MOSCOW, July 26 (RIA Novosti) – Interpol reiterated on Friday that it could not be used by the Russian Federation to seek the arrest of Hermitage Capital equity fund head William Browder, who was recently convicted in absentia by a Russian court on charges of fraud and tax evasion.
Moscow had previously requested Interpol to issue a “blue notice” for Browder, requiring all 190 member states to “collect additional information about a person’s identity, location or activities in relation to a crime,” according to the agency’s website. But the Interpol General Secretariat rejected the request, citing “a predominantly political nature” of the case against Browder.
“Today, Friday, July 26, Interpol received another request from the National Central Bureau of Moscow concerning Mr. Browder, this time seeking to locate and arrest Mr. Browder with a view to his extradition on a charge of ‘qualified swindling’ as defined by the Russian Penal Code,” the Interpol General Secretariat said in a statement on its website.
“Interpol considers this charge to be covered by the previous decision of May 2013. Therefore all information related to this request for Mr. Browder’s arrest has been deleted from Interpol’s databases, and all Interpol member countries have been informed accordingly,” the statement said.
Browder was tried in absentia by a Moscow court in July and was sentenced to nine years in prison and banned from doing business in Russia for three years.
The case against Browder stated that he “ran companies that took part in the purchase of Gazprom shares in 1999-2004 at domestic-market prices, circumventing a ban on their sale to foreigners.” The court also ruled that “he tried to get access to the company’s financial reporting documents” and to influence decision-making via the board of directors.
Russian police have estimated that Browder’s activities caused “damages” to the tune of 3 billion rubles (about $98 million at today’s rate), but how that sum was calculated is unclear.
Russian investigators have also accused Browder of conspiring with Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in pretrial detention in 2010, to embezzle funds in tax evasion schemes.
Browder, who heads what was once the largest portfolio investor in Russia, was banned from Russia in 2005, ostensibly for national security reasons, and now lives in Britain.
Britain had earlier rejected Moscow’s extradition request for Browder, a UK citizen, citing the absence of extradition agreement with Russia.
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Any response would likely boomerang on Russia – the partnership between Rosneft and ExxonMobil is a case in point. The United States has hit Russia with a third round of sanctions. This time the Americans went with a higher caliber weapon, targeting Russia’s biggest energy companies (Rosneft and Novatek) and banks (VEB and Gazprombank).