Russia seeks arrest of Hermitage hedge fund executive
Russian officials are seeking the arrest of a London-based executive at Hermitage Capital Management, the hedge fund that claims to have been persecuted after uncovering an alleged $230m (£139m) tax fraud.
By Rowena Mason, City Reporter – March 29, 2010 - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/
Hermitage said charges of withholding dividend-tax payments had been filed against Ivan Cherkasow and that authorities visited his Moscow house last week. The hedge fund said the accusations contradict a finding by the Federal Tax Service that its payments were in order and Mr Cherkasow denies all allegations.
For years, Hermitage has been campaigning against murky corners of Russian business and the death in custody of its lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky.
Mr Magnitsky, who was working for the hedge fund, died awaiting trial in a Moscow prison where he was allegedly refused medical treatment for a health condition. Last month, Russian president Dmitry Medvedev ordered an investigation into the circumstances, after Mr Magnitsky's death became a cause célèbre for anti-corruption campaigners.
Bill Browder, the founder of Hermitage, described the development as "retaliation for complaints we have filed against government officials".
Mr Browder said that if the application for an arrest warrant is successful, Russia could eventually apply for Mr Cherkasow's extradition, but he believes it is unlikely that any such attempt would be successful given the controversy about the case.
The $1.2bn (£800m) hedge fund was once the largest foreign portfolio investor in the Russia, but Mr Browder was forced out of the country and denied a visa in 2005.
He has claimed the authorities held Mr Magnitsky "hostage" while trying to force him to sign false confessions implicating himself and the hedge fund in a tax fraud.
Mr Magnitsky was charged with involvement in a 500m rouble (£10m) tax evasion in a claim that also implicated Mr Browder. Both denied any wrongdoing.
Mr Magnitsky claims to have been the victim of a "vendetta" because he had uncovered two alleged tax frauds and identified senior police officers, lawyers and tax officials in what Hermitage claims is a high-level conspiracy.