Interpol refuses Russian search request on dead lawyer's boss
International police agency Interpol has pressed the delete button on all the information it has on the former employer of late lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, saying a Russian search request for him was of a "political nature".
Magnitsky died in prison in 2009 after revealing a massive fraud scheme. At the time he blew the whistle he was working for US-born British citizen William Browder, the biggest foreign investor in Russia in the past decade, who has now become a target for Russian authorities.
In a statement issued on Friday, Interpol said it had "deleted all information in relation to William Browder following a recommendation by the independent Commission for the Control of Interpol's Files (CCF)".
After studying the case upon a complaint by Browder, it said the CCF had concluded it "was of a predominantly political nature and recommended that all information be deleted from Interpol's databases".
A spokesman for the Lyon-based agency told AFP that Russia had made a "location request" for Browder.
Russian government spokesman Denis Stroukov confirmed that Moscow had asked for the agency's cooperation "to establish Mr. Browder's place of residence", but that no request for an international arrest order has been submitted.
Alexei Pouchkov, head of the foreign affairs council in the Duma, denounced Interpol's decision, calling it political.
"I think Interpol has been subject to pressure from influential circles," he was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.
Browder is the founder of the Hermitage Capital hedge fund where Magnitsky worked when he went public with details of massive fraud by state officials. Shortly afterwards Magnitsky himself was charged with tax evasion.
Magnitsky died in detention after having spent 11 months on remand in squalid prisons and is currently on a controversial posthumous trial.
Browder is also being tried in absentia for tax evasion.
A statement from Hermitage Capital welcomed Interpol's decision, saying it was "a clear sign that a deeply corrupt regime will not be allowed to freely persecute whistle-blowers who have exposed it".
It also said that thanks to Interpol's action on the request, it helps prevent "Russian authorities seeking to 'locate' Mr. Browder in order to detain him on a Russian arrest warrant".
Last month, a Moscow court issued an international arrest warrant for Browder on accusations that he had illegally acquired stock in energy giant Gazprom.
According to Stroukov, Russia has not yet asked Interpol to approve a request to issue an international arrest warrant for Browder.
He successfully campaigned for the United States to adopt a law placing sanctions on Russian officials deemed to have been implicated in Magnitsky's death.
The law was passed last year, triggering a diplomatic row with Moscow which then answered by banning US adoptions of Russian children.
© 2013 AFP