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By John Helmer, Moscow

Interpol has issued a Wanted Notice for Sergei Pugachev, making him the first Russian oligarch to have Russian charges of fraud endorsed by the international police organization – and to make a money-launderer of the Financial Times. If Pugachev crosses the border between his homes in England and France, the policemen on either side will see his name flashing on their computer screens, and they will be under standing orders to arrest him.

Pugachev has joined the list of 160 individuals whom Interpol lists as wanted for crimes alleged by the General Prosecutor of Russia. The Russian list can be read here. Here is the notice for Pugachev.

Sergei_Pugachev

The charge sheet against him covers fraud, racketeering, embezzlement, and misappropriation of at least $1 billion, maybe $2 billion in loans from Russian state banks and state budget allocations; it can be read here. According to the Financial Times, Pugachev is a clever but innocent businessman, wrongly accused by “illegal and dishonest methods”, targeted by the Kremlin for political reasons, and because he’s dared to criticize President Vladimir Putin.

According to Pugachev’s London barrister, Francis Tregear QC, there has been “a pattern of attacks on Mr Pugachev’s assets by Russian state entities which cannot easily be put down to coincidence.” Tregear is currently in the Cayman Islands, and did not answer emailed questions about the Interpol action. Pugachev’s solicitor, Justin Michaelson, refused to answer questions, claiming he would seek instructions from his client. In Paris, where Pugachev is the proprietor of the evening newspaper France-Soir, it has been reported that Pugachev considers the Interpol action “illegal” and will not be “giving himself up”.

For the record of the Financial Times’s support of Pugachev, click here. The names of the endorsement reporters are Catherine Belton, Neil Buckley, and Jane Croft.

Russian press reporting indicates the initial arrest warrant for Pugachev, issued in December 2013, has been tested in the Moscow courts, rejected on appeal, and then reinstated. For that record, click.

In Interpol practice, about one-third of those accused of crimes are identified on the public version of the Red Notices; about two-thirds remain secret. Publication is decided between country prosecutors and Interpol headquarters in Lyon, France, where the organization works round the clock, seven days a week, to “facilitate international police cooperation even where diplomatic relations do not exist between particular countries. Action is taken within the limits of existing laws in different countries and in the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Our Constitution prohibits ‘any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character”.

It can happen that Interpol Red Notices trigger the arrests of innocent individuals. For the last case of that happening to a Russian, read the record of the Ilya Katsnelson case. In that 2009 case, the US, Germany, and Denmark rejected the Russian claims against Katsnelson, a US passport holder and Danish resident; the German authorities returned him to his home in Denmark with apologies for locking him up. Katsnelson has been campaigning for improved accountability on Interpol’s part when issuing secret Red Notices against individuals after courts outside Russia refuse to accept Russian indictments and extradition requests. Katsnelson is still showing on the Interpol list. Andrei Azarov, an alleged accomplice of Katsnelson’s at the old Volgotanker company of Samara, has been removed. The UK courts rejected the extradition warrant in Azarov’s case in December 2007, concluding there was a “serious possibility” that the extradition request was politically motivated.

In Pugachev’s case, the UK High Court has ruled that he is a liar. To stay out of prison in England and France, Pugachev is likely to apply for asylum and an administrative or court ruling to quash the Interpol notice and the Russian extradition application. London specialists on asylum suspect that Pugachev’s attacks on Putin in the Financial Times are part of the case he is making to the British government that he is a political victim.

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