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Moscow court rules Browder’s arrest in absentia legal

The court has thus rejected an appeal by the counsel for the defense

MOSCOW, March 22. /TASS/. The Moscow City Court has recognized as legal the arrest in absentia of Hermitage Capital founder Willian Browder and his business partner Ivan Cherkasov in the case of tax evasion and premeditated bankruptcy, a TASS correspondent reports from the courtroom.

The court has thus rejected an appeal by the counsel for the defense.

As Browder’s lawyer Alexander Antipov said on Wednesday, Russian investigators have completed a probe against Browder and Cherkasov.

"The investigation of the case has been completed and the relevant resolution has been passed. The counsel for the defense is getting acquainted with the case files. In the final version of accusations, Browder is charged with tax evasion, premediated bankruptcy and an attempt to skip the fulfillment of a tax agent’s duties," Antipov said.

This case has been detached from the general proceedings, in which Browder was earlier convicted in absentia together with Hermitage Capital lawyer Sergei Magnitsky who later died in a pre-trial detention center.

As the counsel for the defense said, the final sum of damage Browder and Cherkasov are accused of equals 3.5 billion rubles ($60 million at the current exchange rate). After the attorney gets acquainted with the case files, the case will be transferred to the prosecutor’s office for the approval of an indictment and its subsequent delivery to a court of law.

Moscow’s Tverskoi Court is the likely panel of competent jurisdiction to hear the Browder case. If the UK authorities refuse to extradite Browder and Cherkasov, their case will be heard in absentia.

Browder was earlier arrested twice in absentia in Russia: in June 2013, after which the UK refused to extradite him, and then Moscow’s Tverskoi Court passed a similar decision on his arrest in absentia.

Russian investigators have turned to a court of law with a request for Browder’s arrest as part of a probe into the illegal purchase of Gazprom’s stock, despite a ban on such operations for foreign companies.

The investigation believes that Browder purchased the shares to put pressure on Russia’s gas monopoly. He illegally acquired a package of Gazprom shares and sent demands to the gas giant to alter its charter and change the composition of its auditing commission, the management board and the board of directors.

Browder also nominated himself to the Gazprom board of directors and his partner to the company’s auditing commission.