washington Post.
And what was the nature of SNS Global's business?
Research, business intelligence.
And what types of clients did SNS Global have?
It's a while ago, so it's not fresh in my mind. Other consulting firms, lawyers. I don't specifically remember a lot of them.
And is SNS Global still in business?
When did it cease operations?
I believe at the end of 2010.
And why did it—why did SNS Global cease operations?
Basically my partner and I had different ambitions for what we wanted to do. I wanted to have a brick and mortar office with more resources and staff. Basically I concluded that the work that we were doing required more infrastructure and resources. Basically in modern research you need to have access to a lot of different databases and there's a lot of aspects of the work that are administrative in nature that require things that I wasn't able to do. I prefer to spend my time doing the research. So I wanted to have more of an infrastructure where I could focus on that.
What is Bean, LLC?
That's the LLC that is my current company.
And what is your role in Bean, LLC?
I'm the majority owner. I guess, you know, we don't have official titles, but I'm generally referred to as the CEO.
Bean, LLC registered Fusion GPS as a trade name in the District of Columbia; is that correct?
Yes, it's a DBA.
Why did you choose to use a trade name for Bean, LLC rather than directly name the company Fusion GPS?
Because at the time that I was deciding what I wanted to do I was recruiting a new partner and I just needed to set up a holding company while I organized my new business. So I just picked a name. You know, a bean is a seed, a new thing. So I picked that name to begin the process of organizing a new business and didn't want to select an actual DBA, you know, a brand name until I consulted with my new partner. We wanted to mutually—I actually had two partners in the beginning, so there were three of us, and I wanted to make it a group decision.
Is Bean, LLC currently registered in D.C. to conduct business under the trade name Fusion GPS?
To my knowledge it is. It should be.
Have any other LLC's or business entities conducted business as Fusion GPS?
I don't think so.
Have any other LLC's or business entities received payments for work conducted by Fusion GPS, its employees, or its associates?
Are you asking to include subcontractors or are you—
Does Fusion GPS have subcontractors?
Right. I think that would be part of it, but the other part is: are there other LLC's associated with Bean direct-—with Bean or Fusion directly, not just subcontractors?
Yes. I mean, the one I think that has come up in some of the correspondence or somewhere, I can't remember where, is another one called Kernel, K-E-R-N-E-L, and that was an LLC that was set up for a book project that never—we never finished—we never did the book. So it's inactive with the current time. Then there's another one that one of my partners manages that's for different types of work, technology, policy, and that type of thing.
What's the name of that one?
I think it's Caudex, C-A-U-D-E-X.
And are any other LLC's or types of business entities otherwise associated with Fusion GPS?
Those are the only ones I can think of.
And have you been a registered agent, owner, or beneficial owner of any other LLC's or business entities?
I own an LLC in Maryland that holds some property that I own.
And what's the name of that LLC?
As we sit here, I wasn't prepared for this question, I don't remember the name of it. It was registered fairly recently. Obviously we can get that to you.
So is it correct that Fusion has at times worked with different LLC's based on by project?
For most of the history of the company Bean, LLC was the primary entity through which we did business. I'm not sure I totally understand your question. There's this other LLC I mentioned that's fairly recent and there may be other entities, but nothing that I, myself set up, at least not that I can think of.
Anything that your partners would have set up?
Not that I can think of.
Does Fusion GPS, Bean, LLC, Kernel, LLC, or any of these other related business entities have any bank accounts outside of the United States?
Domestically does Bean, LLC have an account at ?
I don't know that we need to get into bank accounts.
Are you offering a basis for that objection?
It's outside the scope of the interview.
Part of the questions we've asked are actions Fusion has taken—interactions Fusion has had and we're trying to define the scope of what Fusion is as a predicate to understanding those answers.
Yeah, and he's answering those questions.
He answered yes to the question.
Where is Fusion GPS's physical office, if any?
Is it, if I recall correctly, 1700 Connecticut Avenue, Northwest?
That's the address, yes.
Is it Suite 400?
How many employees and associates does Fusion GPS currently have?
In general, what is Fusion GPS's business?
We primarily are a research, strategy, consulting firm.
And what types of clients has Fusion GPS had?
It runs the gamut from corporations to law firms, various investment funds, people involved in litigation.
And roughly how many active clients—
Did you finish? I don't know if he finished.
It's hard to categorize them all. Those are some of the main types of clients we have.
And roughly how many active clients did Fusion GPS have in 2016?
That's difficult for me to answer. You know, over ten I would say, but it's hard for me—beyond that I would be guessing.
Does part of Fusion GPS's business involve attempting to have media outlets publish articles that further the interests of your clients?
Yeah, you could—I mean, generally speaking, we are—generally we tend to respond to inquiries more than try to push things, but, you know, we work with the press frequently.
And has Fusion GPS ever provided information to journalists in order to encourage them to publish articles or air stories that further your client's interests?
And has Fusion GPS provided information to journalists or editors in order to discourage them from publishing or airing stories that are contrary to your client's interests?
Well, what we—we're a research company. So generally what we do is provide people with factual information. Our specialty is public record information. So if we get an inquiry about a story and some of the information that a reporter's presuming is incorrect and we give them correct information, that may cause them to not write the story.
Has Fusion GPS ever had arrangements with clients in which the amount of Fusion's compensation was dependent on getting articles published or stories aired?
Not that I can recall.
Has Fusion GPS ever had arrangements with clients in which the amount of Fusion's compensation was dependent upon preventing articles from being published or stories from being aired?
No, I don't think so, not to my recollection.
To the best of your knowledge, has anyone associated with Fusion GPS ever told clients or prospective clients that the company could find and distribute information or take other actions in order to encourage government agencies to initiate an investigation?
Could you restate that?
To the best of your knowledge, has anyone associated with Fusion GPS ever told clients or prospective clients that the company could find and distribute information or take other actions in order to encourage government agencies to initiate an investigation?
Within the scope of this interview?
In general. I'm not asking about any particular case.
Hold on. Let's—let me just talk to my client about that and get back to you on that. I just want to understand the facts so we can evaluate whether it's appropriate to discuss that here if such a predicate for the answer exists.
Do you want to take a break?
Let's go off the record. It's 9:55.
We'll go back on the record. It's 10:02.
After conferring with your counsel, are you able to answer the question?
Yes. Could you just state it one more time.
Sure. To the best of your knowledge, has anyone associated with Fusion GPS ever told clients or prospective clients that the company could find and distribute information or take other actions in order to encourage government agencies to initiate an investigation?
The word "associated" is really vague. I'm not sure I know what you mean by that. I can speak to my own practices and the practices of the people who work at my company.
Generally speaking, when we do a research project for a new client and they ask us—you know, they explain, you know, what situation they're involved in, if it's a lawsuit, for example, or some other dispute, a lot of what we do is related to disputes, they say—you know, we say we will conduct an open-ended inquiry that's not goal directed and the results of the research will guide whatever decision you want to make about how to use it.
So the range of possibilities with, you know, research are you could file a lawsuit, you could put it in a court filing, you could take it to a government agency, you could give it to Congress, you could give it to the press, but you don't really prejudge, you know, how you're going to use information until you know what you've got.
So we generally don't let our clients dictate sort of the—you know, the end result of things because we don't think that's an intelligent way of trying to do research and, you know, a lot of what we do is decision support. Your clients are frequently trying to make a decision about how they want to proceed, whether they want to—you know, if someone thinks they've been defrauded, you can file a lawsuit, you can go to the police. You would decide that based on what you find out about the, you know, evidence of a fraud. So that's generally the way we do it.
To the best of your knowledge, has Fusion GPS ever had an arrangement with a client in which the company was specifically tasked with getting government agencies to initiate an investigation?
I would—to the best of my recollection, we don't have any agreements like that we would put into writing generally for the reasons I stated in answer to the previous question. In the course of, you know, dealing with a client we might talk about whether, you know, something was worthy of a government investigation and talk about how that could be done. There's any number of scenarios there that might come under discussion, but, as I say, that's generally not how we frame a project.
Has Fusion GPS ever had arrangements with clients in which the amount of Fusion's compensation was dependent on government agencies initiating an investigation?
We've been in business since 2010, so seven years is a fairly long time, but as I say, not to my recollection. I just can't be categorical because we've done a lot of work over the last seven years.
