Bill Browder: Russia jails investor in absentia

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image captionBill Browder lobbied for Western sanctions against Russian officials

A Russian court has sentenced UK-based financier Bill Browder - a fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin - to nine years' jail in absentia.

He was found guilty of fraud and tax evasion. He got a nine-year jail term in 2013 on similar charges in Russia.

He accuses officials of involvement in the death of his lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, in a Russian jail in 2009.

A campaign by Mr Browder led the US to impose sanctions in 2012 on top Russian officials accused of corruption.

The sanctions list is named the Magnitsky Act. Magnitsky had uncovered evidence of what he said was a massive tax scam by Russian government officials, who allegedly stole $230m (£170m).

Mr Browder says Magnitsky died after being tortured and beaten. The Russian authorities say it was due to an untreated illness, and dropped an investigation into his death.

Read more on the Magnitsky case:

Interpol has rejected repeated requests from Russian prosecutors to help them arrest Mr Browder. It says the Russian case against him is "predominantly political in nature".

Moscow's Tverskoy court also sentenced a partner of Mr Browder, Ivan Cherkasov, in absentia to eight years in jail, in the same case.

Mr Browder was once one of the biggest foreign investors in Russia, controlling Hermitage Capital Management.

Russian prosecutors said he had created a firm called Dalnyaya Step in the Russian republic of Kalmykia to divert profits to Cyprus, reducing his tax bill, and had illegally bought shares in Russian gas giant Gazprom.

He was found guilty of deliberately bankrupting Dalnyaya Step. He says the charges against him are politically motivated.

Mr Browder's lawyers did not represent him in Moscow's Tverskoy court - instead there were court-appointed lawyers for the defence.

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