By Alexandra Sandacz
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe
MOSCOW, Russia – The Russian Interior Ministry recently announced their intent to seek an arrest warrant for Bill Browder, CEO of Hermitage Capital Management. The arrest warrant regards charges of “stealing” energy company, Gazprom, shares a decade ago and “interfering” in Gazprom’s policies.
However, this case has no legal basis because there were never any criminal sanctions for owning Gazprom shares.
Browder, who once led the biggest foreign investment fund in Russia, quarrels with the Russian government amidst his campaign to blacklist Russian officials involved in the death of Hermitage lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky.
Jamison Firestone, Magnitsky’s former boss and a close associate of Browder in lobbying for the blacklists, stated, “This is a pure vendetta and everyone knows it. If it was really illegal to buy Gazprom, every Western hedge fund manager in Moscow would already be on the way to the airport.”
Another Hermitage Capital representative said, “The retroactive and arbitrary application to one market participant of a criminal standard in relation to a practice that is considered lawful for all other market participants is the hallmark of a politically-directed abuse of justice in this case.”
Furthermore, “President Putin treats the law and the truth like a child in a sandbox. There are no rules. There is no law, and he thinks he can do whatever he wants. This may be true in Russia, but it is not true elsewhere in the world.”
The Interior Ministry affirmed that if Browder’s arrest is endorsed, he will subsequently be placed on the international wanted list.
The Interior Ministry continued, “As the accused Browder is evading arriving for investigative procedures, even though he has been notified about this necessity using various methods, the investigation has filed a request with a court on considering his arrest in absentia as a pretrial restrictive measure. If a court grants this request, the mechanism of declaring Browder internationally wanted will be launched.”
Hermitage Capital Management stated that the warrant “follows a coordinated Russian state propaganda campaign in the last three months, where all Kremlin-controlled TV channels, including NTV, Rossiya, and 1TV ran slanderous programs accusing Mr. Browder of murders, stealing IMF money in 1998, causing the Russian default, stealing Gazprom shares, and being a UK spy.”
Nevertheless, the Moscow court refused to issue the warrant because Mr. Browder was not given enough warning about the proceeding. The Russian Criminal Procedure Code states that arrests cannot be ordered for a person before he or she is declared internationally wanted.
The court will review the request again in a week.
This will be the second known case of an ‘in absentia arrest warrant’ concerning a Westerner in Russia.
For further information, please see:
Law and Order In Russia – Russia Interior Ministry Seeks Arrest Warrant for Bill Browder in Putin-directed Retaliation Against Magnitsky List – 17 April 2013
The Moscow Times – Browder Placed on International Wanted List – 17 April 2013
Russia Beyond the Headlines – Russia Seeks Arrest in Absentia for Magnitsky Boss Browder – 17 April 2013
The Telegraph – Russia Puts Hermitage Boss Bill Browder on Wanted List – 17 April 2013