- The Washington Times - Monday, March 20, 2006

MOSCOW (AP) — A crusading manager with the biggest investment fund in Russia has been barred from entering the country because authorities say he could pose a threat to national security, according to documents obtained by the Associated Press yesterday.

William Browder, the chief executive officer of the Hermitage Capital Management fund, was banned from entering Russia Nov. 13 under a law that closes entry to people deemed a threat to security of the state, public order or public health, according to a Russian Foreign Ministry letter, a copy of which was provided by the fund’s Deputy CEO Vadim Kleiner.

“We are working closely with a number of Russian government officials, who’ve given us indication that they are optimistic this will be resolved,” Mr. Browder said yesterday by telephone from London.

Mr. Browder has been based in Britain since late last year because he has been unable to re-enter Russia where Hermitage has its headquarters. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Tyurkin yesterday declined to comment on reasons behind Mr. Browder’s deportation.

Though a vocal supporter of the economic policies of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, Mr. Browder might have ruffled feathers in one of his many high-profile campaigns for greater transparency and efficiency at some of Russia’s biggest conglomerates.

British Embassy officials have said that the matter has been taken up by Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who had raised Mr. Browder’s case with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov.

Hermitage has more than $4 billion under management and acts on behalf of more than 6,000 institutional and individual investors from more than 30 countries. According to Hermitage, Mr. Browder’s problems have had no impact on the fund, which has risen 43 percent since mid-November, roughly in line with Russia’s benchmark RTS index.

Mr. Browder continues to fight reputed fraud and cost overruns at state-controlled gas behemoth Gazprom and is challenging the shadowy ownership structure of oil major Surgutneftegaz, which is thought to have close ties to the Kremlin.

Despite his outspoken criticism of certain Russian companies, Mr. Browder — the grandson of U.S. Communist Party leader Earl Browder — has frequently praised Mr. Putin’s leadership and supported Russia’s investment case at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.


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