Russia Update: Former Investigator Accuses Browder of Helping Opposition Leader Navalny’s Expose

December 11, 2015
Former Interior Ministry investigator Pavel Karpov. Photo by Sergei Kiselyev/Kommersant

Former Interior Ministry investigator Pavel Karpov, notorious from the case of jailed whistle-blower Sergei Magnitsky left to die in prison, has accused Hermitage Capital director William Browder of links to Navalny’s report published last week alleging corrupt practices by Prosecutor General Yury Chaika and his two sons.

Welcome to our column, Russia Update, where we will be closely following day-to-day developments in Russia, including the Russian government’s foreign and domestic policies.

The previous issue is here.

Recent Translations:
The Non-Hybrid War
Kashin Explains His ‘Letter to Leaders’ on ‘Fontanka Office’
TV Rain Interviews Volunteer Fighter Back from Donbass
‘I Was on Active Duty’: Interview with Captured GRU Officer Aleksandrov


Investigative Committee Issues Murder Charges Against Khodorkovsky Which He Denies, Saying They Are Retaliation for His Exposure of Law-Enforcers’ Corruption

Russian investigators plan to appeal next week to court with a demand to arrest Mikhail Khodorkovsky in absentia, reported, citing TASS which referenced an “informed source”.
As expected, today December 11, the Investigative Committee 
announced officially on its website that it was issuing charges related to murder and attempted murder against Khodorkovsky and will soon declare him “wanted,” reported.

(Note: The Interpreter is a project of the Institute for Modern Russia which is funded by Pavel Khodorkovsky, the son of Mikhail Khodorkovsky.)

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Former Russian Investigator Accuses Browder of Helping Opposition Leader Navalny’s Exposé of Law-Enforcers

Russia-watchers have been waiting to see what the response of the authorities might be to opposition leader Alexey Navalny’s sensational exposé of Russia’s top law enforcers in allegations of corruption.

Now former Interior Ministry investigator Pavel Karpov, notorious from the case of jailed whistle-blower Sergei Magnitsky who was left to die in prison in 2009, has accused Hermitage Capital director William Browder of links to Navalny’s report, Kommersant and RBC. ru report.

Karpov lost his contrived libel case against Browder in a British court in 2014 over the exposé of Magnitsky’s murder.

Translation: They asked ‘what will happen to Navalny over Chaika?” For now, there’s this. (Well, a three-year [sentence], minus).

Although Navalny and his staff drew the materials of their report from public real estate and court documents, Karpov claims in a statement to law-enforcement agencies that Navalny decided to publish his report detailing the lavish deals of Chaika’s two sons after Interior Ministry investigators conducted joint searches with Cypriot police regarding missing Gazprom shares valued at 5.4 billion rubles, said to be unlawfully taken out of Russia by a company Browder directed called Dal’nyaya Step’ (Distant Steppe). 

Kommersant said that in a statement to the press, Kira Yarmysh, press secretary for the Anti-Corruption Foundation, said Browder did not order their film on the prosecutor general and his family and “did not pass on the information which is publicized in it.”

“The commissioners of this film are the donors of our fund, and all the information is taken from open sources,” she said.

Kommersant says that after Navalny published his report, the Interior Ministry could not obtain documents from Cyprus on the case. 
In his appeal, Karpov said Navalny’s actions “were not aimed at establishing the objective circumstances and the battle against corruption.” He claimed that Navalny and Browder “operate on people’s consciousness and will, with the purpose of discrediting government representatives.”

As evidence for his claim, Karpov cites the “advertising and distribution” of the “Untouchables” videos published on Browder’s website, although the videos have been available for years and numerous human rights and opposition activists in Russia and abroad have circulated them (one on Karpov himself, for example, published in 2010, has 42,000 views).

Kommersant said according to its sources, a case was opened up this summer to investigate what was seen as the deliberate declaration of bankrupcy of Dalnyaya Step’ (Distant Steppe), founded and registered in June 1998 in Elista in Kalmykia, with Browder and his associate Ivan Cherkasov listed as general directors. Kommersant says the investigation believes Browder’s company was used to acquire 37.5 million shares in Gazprom in circumvention of a presidential degree banning such deals by foreigners before 2006. 

But now officials say when the company declared bankruptcy, the shares, said to be valued at 5.4 billion rubles or $78 million were missing from its balance sheet after the company was broken up and sold to a company named Business Capital, with the proceeds going to an offshore company named Serasus Investments Ltd. in Cyprus.

During the course of the investigation into Dalnyaya Step’, manager Aleksandr Dolzhenko was arrested and was claimed to have agreed to take no action, supposedly at Browder’s behest, on the return of Dalnyaya Step’s assets and deliberately ignored the requirements of Russian bankruptcy law. Said Kommersant:

The ex-manager partially acknowledged his guilt, believing in fact that he had committed an administrative error but not a criminal offense. In turn, the investigators call Dal’nyaya Step’ William Browder’s “Kashchey’s Egg,” since with its help he could either return money gained from the Gazprom shares or try to subrogate the bank through which they were taken out, which would lead to the freezing of the shares of HSBC in Russia.

Kommersant said HSBC had no comment on the matter.

Kashchey the Deathless is a figure from Russian fairy tales used to evoke complexity and invincibility because his soul is hidden separate from his body inside a needle within an egg in turn nested in a series of creatures inside a chest buried under an oak tree in the ocean.

Kommersant reports that Hermitage’s Cypriot office was searched on December 1 by local police, working alongside two Russian investigators – Sergei Petryashov and Artyom Ranchenkov. Ranchenkov is the very same investigator who blocked Magnitsky’s mother from pursuing an investigation into his death. During the search, correspondence was seized which could shed more light on the fate of the Gazprom shares. But after the publication of Navalny’s report, Cyprus did not turn over a single one of the documents.

At the time, Browder made a press statement covered by Cyprus Mail and BuzzFeed accusing Cyprus and Russia of colluding in attempting to re-investigate the very Magnitsky case that discredited them:

“It is remarkable that the law enforcement authorities in Cyprus, a country that is a member of the European Union, would agree to become directly involved in assisting the Russian officials in a case that has been universally condemned around the world,” Browder told the Mail in an email.

“They’re cooperating with the people they’re supposed to be investigating,” Hermitage CEO William Browder told BuzzFeed News. “This raises a very serious question about whether Cyprus is part of the European Union, or whether it’s a colony of Russia.”

In 2013, the Tversky District Court in Moscow sentenced Browder in absentia to 9  years of prison for ostensibly not paying this company’s taxes. He described the case in his book Red Notice as part of the retaliation the Kremlin made against him and Magnitsky when the latter confronted corrupt investigators with their stealing of Hermitage’s tax refund.

Russia has declared both Browder and Cherkasov “wanted” and have tried unsuccessfully to get Interpol to also place them on international police lists — an effort that a commission at Interpol said was “predominantly political in nature and therefore contrary to Interpol’s rules and regulations.”

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick