Browder case in Nicosia moves forward
Next month, the Nicosia District Court will consider a temporary injunction demand from financier Bill Browder’s lawyer that would prevent Cypriot authorities from acting on any legal request from Russia.
Browder, an American-born British financier and cofounder of Hermitage Capital Management - once the largest foreign portfolio investor in Russia, - is wanted by Moscow for tax fraud and for being a ‘threat to national security’.
He argues that the Russian authorities are out to get him because he has exposed widespread corruption at the very top, arguing their pursuit of him is politically motivated.
US attorney, Jonathan Winer, was in Nicosia this week in a move to prevent cooperation between Cyprus and Russian or the issuing of any warrant against Browder, arguing such moves were politically motivated.
The financier also wants to take Cyprus to task over what he sees is its cozy relationship with Russia.
Winer told the district court his client wants to submit a supplementary affidavit which will support Browder’s position that the offences for which Russia seeks assistance from Cyprus are political and his prosecution “derives exclusively from political motivation”.
In a written response to the move, Attorney General Costas Clerides objected to the request, arguing that it was “baseless, unlawful and irregular” with the sole purpose to delay proceedings.
In his sworn statement to the court, Clerides urged the judge to reject Browder’s request as “there is no good reason” to do otherwise, because there was “no merit or substantiated argument” given for the injunction to be granted.
But district court judge Ioannis Ioannides decided that Browder should be given the chance to state his case at a new hearing scheduled for 11 July.
The judge said Browder’s defence will now have to prove their argument that the; “relevant criminal investigations are of a political nature rather than genuine charges and primarily instigated to present Bill Browder as a common criminal rather than a human rights champion.”
Browder has filed a lawsuit against the Republic of Cyprus requesting compensation for damages for an alleged violation of his constitutional rights.
Due to the Browder case, Cypriot authorities suspended cooperation with Moscow which drew criticism from Russia last year.
“Such actions by our Cypriot partners are at odds with the level and nature of our bilateral and interstate relations, which are characterised by a high level of trust and mutual support, as illustrated by intensive political contacts at all levels, especially at the highest,” read a statement issued by the Russian foreign ministry in October.
Added to the mix of sensitive relations with Russia, a senior state attorney faces disciplinary action over her ‘inappropriate relationship’ with Russian authorities on extradition cases
Leaked emails suggest that state attorney Eleni Loizidou offered information about the status of cases concerning Moscow’s requests for extradition of Russians or proposed ways to handle them for a favourable outcome.
These revelations came weeks after Russia criticised Nicosia for declining a Russian request for legal assistance in a probe against Browder who sought court action to block such help.
Politis newspaper, which leaked the emails, said that Loizidou’s email exchanges referred to the Browder case.
Last week the anti-corruption campaigner was arrested in Madrid by Spanish police with a Russian warrant but was later set free after a brief spell in custody.
Browder has led a campaign to expose corruption and punish Russian officials he blames for the 2009 death of his lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.
He wrote on Twitter that he was freed from custody in Madrid after the Interpol general secretary in Lyon had advised Spain not to honour the Russian arrest warrant. He said it was the sixth time Russia had “abused” Interpol in his case.
As head of the Hermitage Capital Management investment fund, Browder led a campaign to expose corruption and punish Russian officials he blames for the 2009 death of Magnitsky.
Magnitsky was imprisoned on charges widely considered to be false and died amid claims he was tortured.
He was arrested by the same police officers he implicated in a $230 mln tax fraud, with some of that money ($30 mln) allegedly laundered through Cyprus-based banks. Magnitsky Act His death prompted Browder to work with the US Congress to pass the Magnitsky Act, which levied targeted sanctions against powerful players in Russia much to the chagrin of President Vladimir Putin.
It was signed into law in 2012 by US President Barack Obama and sought to punish Russian human rights violators.
The Magnitsky Act returned to the headlines last year after it emerged that a lawyer supporting the Russian government’s position had met senior figures in Donald Trump’s US presidential campaign, including Trump’s son and son-in-law.
Russia placed Browder on the Interpol wanted list in 2017, in a scheme that lets countries unilaterally place individuals on the database used to request an arrest.
The Council of Europe has criticised Russia’s attempts to seek Browder’s arrest through Interpol, calling the efforts “abuses” of the system.