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Spanish police release Bill Browder after red notice detention

A British critic of Russian president Vladimir Putin was detained by Spanish police Wednesday on an international arrest warrant that Russia requested through Interpol.

Financier Bill Browder tweeted that police in Madrid released him after Interpol’s general secretary in Lyon, France, instructed Spanish police not to honor Russia’s arrest request. 

He was held for about an hour. He later returned to London.

American-born Browder founded UK-based Hermitage Capital Management. It was once the biggest foreign investor in Russia.

He led a global campaign for sanctions against those responsible for the death of Sergei Magnitsky, Hermitage’s Russian lawyer.

Magnitsky died under suspicious circumstances in a Moscow prison after uncovering a $230 million tax fraud.

The United States adopted the Magnitsky Act in 2012, later expanded as the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.

Among those sanctioned under the Magnitsky Act are Russian officials and alleged mobsters responsible for Magnitsky’s death or involved in efforts to cover it up. Sanctions include U.S. travel bans and asset freezes.

The UK and Canada, and at least three other countries, have enacted versions of the Magnitsky Act.

Russia put Browder on trial in absentia in 2013 for tax evasion. A court in Moscow found him guilty and imposed a sentence of nine years in prison and a $48 million fine.

His lawyers have appealed.

Browder said Wednesday he was in Spain to give evidence to “Spanish anti-Russia mafia prosecutor Jose Grinda about the huge amount of money from the Magnitsky case that flowed to Spain.”

Interpol — the International Criminal Police Organization — isn’t a police force. It’s an information clearing house that promotes international police cooperation.

Interpol members (all countries except North Korea) have the right to ask other members to detain and extradite a wanted individual. The requests are called red notices.

Interpol grants most red notice requests within hours.

Browder and others have accused Russia and Putin of abusing red notices to harass and punish political enemies.

On Twitter, Browder said Russia has requested six red notices against him and the requests are still open.

“Interpol is incapable of stopping Russian abuse of their systems,” Browder said.

Interpol’s neutrality is supposedly guaranteed by Article 3 of its constitution. It explicitly forbids Interpol “from engaging in matters of political, military, religious, and racial character.”

Browder has called for Interpol to suspend Russia for abusing the red notice system.

He wrote a bestseller, Red Notice, about his struggle against Putin’s government.


Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog.

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