Bill Browder, the American financier who was an active investor in Russia before becoming a Kremlin critic, was arrested in Spain on Wednesday morning on a Russian warrant.
The Hermitage Capital CEO tweeted on Wednesday morning that he was “just arrested by Spanish police in Madrid on a Russian Interpol arrest warrant.”
However, the international crime-fighting agency denied having anything to do with it. “There is not, and never has been, a Red Notice for Mr Bill Browder,” Interpol said in a statement. “Mr Browder is not wanted via Interpol channels.”
Browder subsequently tweeted that the Spanish police had released him, after Interpol told them to do so.
The Russians have repeatedly tried to get Interpol to issue an arrest warrant for Browder. The Kremlin has convicted Browder in absentia for tax evasion, and he faces nine years in prison there.
Browder has been a driving force behind the U.S.’s Magnitsky Act sanctions against Russian oligarchs, and his book, Red Notice, alleges corruption that goes up to the highest levels of the Russian government, including Vladimir Putin himself.
Sergei Magnitsky was an auditor who represented Hermitage, which the Russian authorities had accused of tax evasion and fraud—Browder himself was expelled from the country in 2005.
After Hermitage’s offices were raided in 2007 and documents relating to a Hermitage-administered company called Kamaya were seized, Browder had Magnitsky investigate what happened. The auditor found that the authorities had given the documents to organized criminals, who used them to take over some of Hermitage’s companies and fraudulently reclaim $230 million in taxes that Hermitage had paid.
When Magnitsky alerted the government, he was arrested and, after refusing to testify against Hermitage and drop his allegations, he died in prison in 2009. He had reportedly been tortured and denied medical treatment for a life-threatening condition.
The U.S. Magnitsky Act sanctioned Russian officials who were connected with his death. Canada has passed a similar law, and the European Union’s parliament has also censured those individuals. And Browder has been the one pushing for this pressure.
Meanwhile, a Russian journalist called Arkady Babchenko was gunned down in Kiev, Ukraine, on Tuesday. He was also a Kremlin critic, and the Ukrainian government has accused the Russians of being behind his murder.
This article has been updated to include Interpol’s denial that it issued a warrant for Browder’s arrest, and Browder’s subsequent tweet about his release.