Cyprus says state authorities won’t hand over information on Bill Browder’s companies to Russia, despite a court ruling giving the green light amid international pressure.
Justice Minister Ionas Nicoalou, who had a pending request from Russian authorities asking the Republic of Cyprus for judicial assistance in the Browder case, said previously he would consult with Attorney General Costas Clerides before making a final determination.
A counter-claim was filed in Nicosia on behalf of the American-born financier, which sought state authorities to ban agencies from cooperating with Moscow, citing political motivations on the part of Russia.
Clerides, whose own legal department was in favour of cooperation with Moscow, argued that a motion to ban state authorities from handing over evidence was baseless, unlawful, and illegal.
The attorney general says a minister could not simply dismiss judicial assistance, citing separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary
The attorney general also suggested the motion’s main purpose was to delay proceedings, while maintaining he saw no evidence or proof that Russia was motivated politically in going after Bill Browder.
The state attorney’s office further maintained that a minister could not simply dismiss international cooperation agreements in judicial assistance matters, citing separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary.
But the ruling that rejected Browder’s motion also left the possibility that the attorney general could be sued in a court of law over the case, as additional issues had been raised.
In a letter response to Browder’s Cypriot attorney Christos Pourgourides, on Tuesday, the justice minister said he would wait for the claims of the defence to be vetted through the court system before making a decision.
“I have decided, with respect to the judicial process, to wait for a final outcome and hold off any action towards meeting the demands by Russian Judicial Authorities, pending legal action, and until the trial case comes to a close in a court of law,” Nicolaou said.
The minister said he took “into consideration the content of the interim ruling and the fact that all the claims brought before the court will be adjudicated on their own merits, but also given the international dimension in the matter.”
Bill Browder, a co-founder of Hermitage Capital Management, is being accused by Moscow of tax fraud and being a threat to national security. He says Russian authorities are after him because he exposed corruption, arguing that an international warrant for his arrest is politically motivated.