MOSCOW (NY Times)— Interpol has rejected a Russian request for a worldwide police hunt for William F. Browder, a British investment banker and a Kremlin nemesis who has made no secret of his whereabouts or of his battle against the government of President Vladimir V. Putin over accusations of human rights abuses.
The decision, announced on Friday by Interpol, to delete all information about Mr. Browder from its databases amounted to a rare — and sharp — rebuke of Russia for trying to use international law enforcement agencies in a political dispute.
Mr. Browder, once the largest private foreign investor in Russia, has crusaded against Russia’s government since the death of his lawyer, Sergei L. Magnitsky, in a Russian prison in 2009, apparently after he was denied proper medical care.
Mr. Magnitsky was arrested while trying to expose a government corruption scheme, in which a company once owned by Mr. Browder was used to file a fraudulent $230 million tax return.
In December, President Obama signed a law named for Mr. Magnitsky that aims to punish human rights abuses in Russia by prohibiting Russians accused of such violations from traveling to the United States or holding financial assets there. Russia retaliated with its own law on human rights abuses by Americans, and barred American citizens from adopting Russian children.
Mr. Browder was a major force behind the American legislation and has been pushing for similar laws to be adopted in Europe.
Mr. Putin and other officials have brushed off questions about why no one has been convicted in Mr. Magnitsky’s death, and they have increasingly sought to portray Mr. Magnitsky and Mr. Browder as criminals.
The Russian government is prosecuting Mr. Magnitsky posthumously on tax evasion charges, and prosecutors have charged Mr. Browder with illegally acquiring shares in Gazprom, the state-controlled natural gas company, from 2001 to 2004, at a time when foreign ownership was restricted. In April, a court in Moscow issued a warrant for his arrest.
It was in connection with this case that Russia requested that Interpol issue a “blue notice” asking law enforcement agencies worldwide to report on Mr. Browder’s whereabouts and provide other information about him.
Interpol said that its independent Commission for the Control of Interpol’s Files had “studied a complaint brought before it by Mr. Browder and concluded that the case was of a predominantly political nature.”
A spokesman for the Russian Interior Ministry told Russian news agencies on Saturday that the government had only asked Interpol for information and had not yet requested that Mr. Browder be declared a fugitive.
But the chairman of the Russian Parliament’s foreign affairs committee, Aleksei Pushkov, characterized Interpol’s decision as politically motivated.
“I think some international quarters have put pressure on Interpol,” Mr. Pushkov said, according to the news agency Interfax. He said Mr. Browder “has apparently managed to mobilize significant political resources” to block an inquiry.
In a telephone interview, Mr. Browder, who is scheduled to be in Berlin on Monday, said he was pleased by the Interpol announcement, which he called “a clear sign of how far Russia has stepped over the line in the Magnitsky case.” In a separate statement, Mr. Browder’s office said the decision showed “that a deeply corrupt regime will not be allowed to freely persecute whistle-blowers.”