Russia Seeks Arrest Of Hermitage Founder

Apr 19 2013 | 12:17pm ET

Russian prosecutors have sought an international arrest warrant for hedge fund manager William Browder, who has accused the Russian government of corruption.

Browder, an American-born British citizen, has been barred from Russia since 2006. Now, the country, which first accused him and his hedge fund, Hermitage Capital Management, of tax evasion years ago, wants him back to face those charges.

The move comes as Russia continues its first-ever posthumous criminal trial, against Hermitage lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Moscow jail in 2009. Browder and human-rights activists have said that Magnitsky was tortured to death.

Prosecutors have separated Browder's case from Magnitsky's. But they'll have to wait a bit long for their warrant: A court refused to issue it, saying that not enough has been done to notify Browder that he is wanted in Russia. A new hearing on Browder's arrest in absentia is set for next week.

The attempt to seek Browder's arrest abroad comes after a partially successful campaign on Browder's part to have Russian officials linked with the case against Magnitsky barred from the U.S. and Western Europe, and to have their assets in those countries frozen.

"President Putin treats the law and the truth like a child in a sandbox," a spokesman for London-based Hermitage said. "There is no law; he thinks he can do whatever he wants."

The latest effort is the second made by Russian officials to seek Browder's arrest abroad. In 2009, shortly before Magnitsky's death, they asked Interpol to place Browder on its international wanted list.

Hermitage, once the largest foreign investor in Russia, last month moved to close its former flagship fund focused on the country. That fund has seen its assets fall from US$4 billion to US$60 million, the Financial Times reports.

"The Hermitage Fund was at a size that no longer made it a viable entity," Browder told the FT.

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