A court in Moscow has sentenced Hermitage Capital head William Browder to nine years in prison in absentia after finding him guilty of deliberate bankruptcy and tax evasion.
Browder, who has led a global push for sanctions against Russian officials implicated in the death of imprisoned Russian whistle-blower Sergei Magnitsky, also was fined 200,000 rubles (about $3,500) and banned from conducting business activities in Russia for three years.
Browder’s co-defendant, Ivan Cherkasov, received an eight-year prison term in absentia.
In a separate civil lawsuit, the Tver district court also ordered authorities to seize 4.3 billion rubles (about $75 million) in assets from Browder and Cherkasov as compensation for losses that prosecutors say were sustained by the Russian state.
Lawyers for Browder and Cherkasov said they will appeal the court's rulings.
Both Browder and Cherkasov now live in the United Kingdom.
Browder has repeatedly dismissed allegations against him as baseless, politically motivated, and revenge for his work to encourage countries to pass legislation similiar to the U.S. Magnitsky Act, a 2012 law that imposed visa bans and asset freezes on Russians alleged to be involved in the death of whistle-blowing accountant Magnitsky.
In a Twitter posting on December 29, Browder wrote that Russian President Vladimir Putin "is so mad at me. After I got 5 countries to implement Magnitsky sanctions, today a Russian court sentenced me to 9 years in prison. Prosecutor announced a 6th application to Interpol to have me arrested and extradited to Russia."
"Russia is applying to Interpol for the 6th time for my arrest after the previous 5 requests were rejected as illegitimate and political. It's time for Interpol to suspend Russia’s membership for flagrant abuse of the Interpol system," he added in a following tweet.
The British government has rejected Russian requests for his arrest and extradition.
Browder, who founded Hermitage Capital, was Russia’s largest portfolio investor until he fled the country in 2005.
Russia's government has applied pressure on Browder in an international campaign challenging the U.S. Magnitsky Act.
Russia’s government has applied pressure on Browder in an international campaign challenging the U.S. Magnitsky Act, a 2012 law that imposed visa bans and asset freezes on Russians alleged to be involved in the death of whistle-blowing accountant Magnitsky.
Magnitsky, who worked for Browder, accused Russian law enforcement and tax officials of a massive tax fraud scheme prior to his November 2009 death in a notorious Moscow jail.
Magnitsky’s family and friends say he was tortured, beaten, and denied critical medical treatment shortly before he died.
In 2013, a Moscow court tried Browder in absentia and tried Magnitsky posthumously on tax evasion charges.
Browder was then found guilty and sentenced to nine years in absentia.
Magnitsky was found guilty of tax evasion posthumously.
With reporting by AP, Rapsinews, and Interfax