Bill Browder’s attorney in Cyprus says the government and justice minister are complying with a request for judicial assistance in order to keep Russia happy.
Christos Pourgourides, the lawyer who represents the American-born financier, appeared in Nicosia District Court on Wednesday on behalf of his client to make the case for the issuance of an order that would stop Cypriot government agencies from collaborating with Russian authorities in the Browder case.
Russian authorities have accused Browder, who is also co-founder of Hermitage Capital Management, of tax fraud as well as being a threat to national security.
But Browder says Russian authorities are after him because he exposed corruption, arguing that an international warrant for his arrest is politically motivated.
In recent years, western governments came to the support of Browder, whose account auditor Sergei Magnitsky had helped expose corruption but later died in a Russian prison. The Magnitsky Act, which was signed into law in 2012 by US President Barack Obama, sought to punish Russian human rights violators and offered a guiding principle against politically motivated prosecutions.
'The courts have every authority to interpret the treaty and examine whether the provisions of that treaty were applied correctly,' Pourgourides said
Pourgourides argued that Cypriot authorities “illegally met judicial assistance requests from Russian authorities and unlawfully intend to carry out similar requests that are outstanding unless the court puts a stop to it.”
Cyprus Attorney General Costas Clerides argues that the motion is baseless, unlawful, and illegal while further suggesting its purpose is to delay proceedings, according to reports.
Clerides says he saw no evidence or proof that Russia is motivated politically in going after Bill Browder. He said Browder is not wanted for political offences, such as taking part in a coup.
But Pourgourides told the judge that this was “deliberate misinterpretation” of the treaty that defines political crimes.
“The courts have every authority to interpret the treaty and examine whether the provisions of that treaty were applied correctly,” Pourgourides said.
The lawyer also accused the state attorney general’s office of double standards, when in a similar case in 2011 the government declined judicial assistance to Russian authorities in a case of a Russian fugitive on grounds of political motives.
Pourgourides also noted that the state attorney who handled the case in 2011 was none other than Eleni Loizidou. She was recently implicated in scandals including inappropriate contact with Russian officials that was made public through hacked emails.
The lawyer attributed the Browder affair to a personal vendetta between his client and Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying the Russian Federation has resorted to Soviet-era methods to construct a bogus criminal case against his client.
He went on to say that Cyprus, as a properly decent state, ought to examine whether the request for judicial assistance violated Cypriot laws and the Constitution.
“Your honour, the courts are the last resort in such cases. If this last resort is lost, I don’t know in what world our children and grandchildren will live,” Pourgourides said.