MOSCOW, March 5 (RIA Novosti) – Russian investigators said Tuesday they were probing the involvement of UK-based Hermitage Capital head William Browder in a scheme to “illegally purchase” Gazprom shares.
Interior Ministry official Mikhail Alexandrov said the probe would seek to determine the circumstances in which companies employing mainly foreign nationals and “managed by William Browder” had “illegally” purchased shares in state-owned energy giant Gazprom. Alexandrov added that investigators had already made the decision to bring charges against Browder, a US-born businessman who holds British citizenship.
The development comes less than a week before Browder and Hermitage Capital lawyer Sergei Magnitsky – who died under disputed circumstances in a Moscow jail in 2009 – are to be tried in Russia in a separate case on tax evasion charges.
Magnitsky’s family is boycotting the trial of the deceased lawyer, who was detained in November 2008 after alleging a massive tax embezzlement scheme by Russian officials, and Browder will be tried in absentia.
Browder’s spokespeople were not immediately available for comment.