Recently, I*wrote*about people from friendly countries receiving asylum in the United States. There are few such cases, and they generally seem to be*aberrations. *For these reasons, the source countries are not particularly concerned that we are granting asylum to their nationals. *That is not always the case, however.*


Russia called. They want their Baryshnikov back.

Earlier this month, the United Kingdom granted asylum to Andrey Borodin, a 45-year-old Russian banking tycoon, who owns Britain's most expensive private house (it's quite nice, as you can see*here). Russian authorities accuse Mr. Borodin of bank fraud. *But Mr. Borodin claims that*the charges were trumped up after he accused a key ally of President Vladimir Putin of corruption. The case became public after Mr. Borodin and his lawyer spoke to the press about receiving refuge in the UK (Britain, like the U.S., keeps such claims confidential).

Moscow was not pleased by the Brit's offer of asylum:

The Russian premier's press secretary Natalya Timakova said that the accusations against Mr. Borodin--who fled to London in April 2011--are of "pure criminal character" involving the Bank of Moscow, which he formerly owned. "There [is] now a practice of seeking political asylum, especially in England, whereby it*doesn't*matter what the seeker has done," she said. "What matters is how loudly he shouts about political persecution--and this will become a guarantee that the asylum will be granted." Ms. Timakova accused Britain of ignoring that Interpol "is after him." Moscow also insists that it would continue to demand Mr. Borodin's extradition from Britain.

Mr. Borodin counters (probably correctly) that, "Any political asylum seeker must submit the application together with... proof showing the political character of the persecution in his native country." "My lawyers submitted all necessary proof," added Mr. Borodin.*

This case reminds me of one I worked on as a wee law clerk at the Arlington Immigration Court.*Alexander Konanykhin*was a Russian businessman in the roaring 90?s who made hundreds of millions of dollars. The Russian government eventually seized most of his assets and forced him to flee for his life. He made his way to the United States, but the Russians wanted him back and INS tried to deport him. After an epic trial in 1999, he received asylum. The asylum grant was overturned, but later (in 2007) re-instated, and Mr. Konanykhin is now a successful businessman in the United States. Although Mr. Konanykhin always seemed a bit shady to me, it was quite clear that the Russian government was up to no good. Mr. Konanykhin called the government a "Mafiocracy."*

Between the UK and Russia, I will choose the UK, and-Gerard Depardieunotwithstanding-my bet is that there was ample evidence that Mr. Borodin faced persecution on account of his political activities. He would certainly not be the first Putin opponent to end up in jail (Mikhail Kho****ovsky) or dead (Anna Politkovskaya).

Russia can complain about Britain (or the U.S.) granting asylum to its nationals. But so long as those countries follow international human rights law, and so long as the Russian government continues to persecute its opponents, Russians will be able to obtain asylum in the West. To (badly) paraphrase The Bard: The fault, dear Putin, lies not in the asylum process, but in yourself.

Originally posted on the Asylumist: