PARIS (Reuters) - Interpol on Friday rejected a second request from Moscow to put British investment fund head William Browder on its search list, dealing a fresh blow to Russia’s drive to jail the man behind a campaign to expose corruption and rights violations.
The decision is the latest twist in a long-running battle between the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Browder, whose investment company Hermitage Capital was once the largest investor in Russia’s equity market.
Interpol has previously refused to put Browder on its international search list, saying in May that Russia’s case against him was “predominantly political”.
On Friday, Interpol said it had received another request from Moscow “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.”
“INTERPOL considers this charge to be covered by the previous decision of May 2013,” a statement on its website said.
Browder has spearheaded an international campaign to expose corruption and human rights violations in Russia following the death in 2009 of Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer working for Hermitage and investigating a $230 million tax fraud.
Magnitsky was arrested shortly after alleging that Russian officials were involved in the fraud, and later died in prison while awaiting trial, causing an international uproar.
The Kremlin’s own advisory body on human rights said Magnitsky was probably beaten to death in his prison cell and his case became to symbolize the impunity of Russian authorities and political servility of the country’s judiciary.
A Russian court on July 11 posthumously found Magnitsky guilty of tax evasion, triggering harsh criticism from the West, and also sentenced Browder to nine years in prison in absentia.
Inclusion in the Lyon, France-based Interpol’s database would have facilitated Russia’s request for member countries to monitor Browder’s whereabouts, enabling Russia to issue an international arrest warrant to the country concerned.
Reporting Alexandria Sage; Writing by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by David Evans