So I'm going to move on now to some questions about Prevezon Holdings and the Magnitsky Act. I want to sort of generally make it clear when I refer to you or to Fusion, I mean not just you personally, but all employees and associates of Fusion GPS and its component LLC's and legal entities as well as any contractors or subcontractors. If it's not clear to you who I'm referring to in the question, please just ask and I'll clarify.
Similarly, I'm going to refer to Prevezon and Magnitsky, M-A-G-N-I-T-S-K-Y. When I refer to those together, I mean all matters related to the Justice Department's lawsuit against Prevezon Holdings Limited, as well as all matters related to efforts with the media, government officials, and campaigns to overturn the Magnitsky Act, prevent the passage of the global Magnitsky Act, remove the word Magnitsky from either law, the Russian ban on U.S. adoptions of Russian children, research on Mr. Magnitsky himself or Mr. Browder, Hermitage Capital Management and its affiliated companies. So I'm generally putting those under that umbrella. If you need me to clarify for any specific question, just ask.
You obviously said a lot there.
And so on a question-by-question basis out of fairness to the witness, I just want to make sure that he has the ability to ask clarification, of course, as questions arise.
Right. That's what I would be asking you to do.
Even now, quite frankly, I'm not sure I can recall everything that you baked into the term that you're going to use.
Feel free to raise questions about any particular question we ask.
Mr. Simpson, what was Fusion GPS's role in the Justice Departments's litigation against Prevezon Holdings?
We were retained by Baker Hostetler in the spring of 2014 to do litigation support, and under the heading of litigation support was things related to discovery, locating witnesses, answer questions from the press, gathering documents, pretty much, you know, a conventional understanding of litigation support.
And to whom did Fusion GPS report in the course of this work?
Baker Hostetler. The partner in charge was Mark Cymrot, C-Y-M-R-O-T, who's a partner in the Washington office and former Justice Department prosecutor.
Did Mr. Cymrot provide instructions to Fusion GPS during the course of the work?
Mr. Cymrot regularly instructed us in how we were to go about doing discovery and various other tasks, yes.
And for a portion of that case at least Mr. Cymrot was the attorney of record for Prevezon Holdings; is that correct?
For the entirety of the time that I worked on the case he was—I believe he was the attorney of record.
And did you understand the instructions you received from him to be originating from his client, from Prevezon Holdings?
The ultimate direction, of course, would have been from the ultimate client, but the client was outside the United States for most of its time. So, you know, a lot of instruction came from him and he was the person who formulated the legal strategy, undertook all of the legal efforts to work the case.
And when did Fusion GPS cease working on the Prevezon Holdings case?
I can't say exactly. It was mid to late 2016.
Which of Fusion's associates and employees have worked on the Prevezon or Magnitsky issues?
For the most part it was myself and one of my analysts, . There may have—from time to time issues may have come up about trying to find records or other issues where I conferred with or enlisted someone else in the office, but I don't specifically recall.
To follow up on the previous answer, you said mid to late 2016 is when the investigation ended, generally speaking. Do you have any records that could refresh your recollection about the exact date at a later time?
I'm sure we do, yes. I am—we have a division of labor and I don't do a lot of things like invoicing. So this is not going to be my strong suit.
But you could figure it out later for us?
We maintain books and records.
Could you maybe just describe quickly what kind of record would constitute the end of the engagement?
That's a good question. You know, in some cases there's no specific termination letter. So I don't know whether there's a termination agreement or termination letter in this case. I mean, generally speaking, you know, when we stop billing the case is over.
I'd like to introduce an exhibit. It's one of two privilege logs that your attorneys provided us. This will be Exhibit 2.
Mr. Simpson, on the third page of this document, the last two entries appear to be e-mails sent on October 27, 2016 from Peter Fritsch to Mark Cymrot CC'g you. To the best of your recollection, was Fusion GPS still working for Mr. Cymrot on—still working for Baker Hostetler on the Prevezon case as of the date of this e-mail?
I don't know.
The privilege asserted was attorney work product. Do you know what the basis of that was?
Well, it was a legal—
This is a judgment that his lawyers made and any knowledge he would have about whether it was attorney work product or not likely would come from communications with counsel, which obviously are privileged.
Did Fusion ever work with subcontractors on its Prevezon or Magnitsky efforts?
Who were they?
Just to clarify that, your question was—can you repeat the question, please?
Sure. Did Fusion ever work with subcontractors on its Prevezon or Magnitsky efforts?
