Top Story: Russian Corruption Investigator Placed on Interpol Watchlist… by Russia

On Sunday, Russia managed to put Bill Browder onto the Interpol watch list. At the same time, the United States revoked his visa. This was the fifth time Vladimir Putin attempted to place Browder on the Interpol list. Clearly, he must see this man as dangerous, and a threat to Russians, to be so focused on one individual. Why does Putin keep attempting to compel Interpol to investigate this man? The answer is both complicated and simple.

William Browder is an American- born British citizen who manages the Hermitage Capital Management, once the largest foreign portfolio in Russia. In 2008, he hired Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian tax lawyer. After Magnitsky discovered a $230 tax corruption that Russian officials were taking advantage of, he was jailed. He died in jail, at the age of 37. He was beaten and tortured to death, although the official Russian account was that he died of heart failure. (As an aside, the crime that Russia accuses Browder of to serve their Interpol warrant this time is the murder of Magnitsky, who died in Russian police custody. They also posthumously convicted Magnitsky of tax fraud, essentially blaming him for the crimes he uncovered.)

Browder (and posthumously Magnitsky) became icons of a battle against corruption in Russia, and the man at the top of it is Vladimir Putin. In 2012, the United States passed what it called the Magnitsky Act, denying visas and freezing personal accounts of those who had been deemed to commit or order human rights abuses. Included in those accounts were those used in the tax scheme uncovered by Magnitsky. In retaliation, Putin ended the adoption of Russian children by foreigners, which is why when Donald Trump Jr met with Russian lawyers and agents about adoption; he was actually meeting to discuss sanctions.

Each time Vladimir Putin previously put Browder on the Interpol watch list, it was either rejected or quickly removed, due to the maneuver being clearly political in nature. This time, Putin exploited a loophole, called the diffusion notice, where he could get the name put on notice unilaterally. According to a Trump administration official, the visa denial was an automatic procedure after the name appeared on the Interpol watch list. After a widespread outcry, including from Senator John McCain, the denial was rescinded, and Browder was free to travel back the the U.S.