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.


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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