Russia levied new charges against US-born investor and Kremlin critic Bill Browder, stepping up a quest that has gotten little traction in the West with a call to the US to investigate claims shareholders in his fund used illegal profits from Russia to fund contributions to the Democratic Party.
Once one of the country’s largest foreign fund managers, Browder has led a campaign to impose sanctions on alleged human-rights violators in Russia for more than a decade. Courts and governments in the US and Europe have repeatedly rejected past Kremlin calls to arrest him, dismissing the charges as politically motivated.
Russian prosecutors said on Monday they hope the administration of President Donald Trump will be more receptive.
“We really hope that the new leadership of the US Justice Department will adopt an impartial and legal approach to the activities of William Browder,” Alexander Kurennoi, a spokesman for the Prosecutor General’s Office, told reporters at a press conference.
“We’re talking about crimes that were committed by Browder and his associates, including in the US, where this caused losses for the state.’’
Prosecutors said investors in Browder’s Hermitage Capital fund donated almost $2 million to the Democratic Party from earnings that avoided US taxes. Browder is a citizen of the UK.
Trump Tower Echo
The allegations are the same as those made by a Kremlin-linked lawyer at a controversial 2016 meeting with top Trump campaign officials, including his oldest son Donald Trump Jr., that’s a key element of accusations that Russia helped to elect Trump as US president.
In July at a summit in Helsinki, President Vladimir Putin made what Trump hailed as an “incredible” offer. Putin said Russia would help the US investigate alleged Russian election meddling in return for the right to question a number of US citizens as well as Browder over an alleged $1.5 billion tax evasion. The White House later declined the request.
Browder has been a thorn in Putin’s side since successfully campaigning for sanctions under the so-called Magnitsky Law that punishes Russian officials for the 2009 jailhouse death of a tax account, Sergei Magnitsky. He was working working for Hermitage in Moscow and accused officials of a $230 million fraud.
Russia has issued new charges against Browder of leading an international criminal group and plans to renew efforts to seek his arrest, the prosecutor general’s office said.
“I really struck a nerve with the Magnitsky Act,” Browder, said on his Twitter account. “They will chase me down anywhere in the world.”