Russia puts British Putin critic on Interpol wanted list
Russia has placed a prominent British businessman on the Interpol wanted list. President Vladimir Putin is understood to have sanctioned the move against Bill Browder, who has led an international campaign against Russia over the killing of the jailed Moscow lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky.
On Wednesday Canada became the latest country to pass a “Magnitsky Act”, targeting officials “who have committed gross violations” of human rights. The move infuriated Putin, who accused Canada of playing “unconstructive political games” and later name-checked Browder for pursuing what the Russian president described as “illegal activity”.
On Saturday it emerged that Russia had placed the US-born British citizen on Interpol’s list, exploiting a loophole that lets countries unilaterally place individuals on its database used to request an arrest. Browder said he was alerted to the move by an email from the US department of homeland security, stating his “global entry status” had been revoked. Further calls confirmed he had been added to Interpol’s list via an arrest demand, known as a “diffusion”.
Moscow has a habit of using Interpol against its enemies and has previously used the global police organisation to pursue what many western governments view as a vendetta against Browder. Putin tried three times between 2012 and 2015 to get Interpol to issue arrest orders against Browder, but failed to convince the organisation that it did not have political motives.
The Council of Europe last year criticised Russian attempts to seek Browder’s arrest through Interpol, calling the efforts “abuses” of the system.
“Putin is so rattled by the spreading Magnitsky sanctions around the world that he’s ready to run roughshod over all rules and western norms,” Browder told the Observer. He has been battling the Russian government for over a decade, alleging that Russian law enforcement stole £174m, which his company had paid in taxes. Magnitsky died in Russian custody in 2009 amid allegations he had been tortured after uncovering a huge fraud that implicated government officials. His death prompted Browder to work with the US Congress to pass the Magnitsky Act, which levied targeted sanctions against powerful players in Russia.
Based in France and involving 190 countries, Interpol describes its purpose as enabling “police around the world to work together to make the world a safer place’.”
Bill Browder, US-born British businessman and critic of President Vladimir Putin. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian