In absentia, billionaire Bill Browder is sentenced to more Russian prison time
For the second time, a Russian court has convicted Bill Browder of a felony, sentencing him once again in absentia to nine years in prison and fining him 200,000 rubles ($3,500) for premeditated bankruptcy that supposedly caused more than 3.5 billion rubles ($60.5 million) in damages. The court also sentenced in absentia Ivan Cherkasov, Browder’s business partner, to eight years in prison and fined him the same amount.
Additionally, the court granted a civil claim brought by three branches of the Federal Tax Service, ordering the collection of 4.2 billion rubles ($72.6 million)from Browder and Cherkasov.
According to prosecutors, the two defendants avoided paying taxes on several companies in 1996 and then intentionally drove them to bankruptcy. Russian prosecutors say they will make another effort to force Browder’s arrest abroad by appealing to Interpol.
A British citizen, Browder is the founder of Hermitage Capital and was one of Russia’s biggest foreign investors beginning in the mid-1990s. Sergey Magnitsky, a lawyer working for Hermitage Capital, uncovered a massive 5.4-billion-ruble ($93.3-million) embezzlement scheme involving Russian police officers. Magnitsky was subsequently arrested on charges of facilitating Hermitage Capital’s supposed tax evasion, and in 2009 he died in pretrial detainment.
Since Magnitsky’s death, Browder has lobbied governments in the U.S., Canada, and Europe to pass “Magnitsky Acts” imposing sanctions on human rights abusers generally and Russian officials tied to the death of his lawyer specifically.
In 2013, a Russian court convicted Browder in absentia of fraud and avoiding more than 522 million rubles ($9 million) in taxes, sentencing him to nine years in prison.