British investor and passionate Kremlin critic, Bill Browder, already sentenced in absentia in Russia for large-scale fraud, has been accused of organizing a criminal network, with a Moscow court sanctioning his arrest.
The court indicted Browder on Friday, ordering the man to be taken into custody for a period of two months from the moment of his extradition to Russia or his arrest in the country.
The controversial businessman is accused of organizing a criminal network, with the investigation already putting him on an international wanted list.
The new case against Browder was launched in November. The Russian Prosecutor General’s Office said that the British entrepreneur created a criminal network in 1997 with the aim of “committing grievous economic crimes, including tax evasion, embezzlement of budget fund in Russia and legalization of criminally obtained income.”
The damage to the Russian budget from the operations of the criminal network is estimated at 10.5 billion rubles ($150 million).
Defending the head of the Hermitage Capital Management fund, his legal team said it will appeal against the decision to arrest their client in absentia.
Lawyer Aleksandr Antipov called the ruling “flawed from the legal point of view” because Browder hasn’t been notified about the initiation of a criminal case against him or about the investigator’s request to arrest him.
Browder used to be the biggest foreign investor in Russia in 1990s and early 2000s, but turned fugitive after massive violations by him were uncovered.
READ MORE: ‘Skripal, Hague!’ Browder full of ideas about why Russia suspects him of ordering Magnitsky’s death
The US-born British businessman became Western media darling after Russian lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, died in pre-trial detention in Moscow, while being investigated in connection to the Browder case.
He blamed the Kremlin for the death and lobbied the adoption of the infamous Magnitsky Act in 2012, which allowed the US to sanction numerous Russian officials and businessmen over alleged human rights violations.
However, Russian investigators stated that it was “highly likely” that Browder was the one, who actually ordered the killing of Magnitsky in 2009. There were grounds to believe that the ill-fated attorney and three other people, who were aware of fraudster’s activities and mysteriously died as the probe against him unfolded, were poisoned by a rare water-soluble compound of aluminum.
Browder has already been sentenced for nine years of prison in absentia in Russia after being found guilty of tax fraud in 2013 and 2017. However, all attempts by Moscow to achieve the 54-year-old’s extradition have been in vain. Several warrants against Browder were filed with Interpol. He was even detained in Spain last May, but swiftly released.
The UK law enforcement agencies also seized “any forms of cooperation” with Russia in investigating Browder. “We can’t get any papers or replies to our requests” from the UK, a prosecutor said in court on Friday.
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