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Moscow accuses Bill Browder of poisoning Sergey Magnitsky, as Russia is expected to win Interpol's next presidency

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Drew Angerer / Getty Images / AFP / Scanpix / LETA

The Russian Attorney General’s Office announced on Monday that it is investigating financier and economist Bill Browder as a suspect in the death of Sergey Magnitsky, who died in November 2009, after 11 months in pretrial detention. Russian officials believe Magnitsky and several other “Browder criminal associates” might have been poisoned secretly with certain “chemicals containing aluminum compounds.” Prosecutors say Oleg Lurye, a journalist imprisoned on extortion charges who shared a pretrial detention cell with Magnitsky, apparently endorses their theory.

The Attorney General’s Office is also accusing Browder of involvement in the deaths of businessman and whistle-blower Alexander Perepilichny and three men Russian officials claim helped Browder “facilitate tax fraud and help transfer the proceeds to a network of global bank accounts,” according to The Guardian: Octai Gasanov, Valery Kurochkin, Sergey Korobeinikov.

In an effort to add Browder to international wanted lists and seize his assets abroad, Moscow has opened an organized crime case against him, arguing that companies in Cyprus, Latvia, and Switzerland have been created to cash and launder hundreds of millions of dollars for Browder.

The allegations against Browder come as the Interpol General Assembly is meeting in Dubai, where Russian Interior Ministry official and Interpol Vice-Chair for Europe Alexander Prokopchuk is expected to be elected the organization’s new president.

In a recent op-ed for Forbes, conservative think tank Heritage Foundation senior research fellow Ted Bromund said, “There is literally no one in the world who bears a more direct and personal responsibility for Russia’s abuse of Interpol than Alexander Prokopchuk.” According to Bromund, “The only possible explanation for this, if it comes to pass, is that a majority of those nations agree with Russia and China that Interpol is an instrument of power, not of law. In other words, they accept and welcome the abuse of Interpol because they abuse it, or plan to abuse it, themselves.” In his article, Bromund argues that Western democracies should consider leaving Interpol, if Prokopchuk is elected.

Sergey Magnitsky, a lawyer working for Browder’s investment fund and asset management company, Hermitage Capital Management, uncovered a massive scheme by Russian law enforcement agents to steal 5.4 billion rubles (more than $81.9 million today). As a result, he was arrested on controversial tax evasion charges and subsequently died in pretrial detention.

Russian courts have twice sentenced Bill Browder in absentia to nine years in prison for fraud, tax evasion, and deliberate bankruptcy. Browder says he’s being persecuted because he helped uncover the theft of government funds by high-ranking state officials. While visiting Spain in May 2018, Browder was arrested by local police on a Russian Interpol warrant and transferred to an undisclosed Spanish police station. Two hours later, however, he was released, after Interpol’s general secretary advised Spain not to honor the Russian arrest warrant. Browder said this was the sixth time Russia had “abused” Interpol in his case.

Update: Bill Browder announced on November 19 that he and former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky will hold a press conference at noon in London the following day to discuss Alexander Prokopchuk's candidacy for Interpol's presidency. “Bill Browder and Mikhail Khodorkovsky feel it necessary to discuss the negative implications for freedom fighters and democracy activists worldwide, should Alexander Prokopchuk be elected to the head of the Interpol,” says a statement posted on Khodorkovsky's website.