American born British businessman, Bill Browder, an outspoken critic of Russian president Vladimir Putin, had his US B1 and B2 visit visa temporarily revoked with no explanation from the US government. Mr Browder claims that he was unable to enter the US after Russia added him to an international police wanted list. Fortunately, the US decided to reverse their decision.
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The scandal alleging collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia continues. Paul Manafort Trump’s former Campaign Manager is under house arrest together with business associate Rick Gates. George Papadopoulos, a Greek-American who was a Trump foreign policy aide agreed to a plea agreement and agreed to cooperate with the Mueller investigation in the US. Retired General Michael Flynn former Trump National Security Adviser and his son Michael Flynn Jr are also under investigation by the FBI. The US visa problems of Bill Browder a Putin critic is causing yet more embarrassment to Trump by focussing people's attention on Russia and links to theTrump campaign.
Mr Browder, a hedge fund manager and activist, was notified that his so-called ‘Global Entry’ status had been suspended, preventing him from checking in for a flight to the US. He then discovered that Russia had placed him on the Interpol arrest list.
Browder, 53, who lobbied the US government to impose strict sanctions against figures close to the Kremlin, said Russia had made four previous attempts to add him to Interpol’s Red List. On these occasions, the requests were dismissed, but Russia successfully had him placed on the list via a loophole known as a ‘diffusion.’
The Magnitsky Act
According to Mr Browder, a London-based businessman, he believes Russia was ‘inspired to act’ following a version of the Magnitsky Act being passed in Canada in October. The Magnitsky Act is a US law drawn up in 2012 for the purpose of targeting Russian officials accused of being responsible for the 2009 death of Sergei Magnitsky, while in custody.
Magnitsky was Mr Browder’s lawyer, credited for his part in helping to expose a money laundering operation totalling $230 million. In an interview with The Independent, Browder said: “The Magnitsky Act was passed in Canada last week. It’s devastating for Putin because it shows there are other nations signing up for this.”
In a similar fashion to the passing of the original act by the US in 2012, Canada’s version has allegedly infuriated president Putin. In response to the US, Putin moved to make it more difficult for American couples to adopt Russian babies.
While speaking at an international forum in Sochi – a Russian resort on the Black Sea – in late October, Putin responded to a questioner by stating that “Canada was playing unconstructive political games.”
US Homeland Security reviewed Browder’s US visa suspension
Mr Browder’s US visa situation was raised by senior US politicians. John McCain, the Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman and Ben Cardin, the Senator for Maryland, said that the Brit was a ‘strong advocate for anti-corruption efforts’ and urged the Homeland Security Department to review the decision to revoke his US visa.
Interpol has declined to comment on the situation. Meanwhile, a US State Department Official said: “We have no record of this individual ever applying for a US visa. Many citizens of the United Kingdom are eligible to travel on the Visa Waiver Programme.”
“The Visa Waiver Programme, administered by the Department of Homeland Security, is separate from the Department of State’s visa operations,” the official added. The DHS has since said that Mr Browder has been cleared for travel to the US.
No comment from Moscow about US Visa
Moscow has yet to offer an explanation for its request to add Mr Browder to the Interpol Red List. However, a report published in the New York Times claims that the Russian government is pressing ahead with an investigation against Mr Browder, with Moscow accusing him of killing Mr Magnitsky.
Russia’s allegation has been dismissed as an outright lie, given that Mr Browder was living in the UK at the time of the lawyer’s death. According to the New York Times report, a Russian court is understood to have convicted Mr Browder, in his absence, of fraud.
Browder has concluded that his US visa had been revoked ‘automatically’, once his name was flagged on the Interpol list. He said that he’d spent several days trying to determine what US authorities were doing to rectify the situation. However, it’s understood that Browder has since been cleared for US travel.
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