The British press reported over the weekend that a Russian interior ministry official could become the next leader of Interpol, despite concerns that the Putin regime has abused the agency to target political opponents.
Reports said Major General Alexander Prokopchuk is likely to replace former Interpol president, Hongwei Meng
Meng was arrested last month in China for alleged corruption. He had served two years of his four-year term.
Prokopchuk currently heads the Russian Interior Ministry’s National Central Bureau of Interpol. He has also served as the vice president of Interpol, the first Russian to hold the post.
Paris-based Interpol — the International Criminal Police Organization — isn’t a police force. It’s an information clearing house that promotes international police cooperation.
The agency is best known for its red notices — requests by Interpol members (all countries except North Korea) for other members to detain and extradite a wanted individual.
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.”
But critics say Russia has used red notices for years to target political opponents.
Those critics include Bill Browder, the American-born head of London-based Hermitage Capital Management.
Browder says Russia has requested seven red notices against him. Courts in Europe have rejected the red notices, ruling they were politically motivated.
Browder campaigned for sanctions against Russian officials responsible for the torture and death of Sergei Magnitsky, Hermitage’s lawyer in Moscow.
Browder’s efforts led to enactment in the United States of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.
The State Department has used the Magnitsky law to block visas and freeze assets of scores of Russian officials and others linked to “serious human rights abuse and corruption.”
Browder wants Interpol to suspend Russia for abusing the red notice system.
Saturday he tweeted a warning about a Russian “takeover” of the agency.
Russian tipped to take over Interpol in Kremlin victory. This is absolutely astonishing, but not without precedent. Nazi Germany took over Interpol in the 1930’s. https://t.co/Z7R9m0Wvst
— Bill Browder (@Billbrowder) November 17, 2018
The Financial Times reported Monday that Russian prosecutors had brought new money-laundering charges against Browder. In the past, Moscow has accused him of tax offenses and other financial crimes.
The prosecutor, Nikolai Atmonyev, “vowed that Russia had the right to arrest Mr. Browder in any country despite years of previous failures to do so.”
Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog.