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.

News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Phillips Idowu, Stella McCartney and Jessica Ennis
fashionMcCartney to continue designing Team GB Olympics kit until 2016
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism