President Putin Directs Government Attack on Bill Browder to Stop Magnitsky Sanctions Being Enacted in Europe

March 5, 2013

In a fur­ther esca­la­tion of the per­se­cu­tion of Her­mitage exec­u­tives and lawyers by the Russ­ian author­i­ties, this morn­ing the Russ­ian Inte­rior Min­istry announced new spu­ri­ous alle­ga­tions tar­get­ing William Brow­der, CEO of Her­mitage Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment. The retal­ia­tory cam­paign of state slan­der, posthu­mous pros­e­cu­tion and intim­i­da­tion gained momen­tum in Rus­sia after Pres­i­dent Putin’s per­sonal attack on Mr Brow­der two months ago at a national press con­fer­ence. This morn­ing, the Russ­ian Inte­rior Min­istry made fur­ther accu­sa­tion against Mr. Brow­der alleg­ing “theft” of Gazprom shares by com­pa­nies affil­i­ated with the Her­mitage Fund ten years ago and accus­ing Bill Brow­der of attempt­ing to inter­fere with Gazprom’s strate­gic direc­tion through requests for finan­cial infor­ma­tion and for cam­paign­ing for a seat on the board of the com­pany between 2001 and 2004. The Russ­ian Inte­rior Min­istry also threat­ened to use inter­na­tional search and arrest war­rants in their “inves­ti­ga­tion” into Browder.

The Inte­rior Ministry’s alle­ga­tions against Her­mitage are spu­ri­ous and with­out any foun­da­tion. The only logic that sup­port the alle­ga­tion of “theft” of Gazprom shares would be to think that the assets of the com­pany belong to the company’s man­age­ment who also hap­pens to run the coun­try, not to its investors and share­hold­ers,” said a Her­mitage Cap­i­tal representative.

These absurd alle­ga­tions are clearly moti­vated by the retal­i­a­tion to our global cam­paign for jus­tice for Sergei Mag­nit­sky. Our cam­paign angers and scares the Russ­ian offi­cials who want to keep their crim­i­nally obtained wealth abroad. But this intim­i­da­tion and harass­ment will not stop the cam­paign that is car­ried out by many peo­ple and orga­ni­za­tions around the world,” said William Browder.

Mr Brow­der has been run­ning a global cam­paign for jus­tice seek­ing sanc­tions against Russ­ian offi­cials involved in the killing in Russ­ian police cus­tody of his lawyer Sergei Mag­nit­sky. The cam­paign has also traced sig­nif­i­cant amounts of the money that had been paid by Her­mitage in taxes to the Russ­ian Gov­ern­ment and sub­se­quently stolen by the Russ­ian offi­cials and crim­i­nals through a sophis­ti­cated fraud scheme, which is now being inves­ti­gated across a num­ber of EU coun­tries at Hermitage’s request.

The Russ­ian author­i­ties are now des­per­ate to extend their abuse out­side their own ter­ri­tory and use the inter­na­tional crim­i­nal jus­tice chan­nels to fur­ther harass Her­mitage and stop jus­tice from being done, —  said a Her­mitage Cap­i­tal rep­re­sen­ta­tive. — These efforts have already been con­demned in 2009 by the Coun­cil of Europe of which Rus­sia is a mem­ber which issued rec­om­men­da­tions to all mem­ber coun­tries to reject any requests of assis­tance from the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment in rela­tion to Her­mitage exec­u­tives and lawyers.”

The recent esca­la­tion in the Russ­ian government’s attack on Her­mitage fol­lows directly from Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin’s 20 Decem­ber 2012 press con­fer­ence, where he was con­fronted seven times by jour­nal­ists about the Mag­nit­sky Act adopted in the United States. Pres­i­dent Putin promised to “delve deeper” into this case.

Four days later, in an unprece­dented U-turn, the Russ­ian pub­lic pros­e­cu­tor asked for an acquit­tal of Dmitry Kra­tov, the only Russ­ian offi­cial brought to a trial for the death of Sergei Mag­nit­sky. As a result, no one has been con­victed for Mr Magnitsky’s death.

The fol­low­ing month, Russ­ian state-controlled media began a cam­paign to slan­der Sergei Mag­nit­sky and his colleagues.

In Feb­ru­ary, Sergei Magnitsky’s brother-in-law and col­leagues received sum­monses for inter­ro­ga­tion from the Russ­ian Inte­rior Min­istry and were intim­i­dated with threats of crim­i­nal prosecution.

Yes­ter­day, the posthu­mous trial against Sergei Mag­nit­sky began, which is the first posthu­mous trial in the his­tory of Russia.

This morn­ing, the Inte­rior Min­istry put for­ward more spu­ri­ous alle­ga­tions against Bill Brow­der and Sergei Mag­nit­sky in rela­tion to Gazprom shares.

The own­er­ship of Gazprom shares was com­pletely legal. It was approved by the Russ­ian author­i­ties and the Russ­ian Fed­eral Secu­ri­ties Com­mis­sion as well as Gazprom itself. If one took these accu­sa­tions seri­ously then every for­eign investor in Rus­sia should be under arrest,” said a Her­mitage Cap­i­tal representative.

Her­mitage was the largest for­eign investor in Rus­sia until 2005, but had to wind down its oper­a­tions in Rus­sia when the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment revoked the visa of its Bill Brow­der, Hermitage’s CEO, on “national secu­rity” grounds. Hermitage’s Moscow offices were then raided by the Russ­ian Inte­rior Min­istry who seized doc­u­ments, which were used in the expro­pri­a­tion of three of its invest­ment com­pa­nies and the theft of $230 mil­lion of taxes paid by Her­mitage to the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment. The Inte­rior Min­istry then launched retal­ia­tory crim­i­nal cases against Her­mitage exec­u­tives and lawyers who exposed the multi-million thefts from the Russ­ian bud­get. After Sergei Mag­nit­sky tes­ti­fied about offi­cial involve­ment in the crimes, he was arrested, tor­tured and killed in Moscow police cus­tody. The Russ­ian gov­ern­ment has now tried to posthu­mously blame the theft on Mr Mag­nit­sky, who paid with his life for expos­ing their crimes.

Comments

One Response to “President Putin Directs Government Attack on Bill Browder to Stop Magnitsky Sanctions Being Enacted in Europe”

  1. Ray Finch on March 6th, 2013 06:46

    Who is telling the truth in this story?

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