Interpol Rejects Russia Browder Request as Politically Motivated

Interpol rejected Russia’s request for help in tracking Hermitage Capital Management Ltd.’s co-founder William Browder, charged in absentia with damaging the country’s interests by buying OAO Gazprom shares at a discount more than a decade ago.

“The case was of a predominantly political nature,‘‘ according to an Interpol statement published on its website yesterday. Interpol also said it has deleted all information in relation to Browder.

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. He was barred from entering the country that year without explanation, triggering years of legal conflict. Hermitage Capital’s legal adviser Sergei Magnitsky died in a Moscow jail in 2009.

‘‘I was surprised to hear Interpol’s decision, it is an extremely neutral organization that almost never makes any judgment about controversial cases,’’ Browder said by phone today.

An Interior Ministry spokesman said by telephone today it had asked Interpol only to determine Browder’s location.

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.