Russian police officer denies Kremlin is funding Sergei Magnitsky libel case in London

Lieutenant Colonel Pavel Karpov is suing British businessman William Browder for substantial damages

A retired Russian police officer accused of complicity in a massive tax fraud and the murder of whistleblowing lawyer Sergei Magnitsky was claimed to be receiving Kremlin help in bringing a multi-million pound libel case in London.

Lieutenant Colonel Pavel Karpov, an unemployed former interior ministry investigator who lives in a luxury Moscow flat, is suing British businessman William Browder, a millionaire hedge fund investor who employed Mr Magnitsky and is leading a campaign against corruption in the Russian government, for substantial damages in the High Court.

A pre-trial hearing was told yesterday that the case is likely to cost a minimum of £6m and that Mr Karpov has admitted he cannot afford to fund the proceedings himself. He is refusing to name a businessman friend who he insists is guaranteeing bank loans to fund the case and he says has no connection with the Russian state.

Mr Browder is seeking to have the libel suit, which arises from a series of internet postings made on his behalf about the Magnitsky scandal, thrown out as an abuse of the legal system on grounds including the claim that Mr Karpov has no links with Britain. In turn, Mr Karpov is seeking to have elements of Mr Browder’s defence struck out, including any suggestion that he could have had a hand in or responsibility for Mr Magnitsky’s death.

The case is likely to raise fresh debate about the use of the English courts for so-called “libel tourism”. Mr Karpov has said he is justified in bringing his proceedings in part because the website used to post the material he claims is defamatory is based in the United Kingdom.

Antony White QC, for Mr Browder and his company, Hermitage Capital Management, told the court there was “evidence” that previous libel proceedings brought by Mr Karpov in Russia linked to the Magnitsky case had been instigated from within the Kremlin, adding there were grounds to suspect that a similar arrangement was in place in the London case.

Describing Mr Karpov’s evidence on his funding as “opaque and unsatisfactory”, Mr White said: “The court cannot be satisfied that the Russian state is not behind the claims in some way - perhaps by agreeing to indemnify the friend of [Mr Karpov] who is maintaining the claims.”

The court heard that Mr Karpov, who retired from the Interior Ministry police last year, has “substantial assets” which allegedly cannot be reconciled with his modest income of around £320 a month while an investigator. They include a succession of luxury cars and a $930,000 apartment in Moscow previously owned by his mother. He is also claimed to have led an “upmarket lifestyle” by attending “Moscow’s finest restaurants and nightclubs” and, in an unusual move, arranging for a friend’s wedding to be held at a state detention centre.

Lawyers for the officer say his assets are legitimately owned, funded for example from interior design and property projects he undertook with his mother, and were acquired prior to the alleged tax fraud in 2007.

The court heard that one of the purposes of bringing the claim against Mr Browder was to challenge the presence of Mr Karpov’s name on - and therefore the wider validity of - America’s so-called Magnitsky Act, which authorises sanctions against a list of 18 Russian officials allegedly implicated in the 37-year-old lawyer’s death in 2009.

Mr Magnitsky died in a Moscow prison after being deprived of medical treatment and allegedly suffering torture and beatings related to his refusal to retract claims against Russian investigators and officials he said were involved in a $230m (£140m) tax fraud against the Russian state. The lawyer was working for Mr Browder in Moscow when he blew the whistle on the alleged corruption, which involved the illegal expropriation of two Hermitage Capital subsidiaries.

Mr Karpov has strongly denied any knowledge of Mr Magnitsky’s arrest in 2008 or involvement in the events which led to his death.

Andrew Caldecott QC, for the police officer, said any claim that his client was bringing his defamation suit on behalf of the Russian state was “groundless”.

In his witness statement, Mr Karpov, who claims the outstanding claims against him are preventing him from getting a job, said: “I am not bringing these claims to defend the position of anyone else and neither am I trying to protect the interests of the Russian state.”

The Magnitsky affair has provided President Vladimir Putin with one of the most damaging diplomatic and human rights rows of his 13 years occupying the highest offices of the Russian state. Campaigners earlier this month attacked as "sinister" a ruling by Moscow court which tried Mr Magnitsky posthumously and convicted him of tax evasion. Mr Browder was sentenced in absentia to nine years' imprisonment by the same court.

The hearing continues.

Life and Style
A teenager boy wakes up.
life
Life and Style
It is believed that historically rising rates of alcohol consumption have contributed to the increase
food + drink
Voices
The erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey has already been blamed for a rise in the number of callouts to the fire brigade for people trapped in handcuffs
voicesJustine Elyot: Since Fifty Shades there's no need to be secretive about it — everyone's at it
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
Arts and Entertainment
The White Sails Hospital and Spa is to be built in the new Tunisia Economic City.
architectureRussian billionaire designs boat-shaped hospital for new Dubai-style Tunisia Economic City
Arts and Entertainment
You could be in the Glastonbury crowd next summer if you follow our tips for bagging tickets this week
music
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style