Hermitage Capital accused investigators of a political crackdown on its management, saying the officials ordered the fund’s head to arrive in Moscow from London for questioning in a mere 11 hours.
The interrogation is a clumsy attempt at creating a pretext for issuing an arrest warrant for Hermitage head William Browder, the fund said in a letter released online Monday.
Browder was banned from entering Russia in 2005 on unexplained “security grounds,” which means he could not travel to Moscow for questioning, said the letter, which is dated Sunday and addressed to top officials, including Kremlin chief of staff Sergei Naryshkin, Prosecutor General Yury Chaika and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Moreover, Browder was given less than half a day to arrive for the first round of questioning, the letter said. Interior Ministry spokeswoman Irina Dudukina said Thursday that failure to attend the interrogation may result in an arrest warrant for Browder.
Browder was earlier placed on an international wanted list over a tax evasion case. He claims the case is revenge from officials involved in a $230 million tax fraud that Hermitage was trying to expose.
Browder’s colleague Sergei Magnitsky was arrested over the same case in 2008 and died from health problems 11 months later in detention. Hermitage claims Magnitsky was intentionally denied medical help as a form of pressure.
Dudukina denied Hermitage’s accusations on Monday, saying there are no visa restrictions in place for Browder, Interfax reported. She added that investigators discussed the matter of Browder’s interrogation with his lawyers Monday, but refused to elaborate.