Russia’s Perversion of Justice

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From the gulags to the “doctor’s plot,” Russian history is replete with politically orchestrated show trials. But an upcoming case may achieve the unlikely feat of raising the bar for legal and political corruption. That is because the defendant in the case, attorney Sergei Magnitsky, has been dead for two years. What’s more, his trial is being sought by the very government and police officials who may have been complicit in his death.

Earlier this month, officials with the Russian Interior Ministry announced their plan to resubmit a tax evasion case that would see Magnitsky go on trial posthumously. Magnitsky first incurred these officials’ ire in 2007, when he was an attorney with of the Moscow-based American law firm Firestone Duncan and an outside counsel for the investment fund Hermitage Capital. In June 2007, police from the ministry raided both Firestone Duncan and Hermitage Capital’s Moscow offices on the pretext of tax evasion charges. In the course of the raid, they took away the official documents and seals of the fund’s Russian investment companies – despite the fact these documents were outside the scope of their search warrant.

Within months, Hermitage learned of an arbitration judgment against one of its companies, even though it had no prior indication of any legal proceedings. Asked by Hermitage to investigate, Magnitsky discovered that the fund’s Russian companies had been sued by shell companies with which they had never done business. Forged and backdated contracts had been used to establish a business relationship that never existed. As well, the companies had been represented by lawyers the fund never hired and who admitted to liabilities spelled out in the forged contracts. As if this wasn’t scandalous enough, Magnitsky concluded that the signatures and seals used to forge the contracts could only have come from the documents taken by the interior ministry during the June 2007 raid. Magnitsky ultimately testified that officials with the Russian Interior Ministry had used had used Hermitage’s Russian companies to embezzle some $230 million from the Russian treasury by filing fraudulent corporate tax returns. It was government corruption on a spectacular scale.

Maginitsky’s disclosures triggered an immediate and eventually fatal retaliation from the interior ministry. In 2008, Magnitsky was detained by police on charges of helping Hermitage to evade $17.4 million in taxes. Never formally charged with a crime, he was imprisoned without trial. In less than a year, he was dead.

How Magnitsky died remains a source of much controversy — and a likely government cover-up. Officially, the cause of death was heart failure. But everyone from his surviving family to his employers to human-rights groups believes that his death was the result of deliberate mistreatment on the part of Russian authorities.

Bill Browder, Hermitage’s founder, has powerfully assembled evidence to this effect. In a 75-page, meticulously detailed report released this November — the two-year anniversary of Magnitsky’s death — Browder shows that Magnitsky was not only denied medical care for a rapidly worsening medical condition, pancreatitis, but he was subjected to brutal beatings and inhumane prison conditions that caused his formerly perfect health to deteriorate. Browder’s report notes that Magnitsky made over 20 requests for medical care, each of which was refused, and the very existence of which was later denied by Russian prison officials. Forced to survive on a horrendous diet that in Magnitsky’s own words included “porridge with insect larvae” and “rotten boiled herring,” he was beaten with rubber batons and had bruises on his hands and knees. The combination of refused medical treatment and physical punishment ultimately led to Magnitsky’s death, at 37, on a prison floor. He died mere days before the one-year limit on detention without trial was set to expire.

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  • Alexander Gofen

    Magnitsky is a heroic martyr of injustice and catastrophic corruption consuming Russia. This is a tragic news indeed, but alas, no news when Russia is at issue…

    Yet covering the "Perversion of Justice" in Russia: How come that the editors have given no coverage to the recent trial right here, in Georgia, January 26, 2012? The trial which will enter the historical records as a disgrace of Justice, or may be the end of it.

    Unable to dismiss again the case of Obama's ineligibility without hearing as before (thanks to specifics of Georgia laws), a judicial hearing in merits did happen in an administrative court of Georgia. The first such hearing since 2008. Three groups of Georgian plaintiffs claimed that Obama must not be on Georgia ballots because he is not qualified to run for the US president. He is not qualified because:

    – He has two other nationalities – incompatible with being US natural born citizen;

    – His officially posted copy of the full birth certificate was a coarse forgery, he unlawfully uses unassigned SS number, and has multiple names (Obama, Soetoro, Soebercah).

    The defendant Obama was served subpoenas to appear on court and to bring the originals of the supporting documentation.

    Neither the defendant, nor his attorney did show up – in contempt of the court. Nor did they submit any documentation. (That alone normally means that the plaintiffs win). In addition, plaintiffs' attorney Dr. Taitz brought witnesses and professionals who testified that the SS number is invalid and the posted copy was a forgery – the expertise was submitted to this court and earlier to FBI.

    How much American justice must be twisted if the "judge" rules in favor of the defendant – under such circumstances?!! And moreover: if the electors have no standing for judicial hearing of legitimacy of their elected official already for 4 years!

    All the above seems to be not enough "perversion of justice" to fit the print of Front Page…

    More on the topic here, here and here.

    • joy52

      The story is getting out. Will take a few years, but it will be told.

      • Alexander Gofen

        In a few years this story will be useful only for historians studying the demise of this former "bright city on the hill", and the desperate attempts of a few patriots to save the honor of this former great nation …

        This story is not allowed to get out already during 4 long shameful years. Where is the journalistic integrity and honesty?

  • David

    The Russians, as well as all Israel-haters will get their earthly justice settled at Armegeddon very soon…not to mention the terrible condemnation each will encounter in front of the Great White Throne of justice where Christ will send them to eternal hell mentionned in Revelation chap 20 in the Bible.
    The perverted heart of man will never change, nor will his hatred and exploitation of others. The Godless Russians are only an example of what goes on globally.

  • Brujo Blanco

    In every socialist society there are elites. They will claim to be in charge of an equal society but in fact the elites are more equal than anyone else. Putting a dead man on trial is apparently a move to avert attention from people who have done wrong.

  • Steve Chavez

    Anybody for a "Siberian Spring?" It is no wonder that Putin won't support any meaningful sanctions against Syria since he will resort to slaughering his own people soon!

  • StephenD

    There is no legal justice in Russia. If there were don't you think there would have been at least one case brought against the former (What a joke) Soviets that raped their countrymen? Not ONE was ever brought up on charges. Probably because though the name has changed the game (and the players) remains the same.
    You only have to look as far as their former KGB Chief Vladimir Putin. What a farce!

  • sidefillippe

    Remind me of those 50 million babies killed before they can see the light of the day in the US.

  • Ghostwriter

    I think this may be done to frighten those who might dissent from what Putin and Company wants. This'll be amazing. A dead person on trial. I'd love to see how they pull this off.