The CCF’s Decision
According to a press release issued by the William Browder camp today, INTERPOL has decided -again- to reject Russia’s request to list him as a wanted suspect in INTERPOL’s databases. This means that the CCF (Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’S Files) considered Russia’s request to have Mr. Browder listed as an internationally wanted fugitive in INTERPOL’s databases, and the CCF said no. This is the third denial of a Browder-based request by Russia, and is hopefully the last.
INTERPOL has not yet published a statement about its decision, but given the high level of publicity of this case and INTERPOL’s decision to speak publicly in the past regarding the case, a forthcoming statement seems likely.
Mr. Browder’s Case
Mr. Browder’s case is by now very well-known in the international community and has been the subject of extensive media coverage as well as national legisltation in both the United States, which passed the Sergei Magnitsky Act, and in Russia, which passed the retaliatory Dima Yakovlev law.
The case has all the makings of a best-selling thriller: international politics, money, power, intimidation, corruption, and violence. If only it were just a novel. Tragically, Mr. Browder and his former attorney, Sergei Magnitsky, personally suffered through every detail of this case, with Mr. Magnisky paying the ultimate price for his role: his life. Mr. Magnistky’s involvement began when he acted as a whistleblower and reported a tax scam to Russian authorities. He was later arrested, detained, and charged with fraud; he died under mysterious circumstances nine months later.
In response to his lawyer’s death, Mr. Browder brought the full and considerable weight of his influence down against Russian authorities and individuals in every possible way, chief among which was his effective lobbying of the U.S. Congress to pass legislation condemnig the acts of those believed to have been assiociated with Mr. Magnistky’s death. The effect of the Act was to prohibit those individuals from entering the United States and from using the U.S. banking system.
Mr. Browder was then charged with tax evasion and fraud by Russian officials; shortly thereafter, Russia began a relentless campaign to use INTERPOL in its efforts to capture Mr. Browder.
What the decision says about the CCF’s process and independence
Russian officials, including President Putin, reportedly went to great lengths to obtain a Red Notice against Mr. Browder. After the CCF accepted the case for consideration for a third time, President Putin met with past Secretary General Ronald Noble this past October. INTERPOL characterized the meeting as an effort to focus on areas where collaboration must continue between INTERPOL and its member countries, though it seemed impossible to resist speculating that Putin would attempt to engage in lobbying efforts about Mr. Browder’s case. Additionally, the Browder press release alleges that Russia attempted to influence the CCF’s position by lobbying for sympathetic INTERPOL member countries to be appointed to the Executive Committee, as well as by appealing to INTERPOL to have re-opened the case in the first place.
The CCF is publicly represented as the independent review body of INTERPOL. From my experience, the CCF does jealously guard its independence. Clients who have come to me with stories of well-connected and influential contacts who have attempted to intervene in Red Notice cases generally, and politely, have been told by the CCF to follow the CCF’s rules when seeking relief. This has been true for ambassadors, former heads of state, current legislators, and the like. Nonetheless, INTERPOL’s decision to re-consider this case did give one pause.
On the issue of influence, any observers of President Putin and his efforts to achieve his goals must recognize that Russia’s efforts to obtain a Red Notice against Mr. Browder had to have been formidable.
And the CCF did not capitulate. Congratulations to the CCF for a job well done; and to Mr. Browder and his legal team for their perseverance.
Going forward: William Browder and other victims of corrupt INTERPOL member countries
In the next post, I’ll address the collateral toll taken on individuals who have been persecuted by corrupt INTERPOL member countries, and how a “regular Joe” might fare in circumstances that Mr. Browder has endured.
As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.