Police 'risking lives' by passing data to Russia

Soca accused of giving corrupt officials details of financiers who exposed £144m tax scam

The Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) has been accused of endangering the lives of British residents by passing confidential details to Russian investigators implicated in the death of the whistle-blowing lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.

British businessman Bill Browder and employees of his hedge fund Hermitage Capital have been pursued by Russian investigators ever since they went public about a £144m tax scam orchestrated by a corrupt network of police, judges and interior ministry officials.

Mr Magnitsky was hired by Hermitage's Moscow branch to investigate the scam – the largest in Russian history. He named a network of corrupt officials but was promptly arrested by the same men he had accused. He died nine months later in custody having been beaten and denied vital medicine.

The case has become something of a cause célèbre in Russia, illustrating the often murky connections between the country's powerful security services and organised crime syndicates. The UN, EU and the US government have spoken out against Mr Magnitsky's death whilst the Kremlin's human rights council claims he was tortured and probably beaten to death.

Despite grave concerns about the investigation it has emerged that Soca forwarded confidential details, including the home address of London-based Hermitage employee Ivan Cherkasov, to Russian officials implicated in the case.

Letters unearthed by a court in Moscow reveal that Soca handed the data to Russia's interior ministry following a request made through Interpol. The move came as a surprise to Hermitage, who say they were told by Soca in 2009 that the Russian requests for information might contravene clauses which forbid the Interpol system from being used for political purposes.

Speaking to The Independent yesterday, Mr Browder accused Soca of endangering his employees' safety. "The Russian interior ministry murdered my lawyer and is now publicly threatening my colleagues in the UK," he said. "I would have expected the British authorities to do everything possible to protect us. Instead they are passing on crucial information to the Russians to carry out their plans. This is either evil or gross incompetence."

Soca refused to comment on the allegations. In a letter to Hermitage seen by The Independent, the agency refused to confirm or deny whether it had handed over details. "Soca is not able to provide categorical assurance that it will refrain from dealing with any requests made by the Russian [or other] authorities in this matter," the letter said.

Mr Cherkasov is a prominent figure in Hermitage's campaign to bring the officials implicated in Mr Magnitsky's death to justice. He lives in London but acts as Hermitage's Russian spokesman, regularly giving interviews to the Russian media in which he has named corrupt officials.

Both he and Mr Browder have received death threats via telephone and text message since moving back to Britain and have notified Soca and the Metropolitan Police. The Met's anti-terrorism unit, SO15, have briefed Mr Cherkasov on security.

Labour MP Denis MacShane has called on the Home Office to tackle what he described as "unconsidered co-operation" with Russian officials in clearly politicised cases.

"While international law enforcement co-operation is an extremely important part of creating a secure environment in the UK, indiscriminate cooperation with regimes and foreign officials, who are well known to be involved in corruption and criminal violence, is something that Soca appears to be doing and doing so without any restraint or oversight," he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office / Sales Manager

£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement