Russian President Vladimir Putin has placed one of his fiercest critics on the Interpol wanted list in what Bill Browder says is retaliation for Canada's passage of a bill last week that lets the federal government sanction human-rights abusers.
Mr. Browder, who has led the international campaign against Russia over the killing of Russian tax lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, said Mr. Putin instructed his prosecutor office's to list him on Interpol's wanted list through a diffusion notice on Oct. 17, one day before the Canadian version of the U.S. Magnitsky Act became law. A diffusion notice is less formal than an Interpol red notice but can also be used to request the arrest or location of an individual.
The notice means Mr. Browder cannot leave Britain, where he lives, without risking arrest at a border crossing. He had plans to travel to Canada on Oct. 31 with the family of Mr. Magnitsky so they could meet the Canadian parliamentarians who made Bill S-226 possible. Mr. Magnitsky was killed by prison staff in a Moscow jail in 2009, and the law is meant to sanction human-rights abusers around the world.
"I'd like to clear this up as quickly as I can so we can come with the Magnitsky family and honour the great work of Parliament and the Senate in getting this Magnitsky law passed," Mr. Browder told The Globe and Mail on Monday morning from London.
Mr. Browder hired Mr. Magnitsky as the lawyer for his Moscow-based Hermitage Capital Management hedge fund in 2005. Mr. Magnitsky was arrested in 2008 and died in prison in 2009 after accusing Russian officials of theft. Investigations by Russia's human-rights council eventually concluded he was beaten to death by prison staff.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale's office said Canada "strongly disagrees" with Russia's placement of Mr. Browder on the Interpol wanted list. Spokesperson Scott Bardsley said that being on an Interpol wanted list does not necessarily affect admissibility to Canada, as it is up to the police of jurisdiction in each country to decide whether they will arrest someone who is subject to an Interpol notice.
"This measure is completely inappropriate, and an abuse of the Interpol wanted list. Mr. Browder has been a strong advocate for human rights and transparency," Mr. Bardsley said.
This marks the fifth time that Russia has listed Mr. Browder on Interpol's wanted list. Prior notices for Mr. Browder were rejected by the world's largest international police organization after it deemed them politically motivated.
The Russian embassy in Ottawa directed questions about Mr. Browder's "status as a fugitive criminal wanted for large scale financial fraud and tax evasion" to Interpol on Monday. Interpol did not respond to a request for comment.
Mr. Browder said he knew something was wrong last Thursday when the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) e-mailed him to tell him that his global entry status, which provides him with expedited clearance upon arrival in the United States, had been revoked. He then tried to check into a U.S.-bound flight but received a notice saying his Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), which is required for him to enter the United States under global entry status, was not valid.
After making a few calls to law-enforcement officials, he discovered that Russia had listed him on the Interpol wanted list last Tuesday. Mr. Browder, a U.S.-born financier, renounced his American citizenship in 1998 when he moved to Britain.
Mr. Browder said his ESTA was restored Wednesday night, but his U.S. global entry status still remained revoked.
U.S. Senators John McCain and Ben Cardin issued a joint statement Monday calling on the DHS to "expedite an immediate review of the decision to revoke Mr. Browder's visa." The DHS did not respond to a request for comment.
Mr. Browder said Russia's move is retaliation for Canada's passage of the Magnitsky law. It's the latest in a continuing confrontation between him and the Kremlin.
Documents provided to Mr. Browder by the Magnitsky family lawyer show that Russian prosecutors are now claiming that Mr. Browder murdered Mr. Magnitsky. The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation claimed in 2016 that Mr. Browder colluded with an unidentified agent of MI6, Britain's foreign intelligence service, to "cause death of S.L. Magnitsky" by denying him medical care, according to a Russian court docket. Mr. Browder shared the docket, which was translated from Russian to English, with The Globe.
The theory was first suggested in a 2016 documentary on Russian state television.
"It shows that Putin is completely losing his cool and is starting to get desperate about the rollout of Magnitsky acts all over the world," Mr. Browder said.
Mr. Browder said the case against him has been opened and closed about a dozen times since 2016, adding that he doesn't know what the case's current status is.
Canada became the fourth country to adopt a Magnitsky law when Bill S-226 received royal assent last week. Global Affairs Canada will work with the Treasury Board over the coming weeks to establish a list of individuals to be sanctioned under the law. A Canadian government official said Russian and Venezuelan human-rights abusers are expected to be among those first sanctioned.
Speaking at a conference in Sochi last week, Mr. Putin accused Canada of playing "unconstructive political games" in passing the Magnitsky law. He went on to accuse Mr. Browder of "crime, deception and theft" while he lived in Russia.
"Underneath are the criminal activities of an entire gang led by one particular man, I believe Browder is his name, who lived in the Russian Federation for 10 years as a tourist and conducted activities, which were on the verge of being illegal, by buying Russian company stock without any right to do so, not being a Russian resident, and by moving tens and hundreds of millions of dollars out of the country and hence avoiding any taxes not only here but in the United States as well," Mr. Putin said.
In an Interfax news agency report earlier this month, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova warned that the government will sanction more Canadian officials if Ottawa targets any Russians with Magnitsky sanctions. A number of Canadian officials, including Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, were banned from entering Russia in 2014 after Canada sanctioned members of Mr. Putin's circle over the annexation of Crimea.