27 Nov 2020
High-profile Kremlin critic and investor Bill Browder has threatened Credit Suisse and UBS with legal action for breaching US sanctions if they unfreeze accounts belonging to three Russian clients accused of a huge tax fraud against his investment company.
The two Swiss banks hold assets worth more than $24m, which Mr Browder says were gained from fraud perpetrated in Russia against his investment business, Hermitage Capital, in 2007.
The banks and their “officers and employees” will be open to “civil and criminal penalties in the United States, as well as to civil actions by third parties with an interest in this matter” if they release any money from the accounts concerned, Hermitage wrote on behalf of Mr Browder in letters seen by the Financial Times.
The Hermitage fraud became an international cause célèbre after the death in custody of Mr Browder’s lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky.
Mr Browder has been a tireless campaigner against the Russian government ever since, and a sponsor of sanctions legislation in the US and Europe aimed at punishing corrupt Russian officials and targeting the financial institutions and networks they use.
In 2012, the US passed the “Magnitsky Act”, which targets the international assets of people involved in human rights abuses and bans them from entering the US.
In a controversial decision last week, Switzerland’s federal prosecutor dropped all ongoing investigations into three Russians allegedly connected with the fraud against Hermitage — Denis Katsyv, Dmitry Klyuev and Vladlen Stepanov — who Mr Browder accuses of having spirited away millions to accounts Switzerland. The men argue that the money is unconnected to Hermitage and have rejected Mr Browder’s allegations.
By Sam Jones, Financial Times, 25 November 2020
Read more at the Financial Times
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