Interpol this week rejected Russia’s 'all points bulletin' for William Browder, who's leading a global campaign against those responsible for the torture and death of Russian whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky.
Entries in Hermitage Capital Management (10)
The Anti-Terrorist Department (Department 'T') of the Russian Interior Ministry is trying to arrest the American-born head of Hermitage Capital, William Browder, who has conducted a successful global campaign to sanction those involved with the jailing and death of his lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky.
William Browder, left, the American-born head of London-based Hermitage Capital Management, told Dutch lawmakers last week about developments in the Magnitsky case and the breakdown of the rule of law in Russia, according to a statement issued by Hermitage.
The Russian General Prosecutor’s Office is moving forward with plans to bring a criminal case against lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in 2009 after spending a year in police custody.
Members of the U.K. parliament are trying to force the government there to publicly disclose the names of human rights abusers who have been denied entry into the country.
Hermitage Capital Management was the biggest foreign investor in Russia. Then in 2005, it all went wrong. CEO William Browder was banned from the country on what he says was a pretext. Two years later, 50 police officers from the Moscow Interior Ministry raided Hermitage's offices and those of its lawyers. The police took corporate documents and seals. Those same instruments were allegedly used in 2008 to fraudulently obtain $230 million that the Hermitage Fund companies had paid in taxes two years earlier.
In a YouTube video posted last year, Browder accused officials of complicity in the looting of his fund's assets. He also wrote about the November 16, 2009 death of his lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, in a Moscow pre-trial detention center. The story appeared last December in Foreign Policy Magazine.
Magnitsky was one of the few lawyers connected with Hermitage who didn't leave Russia or go into hiding. Instead, after discovering the apparent massive tax fraud, he fought. That landed him in jail. Eleven months later, after being deinied family visits and medical care, he died in custody at age 37. His jailers first said he ruptured his abdominal membrane; then they said it was a heart attack. Officials refused his family's requests for an independent autopsy.
The more Sergei complained, the more the pressure increased. He was moved to cells where sewage would spew up from the hole in the floor that served as the toilet. He was put in cells with no glass in the windows to protect the inmates from the frigid Russian weather. The prison authorities denied him any opportunity to shower, or simply access hot water. Worst of all they denied him any visits from his wife or mother, or even the possibility to speak to his two young children on the telephone for the 11 months he was in detention, which must have been truly heartbreaking for a man so committed to his family.
Now collegues and friends of Magnitsky have produced a video about his death. We heard directly from one of them. They believe they're in danger and we won't disclose identities. But the man who contacted us explained the idea behind the video:
Information about the officers [who accused and arrested Sergei] started coming in shortly after Sergei's death from all over the place. Much of the information came from people I had never heard of but who had had bad run-ins with the same officers. So a group of people who knew Sergei got the idea of doing a movie like Browder had done for Hermitage a year earlier. . . We had people on the streets of Moscow photographing apartment buildings, we had people checking documents to see if info was genuine. . . .
Then when the first two movies were finished we realized that there was just far too much info for movies and we needed to create a website to tell the whole story and to put all the documents related to Sergei's case, the budget thefts he discovered, and the officer's illicit wealth and past crimes on-line where everyone could see them.
As for just who all these people [who helped create the video] are, I can't name names. I promised everyone who contributed to this effort that I would not name the people helping. At some point some of these people may choose to come forward.
What led to the mysterious death of anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, left, in a Moscow pre-trial detention center? And what's happened since then? His client talks to the Global Graft Report here.
A Russian lawyer who fought against the alleged $230 million looting of a foreign-owned investment fund by police officials, bankers, judges and lawyers has died in a Moscow jail after being held a year without trial. London-based Hermitage Capital Management said in a press release that Sergey Magnitskiy, 37, died on November 16. He was arrested in November 2008 shortly after giving formal testimony "naming officers of the Interior Ministry and their role in the seizure of Hermitage Fund" assets. The release said he was arrested by the same Interior Ministry officers named in his testimony.
Magnitskiy died in Moscow's Matrosskaya Tishina pre-trial detention center. During the past year, he was moved between four detention centers, the release said, and not allowed contact with his family. In September this year, he sent a 40-page complaint to the public prosecutor. It described his worsening health and lack of medical attention. The release said lawyers representing Magnitskiy were told by authorities he died of a rupture to the abdominal membrane. The VOA said,
Magnitsky developed problems with his pancreas and gall bladder as a result of what his American business associate, Jamison Firestone, described to VOA as filthy prison conditions. They included a tiny cell with two other people, no hot water, a shower once a week, and a kitchen above a hole in the floor that served as a toilet.
Hermitage Capital Management was once the largest foreign investor in the Russian stock market. Its Russian assets were allegedly looted after its U.S.-born chief executive, William F. Browder, was expelled from the country in 2005 by the Interior Ministry on what Browder claimed was a trumped-up tax charge.
Russia ranked 146 on the 2009 Corruption Perception Index, tied with Cameroon, Ecuador, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Timor-Leste, Ukraine, and Zimbabwe.
See our prior post about Hermitage here.
Hermitage Capital Management, once the largest foreign investor in the Russian stock market, has accused police officials, bankers, judges and lawyers of working with gangsters to steal $230 million from the company and using its documents to obtain another $230 million from the Russian treasury through fraudulent tax refunds. Hermitage's latest complaint, according to the Washington Post, accused "several bureaucrats in two Moscow tax agencies of involvement in the crimes and lists more than 30 suspicious tax refunds issued by the agencies between 2006 and 2008, as well as the account numbers of the recipients."
The paper said criminals seized control of Hermitage's Russian assets after its U.S.-born chief executive, William F. Browder, was expelled from the country in 2005. The Interior Ministry said it acted against Hermitage because of financial crimes and wants to charge Browder with tax violations.
Browder, meanwhile, has posted a video on YouTube in English and Russian that accuses authorities of complicity and active involvement in the theft and fraud. In the video, he says officials raided the Russian offices of Hermitage and those of its Moscow lawyers on a pretext and seized all of the company's official documents, seals and accounting records. The items were then used by convicted criminals and others to gain control over the company's assets and later pull off the tax fraud, Browder said.
A story posted by Hermitage (here) described Browder as an activist fund manager who conducted a campaign that "exposed widespread theft and corruption at Gazprom," Russia's biggest company that was formed from the former Ministry of Gas Industry of the Soviet Union. Browder was unable to renew his visa despite help from Jack Straw, the former British Foreign Secretary, and the European Commission. The report also said:
Mr. Browder met Dmitry Medvedev . . . at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2007 and requested his assistance in renewing his visa. A month later, Hermitage received a call from Lieutenant Colonel Kuznetsov [from the Russian Interior Ministry], indicating that he was aware of Mr. Browder's visa difficulty. According to Hermitage, the Interior Ministry officer sought a meeting at Hermitage offices. He said: "My answer will depend upon how you behave, what you provide ... the sooner we meet and you provide what is necessary, the sooner your problems will disappear."
According to its website, Hermitage Capital Management was founded in 1996 by William Browder and the late private-banker extraordinaire, Edmond Safra. Hermitage, headquartered in London, says its clients include "international financial institutions, corporations, pension funds, public endowments, investment advisors, family offices and high net-worth individuals."
President Medvedev, 45, has often promised to fight corruption. Russia ranks a lowly 147th on the Corruption Perception Index, tied with Bangladesh, Kenya, and Syria. Like his American counterpart, Medvedev is a former law professor. His Kremlin bio says he graduated from the Faculty of Law at Leningrad State University in 1987 and completed his PhD there. He then taught law as an associate professor at St. Petersburg State University from 1990 until 1999.