British Putin critic Bill Browder released after arrest in Spain

Bill Browder, the UK-based financier and anti-Putin campaigner, was taken to a Madrid police station on Wednesday morning after being detained on a Russian warrant.

Mr Browder, who describes himself as "Putin’s number one enemy", tweeted that he had been arrested by Spanish police on a Russian Interpol warrant, posting pictures from the back of a police car. 

He was released two hours later.

The American-born businessman, who has held British citizenship for the past two decades, was last year sentenced by a Russian court to nine years in prison on fraud and tax evasion charges.

The detention of Mr Browder – widely considered the creator of the Magnitsky Act, an international sanctions regime against Russian officials named for his lawyer who died in Russian custody – drew immediate international alarm. 

Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit negotiator, said it was "worrying that autocratic Russia can get democratic Spain to go after someone fighting to expose Putin’s crimes & those responsible for Magnitsky’s murder".

A similar 2013 sentence handed down in Russia had been dismissed by Interpol, the agency assessing it to be "predominantly political in nature". 

A Spanish police spokesperson said that Interpol had failed to delete the warrant from its database when it had expired, and that once at the police station, they had realised it was no longer valid.

But Mr Browder claimed that the warrant was indeed "live", and that he had been released after the Interpol secretary general in Lyon advised police "not to honour" it.

Mr Browder claimed this was "the 6th time that Russia has abused Interpol in my case".

Interpol later denied he was ever wanted through its channels, saying in a statement that: "There is not, and has never been, a Red Notice for Mr Bill Browder".

Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, said he had spoken to Mr Browder and was "very glad that he has now been released".

"Moscow should concentrate on bringing those responsible for the murder of Magnitsky to justice," he added.

Mr Browder ran a top investment fund in Russia in the 1990s but was deported in 2005 and his business seized. 

Sergei Magnitsky, his Russian lawyer, was arrested after reporting the theft of hundreds of millions of dollars and died in custody in 2009, officially from heart failure. 

Mr Browder has always claimed Magnitsky was murdered, and insists that he himself is a top Kremlin target. 

In March he told the Telegraph he lived his life in the knowledge that "that the Russians are trying to kill me".

Mr Browder said he was in Madrid to give evidence to a top Spanish prosecutor "about the huge amount of money from the Magnitsky case that flowed to Spain", and that following his release his "mission carries on". 

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