INTERPOL's decision to remove William Browder's data from its files - what's usual about it, and what's not


Last week, INTERPOL immediately announced its decision to remove investment banker William Browder from its databases, thereby denying Russia's request to keep Browder's information in circulation between its 190 member countries.  The background between Mr. Browder and Russian officials is found here, in an article by David M. Herszenhorn.

INTERPOL's press statement regarding the CCF recommendation is here.

The decision is certainly a significant one, but on its merits is not unheard of.  INTERPOL's "appellate" body, the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL's Files ("CCF"), routinely receives requests for removal of information from INTERPOL's databases.  So what makes Mr. Browder's request and decision unusual, and what part of his case is "run of the mill" for INTERPOL?  Let's take a look:

The complaint:  the fact that a complaint was even filed is unusual.  Out of all the wanted individuals in INTERPOL's databases, only 170 people (.35% of subjects) filed complaints in 2011.  This makes sense, given that requests for assistance with criminal apprension are presumed to be, and should be, valid.

The basis of the complaint:  Mr. Browder's complaint alleged political motivation as the primary basis for Russia's request that INTERPOL circulate his data.  This basis for a complaint to the CCF is not all that unusual, as it was raised in 29% of complaints in 2011.

The CCF's decision about the complaint: The CCF decided to withdraw Mr. Browder's information from its databases.  A decision to cancel a search of a subject or to destroy the information in INTERPOL's databases was made in approximately 19% of cases heard by the CCF in 2011.  When we consider that many challenges to Red Notices and other notices are improperly and/or poorly prepared, and may or not be validly based, that percentage is a higher rate than one might expect.

The announcement of the decision:  The news release about the CCF's recommendation and the General Secretariat's decision to follow the CCF's recommendation is obviously not a routine matter. Very few cases become the subject of a news release by INTERPOL.  The international drama that occured in the background of this particular case nearly mandated the news release.

The timing of the announcement of the decision: Here's where Mr. Browder's case is highly abnormal.  While the CCF has been willing to advise a complainant or his attorney as to the date that his case is likely to be considered by the CCF, it is very unusual to learn of the decision on the same date of the hearing.  

The grounds for the decision: The fact that the CCF provided a reason for its decision is to be expected, certainly in a case that has been monitored so closely from so many corners of the globe.  But the CCF frequently provides a basis for its decision, either in its response letter or after an inquiry regarding the grounds for the decision.  

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

* Statistical references are gleaned from the CCF's most recently published report, which is the Annual Report for 2011. 

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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