Russian Government Employs Anti-Terrorist Unit to Search for Hermitage CEO in Retaliation for the US Magnitsky Act

April 22, 2013

The Anti-Terrorist Department (Department “T”) of the Russian Interior Ministry has been assigned to search for British citizen William Browder, who has been running a global campaign for justice after the killing of his lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in police custody.

The information about the involvement of the Russian Anti-Terrorist Department comes from court records in the latest initiative of the Russian Interior Ministry to seek an arrest warrant in absentia for William Browder. This is the second known request of an in absentia arrest warrant of a Westerner in contemporary Russian history.

Court records indicate that Lt Colonel A.K. Gubanov of the Department “T” of the Russian Interior Ministry visited the second secretary of the British embassy in Moscow in March 2013 “searching” for Mr Browder, who lives in London. This action circumvented diplomatic protocol and legal procedures for police searches and mutual legal assistance requests. Previous Russian requests for mutual legal assistance in relation to Mr Browder with the British Home Office were rejected.

Lt Colonel A.K. Gubanov and another visiting Russian police officer, Major P.I. Tambovtsev, asked the British diplomat to sign a Russian Interior Ministry protocol, which the British diplomat declined to do.

“The misuse of the anti terrorist police in pursuing a politcal vendetta in relation to the Magnitsky Act shows how desperate the Russian authorities have become to try to protect their bank accounts and travel privileges. By the Russian government diverting their most important anti terrorist personnel at this sensitive time for private corrupt purposes is a clear sign of a complete breakdown in the law enforcement system in Russia,” said a Hermitage Capital representative.

The latest police actions against Mr Browder are formally coordinated by G.R. Sungurov, head of the 4th section of the Russian Interior Ministry’s Investigation Department in charge of fighting organized crime and corruption. The actions are carried out under a new spurious criminal case directed against Mr Browder alleging “theft” of Gazprom shares and “interference” in its policies dating back to the late 1990’s. The case has no legal foundation, as the Gazprom shares that the police alleged were “stolen” were in fact purchased in open market transactions. The transactions have been reported to Russian regulatory authorities and audited by the Russian Federal Tax Service who found no violations. Notably, the regulations on foreign ownership of Gazprom shares never envisaged any criminal liability and this would be the first case in Russian history where a foreign investor was retroactively and arbitrarily targeted for conducting legal transactions in Gazprom shares.

The alleged “interference” by Mr Browder in Gazprom’s policies in the early 2000’s referred to by the Interior Ministry were in fact: writing requests for company information; campaigning for a seat on the board of directors; and calling to stop theft and corruption in relation to billions of dollars of Gazprom’s assets and cash flow.

The latest acts against Mr Browder have been sanctioned by General Major Sergei Borodulin of the Russian Interior Ministry. He is the same official who had sanctioned the opening of a posthumous criminal case in August 2011 against Sergei Magnitsky, a year and a half after Mr Magnitsky was killed in police custody.

Whilst persecuting Mr Browder in this criminal case, officer Sungurov was promoted from Major to Lt Colonel.

Earlier, the Russian Interior Ministry also threatened to use “special forces” to obtain documents from HSBC in Moscow in their pursuit of Mr Browder.

The request to HSBC sanctioned by officer Sungurov said: “Otherwise, the documents which have the force of evidence under the criminal case and with HSBC Bank can be seized by force during a seizure or search, including with the participation of employees of special units.”


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