A major advocate for Russian sanctions told CNBC that his U.S. visa issues should raise a red flag if they linger.
Over the weekend, The Guardian reported that Russia was finally successful in pushing Interpol to place Bill Browder on its wanted list. Browder, a British citizen, said that his Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), which grants visa-free travel to the U.S., was revoked because it appears the system is tied to the Interpol list.
“But based on the reaction of the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. government, shortly, if they correct this that will show it’s a bureaucratic problem. If all of the sudden it lingers or hangs on or if they get defensive, then there’s obviously something more sinister at foot,” Browder said on “Power Lunch” on Monday.
But later, DHS’ Customs and Border Patrol told CNBC in a statement that Browder’s visa-free travel authorization remains valid. A CBP representative said that Browder’s authorization had been manually approved on Oct. 18, allowing him to travel to the U.S.
When reached for further comment, Browder told CNBC that his authorization had been denied the day after the CBP said it approved it.
“My ESTA was denied on the 19th along with my Global Entry status being revoked on the same day so I’m a bit confused by their timeline that claims that everything was okay on the 18th. I will try tomorrow to test the system and see if it works,” he wrote in an email to CNBC.
Earlier, the Hermitage Capital Management CEO explained that he cannot cross an international border right now without being arrested because of his placement on the Interpol list. Interpol did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
Browder, formerly the largest foreign investor in Russia, pushed Washington to pass the Magnitsky Act, which froze the U.S. assets of certain Russian officials.
The sanction legislation is named for Russian accountant Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Moscow prison in 2009 after investigating fraud involving Russian tax officials. The Magnitsky Act targets those who are said to have been involved in the accountant’s detention.
Browder said that Russian President Vladimir Putin “hates” the sanctions because it “targets his wealth and the wealth of other human rights violators in Russia.”
Canada recently passed its own version of the Magnitsky Act, which Browder says “infuriated” Putin.
“As these external sanctions start to gather momentum, he feels more and more helpless about what he’s going to be able to do,” Browder said on Monday.
On Sunday, The New York Times reported that Russian prosecutors plan to accuse Browder of colluding with British intelligence agency MI6 in murdering Magnitsky — a case that the newspaper said seemed to “be entering the realm of farce.”
The Times noted that this theory was first disseminated on Russian media, but had been disregarded as propaganda as part of a disinformation campaign against Browder.
Source : CNBC