William Browder, formerly one of the most well known evangelists for investing in Russia, is fighting back against the Kremlin’s allegations of tax evasion.
In his first comments since the Russian investigation became public this month, Mr Browder insisted in an FT interview that the case was groundless. It involved a company with which Hermitage Capital, Mr Browder’s investment firm, had only an advisory relationship. “This so-called tax allegation is completely fabricated and has nothing to do with any real taxes or violations,” Mr Browder said. Mr Browder, whose firm manages Russia’s largest foreign portfolio investment fund, has been denied entry since November 2005 under a legal article allowing foreigners to be barred “in the interest of ensuring the security of the state”. Many Moscow investors share Mr Browder’s suspicions that the ban was somehow triggered by his campaigns for better Russian corporate governance. Targets have included the Russian energy companies Gazprom and Surgutneftegaz, and Sberbank, the biggest state-controlled bank. Mr Browder’s treatment is particularly piquant since he has promoted investment opportunities in Russia. … Mr Browder said Russia’s federal tax service had never raised questions about Kameya’s tax returns or payments, and it was not clear why the interior ministry had launched its probe. “We believe that the only target of this whole thing is to discredit Hermitage and me in order to keep my visa from being reinstated,” he said.