A criminal case against the head of the British hedge fund Hermitage Capital, William Browder, accused of tax evasion, may soon be closed, the Russian Kommersant business daily said on Monday.
Kommersant said that the documents on Browder’s case were sent to the head police department of Moscow’s central administrative district and Browder was removed from the international wanted list.
These changes are believed to be linked with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s order to look into the case against Sergei Magnitsky, Hermitage Capital’s lawyer who had died nine months after being placed in pre-trial detention in 2008.
Magnitsky was held on remand in 2008 on tax evasion charges after attempting to defend Hermitage Capital, once Russia’s top foreign investor, against the same charges.
Magnitsky accused Russian tax and Interior Ministry officials of using Hermitage to carry out a $230-million tax fraud. He died aged 37 from acute heart failure after 11 months in a Moscow pre-trial detention facility.
The Russian Investigative Committee has failed to file formal tax evasion charges against Browder because he did not show up for questioning on May 12.
Kommersant said that that Browder’s tax evasion case expires at the end of the year and is unlikely to be reviewed before a court.
U.S.-born Browder, who is a British citizen, has been accused by the Russian authorities of underpaying more than two billion rubles ($72 million) in back taxes.
He was once one of the most successful Western portfolio investors in Moscow but was banned from Russia in 2005, ostensibly for national security reasons, and now lives in Britain.
Hermitage Capital’s spokesperson told Kommersant that it did not matter whether the case was opened or closed, the main goal is to find and bring to justice all those responsible for Magnitsky’s death.
According to the investigation, Hermitage Capital established dummy firms in Russia’s Republic of Kalmykia in the late 1990s to trade shares in Russian energy giant Gazprom.