Russia will ask Interpol for assistance in a case against Hermitage Capital Management Ltd.’s co-founder William Browder, who’s charged in absentia with damaging Russian interests by buying OAO Gazprom shares at a discount more than a decade ago.
“We’re planning to send the request but haven’t done it yet,” Vladimir Konovalov, an Interior Ministry spokesman, said today by phone from Moscow. He declined to disclose what type of request the ministry would send or when.
London-based Hermitage said yesterday that it had received a letter from Interpol, saying the law-enforcement body will meet May 23-24 to discuss a Russian request to locate Browder. Interpol declined to comment by e-mail on Hermitage’s claim.
Hermitage, founded by Browder and late billionaire Edmond Safra, was once the largest foreign owner of Russian shares when it peaked at more than $4 billion in 2005, according to Browder. Russia barred Browder from entering the country that year without explanation, triggering years of legal conflict, including over the 2009 death of Hermitage adviser Sergei Magnitsky while in pretrial detention in Moscow.
“The main question is whether Interpol is going to be used as a conduit for Russia’s political goals,” Browder said yesterday by phone from London.
Magnitsky was in pretrial detention after alleging the biggest-known tax fraud in Russia, a theft of $230 million from the national treasury. The case sparked a diplomatic row, with the U.S. imposing sanctions on Russian officials accused of playing a role in his death and Moscow retaliating by barring American citizens from adopting Russian orphans.
Russia ended its investigation in March into Magnitsky’s November 2009 death at age 37 in a Moscow jail, saying it found no sign he’d suffered physical abuse while in detention.