What do you mean by "Magnitsky efforts"?
I mean all matters related to the efforts with the media, government officials, and campaigns—or campaigns to overturn the Magnitsky Act, prevent the passage of the global Magnitsky Act, remove the word Magnitsky from the law—from either law, as well as the Russian ban on U.S. adoptions of Russian children.
And you were also asking about subcontractors for Prevezon as well?
I'm asking whether Fusion ever worked with subcontractors on those issues.
Well, I object to the question the way the question is framed. You've sort of built into the question the sort of inference that we were doing something other than working on a legal case, and there's extensive public record, documentation in Pacer of the work that we did and it was a legal case. So I don't—it's going to be difficult because it's really hard for me to answer questions where you lump in all these things that other people were doing and impute them to me.
Let's break them down by category.
Let's do that.
Did Fusion ever work with subcontractors—did Fusion ever hire subcontractors as part of its legal work on the Prevezon case?
And whom did you hire?
I think the primary, possibly only one was a guy named Edward Baumgartner. There may have been others. I just don't recall.
And what type of work did Mr. Baumgartner undertake for Fusion?
Discovery mostly, helping locate witnesses. He speaks Russian. So he would work with the lawyers on gathering Russian language documents, gathering Russian language media reports, talking to witnesses who speak Russian, that sort of thing. He may have dealt with the press. I just don't remember.
What is his professional background?
He has a degree in Russian.
So his primary role was as a Russian speaker? Is he a private investigator? What does he do?
He runs a consulting firm like me and deals with issues more in Ukraine than Russia, but in both. Yeah, he was doing Russian language things. The case revolved around, centered on events in Russia. So a lot of what we needed to find out were things that were in Russia or there were documents in the Russian language. I don't speak Russian, I've never been to Russia. So it would be ordinary course of business for me to identify a specialist who could supply me with that kind of specialized expertise.
And how did you come to hire him for this engagement?
I met him on a previous engagement and I was impressed by his knowledge of the region and his general abilities.
What was the previous engagement?
We're not going to get into prior engagements. It's outside the scope.
Generally speaking, what was it?
It was something involving Russia.
A little more specifically speaking.
It's my understanding that I was not required to talk about my other cases at this interview.
Again, it's a voluntary interview and you are not under compulsion to answer any questions, but, again, the extent to which you cooperate will help the committee members evaluate whether further compulsory process is necessary.
He's been answering questions and we're here all day for you.
I'm here to cooperate.
Did anyone from Fusion ever work with other subcontractors hired by Baker Hostetler for the Prevezon case?
That would have been ordinary. I don't specifically remember doing that, but it wouldn't have been out of the ordinary. It's not particularly noteworthy. I've worked with Baker Hostetler since 2009 on a number of legal cases. This is the only one that involved Russia. And in the course of any legal case, you know, various people are retained by a law firm to perform various services. So you would meet other subcontractors in the course of doing legal work. That's common.
What types of services would they tend to be providing?
Translators would be common, in this case particularly. Forensic people, accountants, PR people, all those services are facets of modern litigation.
And to the best of your knowledge, did Fusion ever work with any other contractors hired by Prevezon Holdings?
I'm sorry. Could you repeat that?
Sure. I asked if Fusion had hired any subcontractors that you worked with on the Prevezon matter, whether Baker hired anyone that you worked with. Now I'm wondering did you work with anyone hired directly through Prevezon on this as opposed to Baker Hostetler?
It's difficult to give a yes or no answer to that. I would have to say I think so, but when you're a subcontractor to a law firm, you know, you're sort of in a lane and, you know, my lane was research, discovery, William Browder's business practices, his activities in Russia, his history of avoiding taxes.
So people—other people, you know, in a big case come and go and it's not really my position to ask, you know, who hired them and why. Generally if I'm introduced to somebody they'll explain, you know, why there were other lawyers who worked for Prevezon who were part of the case. Other people were brought in—you know, were brought in either by Prevezon or by the lawyers and I didn't always try to pin that down.
In general would the decision whether you would share Fusion's information with them be dependent then upon the attorneys introducing you to them?
It would be dependent on the direction of the attorneys. I basically—you know, in all these cases for reasons of privilege and simply just professionalism you work at the direction of the lawyers and you do what they instruct you to do.
