Borbot’s Russian attorney traveled to the United States to testify in his immigration case in 2016, but Russian investigators compelled him—and, subsequently, Kharis’s attorney in Russia—to sign a declaration prohibiting them from disclosing the details of the Russian investigation to any third party under the threat of criminal prosecution, according to Kharis’s Interpol attorney, Yuriy Nemets.
Russia’s courts are not known for their transparency or rule of law. Accusations of corruption and bribery are rampant, and fraud, tax evasion, money laundering, and even murder are common charges leveled against political dissidents like Sasha and wealthy business owners like Kharis and Borbot, who have been subjected to corporate raiding.
Perhaps the best-known examples of this phenomenon since Putin came to power are the Russian opposition leader Aleksey Navalny; Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the CEO of Yukos, the Russian oil giant; and Bill Browder, the co-founder of Hermitage Capital Management—one of those Putin asked be returned to Russia for questioning during his July 16 summit with Trump in Helinski.
In 2013 and 2014, Navalny was convicted of embezzlement and money laundering in trials widely perceived as attempts to silence him and dampen his political ambitions. Navalny appealed the embezzlement conviction, and the European Court of Human Rights later declared that his right to a fair hearing had been violated. But as he was gearing up for a presidential bid against Putin in 2016, Russia’s supreme court subjected Navalny to a retrial. He was again found guilty, putting his presidential bid in jeopardy because candidates cannot have felony convictions. In October, Europe’s top human-rights court ruled that Navalny’s conviction for money laundering in 2014 had been “arbitrary and manifestly unreasonable,” and ordered Russia to pay him compensation.
Khodorkovsky, the oil tycoon who was once one of the richest men in Russia, was arrested in 2003 and charged with fraud and money laundering aftre a televised meeting with Putin in which he accused high-level Kremlin officials of corruption. The case was widely denounced as politically motivated, and, after nearly a decade in prison, Amnesty International declared him a prisoner of conscience. In 2015, just two days after calling a revolution in Russia “inevitable and necessary,” Khodorkovsky was charged in absentia with involvement in two murders.
Pavel Ivlev, a Russian lawyer who advised Yukos and Khodorkovsky and fled to the U.S. as a refugee in 2005, wrote in expert testimony for Kharis that the case brought against him in Russia was “not different from the politically motivated cases against those who have challenged the Russian ruling elite and its interests in the past.”
Browder, a London-based financier, was charged by Russia in absentia with crimes such as tax evasion and murder after his lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, blew the whistle on a tax-fraud scheme implicating the Kremlin. Magnitsky was subsequently arrested and put in prison, where he died after what Browder says were months of torture. Browder had been the largest portfolio investor in Russia during the early 2000s before he fell out of favor with the Kremlin over his criticism of Russia’s lax corporate-governing standards.