MOSCOW, March 16 (RAPSI) – The Moscow City Court has upheld the decision to extend until May the investigation of a case against Hermitage Capital Management CEO William Browder, who is suspected of Gazprom share embezzlement, RIA Novosti reported on Monday, citing his lawyer Alexander Averyanov.
The case was initiated in March 2013, when the Tverskoy City Court issued an arrest warrant in absentia for Browder, a UK national. The British authorities refused to extradite him to Russia.
The deadline for the investigation has been moved back several times since then, most recently until May 2015. Averyanov filed a motion to end this bureaucratic red tape, but the court rejected his motion and ruled in favor of investigators.
“The deadline has been extended to 25 months. I view this as procrastination,” the lawyer said.
The Russian authorities suspect Browder of illegally buying over 130 million Gazprom shares worth at least 2 billion rubles ($32.6 million at the current exchange rate) at a lower, intra-market price through a Russian company he controlled, Kameya LLC, which amounts to large financial loss for Russia.
Earlier, a Russian court sentenced Browder in absentia to nine years in a penal colony. The court found that in 1997-2002, Hermitage Capital auditor Sergei Magnitsky created and applied an illegal tax evasion scheme in the interests of Browder.
Magnitsky worked for Firestone Duncan and represented Hermitage Capital, which the Russian authorities accused of tax evasion. Magnitsky was arrested on fraud charges in November 2008 and found dead in a Moscow detention center in November 2009. The lawyer’s death provoked an international outcry.
In July 2013, Moscow’s Tverskoy District Court found Magnitsky guilty of tax evasion and closed the case due to his death. According to the case materials, Magnitsky’s and Hermitage Capital director William Browder’s actions cost Russia over 500 million rubles (over $8 million).