WASHINGTON — Senators demanded that the Department of Homeland Security work quickly to lift a block on a key critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin that forbids him from entering the United States.
Hermitage Capital Management CEO Bill Browder championed the congressional Magnitsky Act human rights sanctions on Russia after his lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, discovered massive Russian government fraud that led to Magnitsky’s imprisonment, torture, and 2009 death.
Russia issued their fifth Interpol arrest warrant for Browder, accusing him and an agent of MI6 of murdering Magnitsky, who died in Russian custody. “Not only did Putin add me to the Interpol list, but the US simultaneously revoked my visa,” Browder tweeted Sunday, explaining it was Kremlin retaliation for Canada passing their own version of the Magnitsky Act last week.
Under the Interpol warrant, Browder would be arrested trying to cross any international border. “Russia used loophole called a diffusion notice to bypass Interpol HQ to get warrant for me after 4 prior rejections,” Browder tweeted, noting that his “U.S. Global Entry was revoked on the same day and United wouldn’t let me board a flight to US b/c of visa problems.”
DHS said today that the British citizen was “manually approved” Oct. 18 to travel to the U.S. Browder told the Associated Press that he “received a notification from DHS that my Global Entry was rejected on the 19th and a notification from the airline that my ESTA wasn’t valid after that.”
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-Md.) noted in a joint statement that past tries by Russia to get Browder on the Interpol list have been “rejected as politically motivated” and “through these episodes, his U.S. visa status has been immediately reinstated.”
“The Department of Homeland Security should expedite an immediate review of the decision to revoke Mr. Browder’s visa,” the senators said. “Sergei Magnitsky was a young Russian lawyer who worked for Bill Browder and helped to uncover a massive corruption scheme in Russia. He was targeted by the authorities and died while in custody. His unfortunate demise led to our work on the Magnitsky Act, which bars Russian figures who are connected to the Magnitsky case or are complicit in gross violations of human rights from entering the United States. The measure also authorized the freezing of their assets.”
“William Browder is strong advocate for anti-corruption efforts around the world and we relied on his expertise and support as we led the effort to pass the Magnitsky Act,” they added. “Mr. Browder’s work has helped to remove corrupt actors from our financial system and enhance accountability measures with respect to the U.S. relationship with the Russian Federation. It would be unfortunate if the U.S. decided to bar him based on a decision by those same Russian officials who have been targeted by this important legislation.”
House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) asked Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to let Browder into the country and explain why the CEO found himself blocked from entry.
“This [Interpol] request is nonsense, of course, and is merely President Putin’s latest effort to silence one of his fiercest critics,” Engel wrote. “By giving this effort credence and revoking Mr. Browder’s visa, the Trump administration is playing into Putin’s hands.”
Browder testified in July before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the Magnitsky Act as it relates to a Trump Tower meeting during the campaign with Donald Trump Jr. and Russian representatives close to the Kremlin.
He acknowledged Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev saying “it’s too bad that Sergei Magnitsky is dead and Bill Browder is still alive and free.”
“I know the Russian government wants me dead, and I can say that there’s a number of other people who are connected to this case who are dead. Boris Nemtsov who is a former — a Russian opposition politician who had been lobbying for the Magnitsky Act in America, at the European parliament, et cetera, was shot in front of the Kremlin in 2015,” Browder said. “Vladimir Kara-Murza, who was his protege, who was also lobbying for the Magnitsky Act very actively, was poisoned within an inch of his life. He went into coma and multiple organ failure.”
“The lawyer for Sergei Magnitsky’s mother, has been fighting alongside us for justice, was thrown off a fourth -floor apartment building. He survived, thank God. And, of course, I have been receiving all these different types of threats from Russia. This is a regime that kills and maims when they — when you’re standing in their way and standing in the way of them stealing money.”