Did anyone from Fusion ever help arrange for other entities to be hired by Prevezon or Baker Hostetler for the Prevezon case?
I don't think you could say we arranged for others to be hired. If you're asking me if we made referrals, we would refer—you know, we made quite extensive—fairly extensive efforts to get a PR firm hired for the trial that we were expecting and we made a number of referrals in that case, in that matter.
What was the name of that PR firm?
There were several. We actually, you know, had a series of screening sessions. I think Weber Shandwick was the one we ended up with.
You mentioned that Fusion was conducting litigation support in regard to the Prevezon case. Could you expand a little more about what type of litigation support activities you undertook?
Beyond what he's already told you?
With a little more detail.
Yes. In the original period of the case the question—the client's explanation for or response to the government's allegations was that they originated with an organized crime figure in Russia who had been extorting them and who they had reported to the police and who had been jailed and convicted for blackmailing them, and they claimed that that was where these allegations originated, which, you know, seemed remarkable because it was in a Justice Department complaint.
So the first thing, you know, in any case really is to sort of try and figure out whether your own client's story can be supported or whether it's not true, and the lawyers—you know, we work with a lot of prominent law firms and in many cases the first thing the lawyers need to know is whether their client's story is real, whether it can be supported, you know, because in any new case you don't know whether your own client is telling you the truth.
So originally one of the first things we were hired to do was to check out whether this was, in fact, the case. So they claimed that the allegations originated with a mobster named Demetri Baranovsky, B-A-R-A-N-O-V-S-K-Y, who was, in fact, jailed for running a shake-down operation in which he posed as an anticorruption campaigner for the purpose of extorting money from people by threatening to accuse them of some kind of corrupt activities. As you know, Russia is rife with corruption and there's a lot of anger over corruption.
We were able to ascertain that Mr. Baranovsky was, in fact, associated with Russia's biggest organized crime family, the Solntsevo Brotherhood, S-O-L-N-T-S-E-V-O brotherhood, which is the major dominant mafia clan in Moscow. So as far as it went, the client seemed to be telling the truth. You know, there was extensive record of these events and we found some indications from western law enforcement that western law enforcement did consider Baranovsky to be a lieutenant in this organized crime family. So we did that for a while. Edward Baumgartner helped a lot with that because of his Russian language skills and his ability to interface with the court system in Russia.
And, you know, around the—similarly, there was a deposition of a customs agent by one of the lawyers who—you know, in this initial effort to trace the origin of these allegations, where they came from, how they could have ended up with the Justice Department, the first thing we did was interview the client, got their story, and interviewed the agent who worked on the case for the DOJ and that agent said he got all his information from William Browder.
So at that point I was asked to help see if we could get an interview with William Browder. They wrote a letter to Browder and asked him to answer questions and he refused. Then the lawyers wanted to know, you know, whether he could be subpoenaed. So a lot of what I did in 2014 was help them figure out whether he could be subpoenaed in the United States to give a deposition, and the first thing that we did was we researched the ownership and registration of his hedge fund, which was registered in Delaware and filed documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
So we subpoenaed his hedge fund. A lot of the early work I did was just documenting that his hedge fund had presence in the United States. So we subpoenaed his hedge fund. He then changed the hedge fund registration, took his name off, said it was on there by accident, it was a mistake, and said that he had no presence in the United States and that, you know—as you may know, he surrendered his citizenship in 1998 and moved outside the United States. That was around the time he started making all the money in Russia. So he's never had to pay U.S. taxes on his profits from his time in Russia, which became important in the case later.
In any case, he said he never came to the United States, didn't own any property here, didn't do any business here, and therefore he was not required to participate in the U.S. court system even though he admitted that he brought the case to the U.S. Justice Department. So we found this to be a frustrating and somewhat curious situation. He was willing to, you know, hand stuff off to the DOJ anonymously in the beginning and cause them to launch a court case against somebody, but he wasn't interesting in speaking under oath about, you know, why he did that, his own activities in Russia.
So looking at the public record we determined that he did come to the United States frequently, and I discovered through public records that he seemed to own a house in Aspen, Colorado, a very expensive mansion, over $10 million, which he had registered in the name of a shell company in a clear attempt to disguise the ownership of the property. We were able to ascertain that he does use that property because he registered cars to that property with the Colorado DMV in the name of William Browder.
So we began looking for public information about when he might be in Aspen, Colorado, and I found a listing on the Aspen Institute Website about an appearance he was going to make there in the summer of 2014. So we—I served him a subpoena in the parking lot of the Aspen Institute in the summer of 2014 using two people—two subcontractors. Actually, those other subcontractors were—their names escape me, but I forgot about those. We can get you that. This is all in the Pacer court record, the public court record.
In any event, the three of us served—there was another subcontractor working for the law firm whose name I also forget. I did not retain him, but I was asked to work with him on this. He is a private investigator and we can get you his name. In any event, we served him the subpoena and he ran away. He dropped it on the ground and he ran away. He jumped in his car and went back to his mansion.
At that point he tried to suppress—tried to quash the subpoena on the grounds it hadn't been properly served. We didn't get a video, but there are sworn affidavits from my servers in the court record about the service. But he objected to it on a number of grounds. A, he continued to insist he had nothing to do with the United States and didn't come here very often even, though we caught him here, clearly has cars in Colorado. He also said that you can't serve a subpoena for a case in New York in the state of Colorado, it's outside the primary jurisdiction. He also began to raise questions about whether Baker Hostetler had a conflict of interest because of some previous work he did with one of the Baker lawyers.
This led to a long, drawn-out discovery battle that I was in the center of because I served the subpoenas and I helped find the information for the first set of subpoenas that lasted, you know, through 2014. This was, you know, a lot of what I did. This was—the main focus was on trying to get William Browder to testify under oath about his role in this case and his activities in Russia.
All of this—his determined effort to avoid testifying under oath, including running away from subpoenas and changing—frequently changing lawyers and making lurid allegations against us, including that, you know, he thought we were KGB assassins in the parking lot of Aspen, Colorado when we served the subpoena, all raised questions in my mind about why he was so determined to not have to answer questions under oath about things that happened in Russia.
I'll add that, you know, I've done a lot of Russia reporting over the years. I originally met William Browder back when I was a journalist at the Wall Street Journal when I was doing stories about corruption in Russia. I think the first time I met him he lectured me about—I was working on a story about Vladimir Putin corruption and he lectured me about how have Vladimir Putin was not corrupt and how he was the best thing that ever happened to Russia. There are numerous documents that he published himself, interviews he gave singing the praises of Vladimir Putin. At that time I was already investigating corruption in Putin's Russia.
So this made me more curious about the history of his activities in Russia and what that might tell me about corruption in Russia, and as part of the case we became curious about whether there was something that he was hiding about his activities in Russia. So through this period while we were attempting to get him under oath we were also investigating his business practices in Russia and that research—and I should add when I say "we," I mean the lawyers were doing a lot of this work and it wasn't—I can't take responsibility or pride of place on having done all this work. We were doing it all together. It was a—you know, there were a number of lawyers involved, other people.
In the course of doing this research into what he might not want to be asked about from his history in Russia we began to learn about the history of his tax avoidance in Russia and we began to deconstruct the way that his hedge fund structured its investments in Russia and, you know, we gradually accumulated through public records, not all from Russia, that he set up dozens of shell companies in Cyprus and other tax havens around the world to funnel money into Russia and to hold Russian securities.
He also set up shell companies inside of Russia in order to avoid paying taxes in Russia and he set up shell companies in a remote republic called Kalmykia, K-A-L-M-Y-K-I-A, which is next to Mongolia. It's the only Buddhist republic in Russia and there's nothing much there, but if you put your companies there you can lower your taxes. They were putting their companies in Kalmykia that were holding investments from western investors and they were staffing these companies—they were using Afghan war veterans because there's a tax preference for Afghan war veterans, and what we learned is that they got in trouble for this eventually because one of Putin's primary rules for business was you can do a lot of things, but you've got to pay your taxes.
In fact, William Browder famously said in 2005 at Davos everybody knows under Putin you have to pay your taxes, which is ironic because at the time he was being investigated for not paying taxes. Ultimately they were caught, some of these companies were prosecuted, and he was forced to make an enormous tax payment to the government of Russia in 2006.
I will add that Sergei Magnitsky was working for him at this time and all of this happened prior to the events that you are interested in involving the Russian treasury fraud and his jailing. This precedes all that.
But returning to the detailed discussion of my work, we investigated William Browder's business practices in Russia, we began to understand maybe what it was he didn't want to talk about, and as we looked at that we then began to look at his decision to surrender his American citizenship in 1998. At that point somewhere in there the Panama papers came out and we discovered that he had incorporated shell companies offshore in the mid 1990s, in 1995 I believe it was in the British Virgin Islands, and that at some point his hedge fund's shares had been transferred to this offshore company.
This offshore company was managed—several of his offshore companies were managed by the Panamanian law firm called Mossack Fonseca, M-O-S-S-A-C-K, Fonseca, F-O-N-S-E-C-A, which is known now for setting up offshore companies for drug kingpins, narcos, kleptos, you name it. They were servicing every bad guy around. And I'm familiar with them from other money laundering and corruption and tax evasion investigations that I've done.
I'll note parenthetically that William Browder talks a lot about the Panama papers and the Russians who are in the Panama papers without ever mentioning that he's in the Panama papers. This is, again, a public fact that you can check on-line.
So that's an overview of the sort of work I was doing on this case. In the course of that I also began reaching back, I read his book Red Notice to understand his story and the story of his activities in Russia. I'll add also that I was extremely sympathetic for what happened to Sergei Magnitsky and I told him that myself and I tried to help him. It was only later from this other case that I began to be curious and skeptical about William Browder's activities and history in Russia.
Can I ask you a follow-up question. I appreciate the narrative answer, but at the very beginning of the narrative you talked about beginning this journey by interviewing—conducting an interview of the case agent who said he'd gotten all of his information—the case agent or the attorney, the primary person at the DOJ, you said they got all their information from Bill Browder. Can you tell us who that was and who conducted the interview?
Mr. Simpson should definitely answer that question. I just want to make sure for the record that he hadn't finished his answer. He can talk more extensively about the litigation support that he provided for Baker—
We're happy to get into that if he wants to do that. We're just coming up at the end of our hour.
and I wanted to get that follow-up in before—
No problem. No problem at all.
I'll just finish with one last thing and I'm happy to answer that question.
So in the course of this, you know—I mean, one of my interests or even obsessions over the last decade has been corruption in Russia and Russian kleptocracy and the police state that was there. I was stationed in Europe from 2005 to 2007 or '8. So I was there when Putin was consolidating power and all this wave of power was coming. So it's been a subject that I've read very widely on and I'm very interested in the history of Putin's rise.
You know, in the course of all this I'll tell you I became personally interested in where Bill Browder came from, how he made so much money under Vladimir Putin without getting involved in anything illicit. So I read his book and I began doing other research and I found filings at the SEC linking him quite directly and his company, Salomon Brothers at the time, to a company in Russia called Peter Star, and I had, as it happens, vetted Peter Star and I knew that Peter Star was, you know, at the center of a corruption case that I covered as a reporter at the Wall Street Journal. When I went back into the history of Peter Star I realized that Bill Browder did business with the mayor's office in Saint Petersburg when Vladimir Putin was the deputy mayor and was responsible for dealing with western businessmen and corporations.
I then went and looked in Red Notice, this was a large deal, it was the biggest deal ever for Salomon at that time, they sold $98 million worth of stock on NASDAQ.
There's no mention of William Browder's deal with Peter Star in Red Notice. I can't tell you why, but I can tell you that Peter Star later became the subject of a massive corruption investigation, Pan-European, that I exposed a lot of and that led to the resignation of Putin's telecoms minister. So I assume he might not have—this is kind of a pattern with Browder, which is he tends to omit things that aren't helpful to him, and I think we've seen a good bit of that lately in his allegations against me, which I'm sure you're going to ask me about.
So your question about the ICE agent, he was deposed by John Moscow of the New York office of Baker Hostetler. John is an old associate of mine from my days as a journalist. John's an expert on tax evasion and money laundering. He was the head of the rackets bureau for the district attorney's office in New York.
You're talking about a formal deposition in the litigation?
I just wanted to clarify that.
Again, it's in the court record. One of the frustrating things about this whole issue for me is everything I'm talking about or most of it is in the court record. You know, I don't take a lot of credit for my work. So you won't see my name scattered through the court record, but a lot of this is what I did.
I think that's concludes our first hour. Let's take a short break before we begin a new one.
Let's go off the record.
We'll go off the record at 10:45.