A Russian court has issued an arrest warrant for Bill Browder, the latest effort in a long-running campaign by Moscow to prosecute the British-American financier.
The December 21 order by the Tver district court came a month after Russian authorities announced that Browder was being charged in absentia with forming a "transnational criminal group." Officials also alleged he was involved in the death of whistle-blower Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow jail nearly a decade ago.
Despite the warrant and the new charges, it was unlikely Browder will be prosecuted in Russia. Browder spends most of his time in Britain, and has repeatedly fought efforts by Russia to use Interpol cooperation agreements to arrest him.
Browder's Russian lawyer, Aleksandr Antipov, said Browder had not been informed about either the new charge against him or the hearing.
Russian authorities have said they were investigating Browder for possible involvement in what they called "the fatal poisoning with a chemical" of Magnitsky and three other people, something Browder dismissed as baseless and "Kafkaesque."
The accusations are the latest chapter in the ongoing battle between the Kremlin and Browder, a U.S.-born Briton who was once the biggest foreign portfolio investor in Russia but fell afoul of the government and is now an outspoken foe of President Vladimir Putin.
Browder employed Magnitsky, who was arrested in 2008 after exposing a scheme in which mid-ranking Interior Ministry, tax service, and other officials were allegedly behind a $230 million tax fraud.
Magnitsky was later imprisoned, accused of helping to commit the fraud himself. He died in a Moscow jail in 2009 after what some of his supporters have said was treatment that amounted to torture.
Russian authorities, who admitted that the tax fraud took place, tried and convicted Magnitsky posthumously, and also alleged that it was Browder himself who perpetrated the fraud.
A Moscow court sentenced Browder in absentia to nine years in prison in December 2017 after convicting him of large-scale tax evasion.
Since Magnitsky's death, Browder has campaigned for laws in countries worldwide that are designed to punish those responsible for human rights abuses -- including the 2012 U.S. Magnitsky Act, which has infuriated the Kremlin.