'The height of absurdity': Moscow court finds whistle-blowing Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky guilty of fraud - three years after his death
Co-accused British investor also sentenced to nine years in prison - but is unlikely to be jailed
One of the more grotesque trials of recent Russian history came to an end as a Moscow court posthumously convicted the whistle-blowing lawyer Sergei Magnitsky of tax evasion.
Mr Magnitsky died in prison in 2009 after being ill-treated and not receiving treatment for pancreatitis. He had uncovered what he described as a massive fraud scheme that he alleged involved a number of Russian officials, but was then locked up by some of the same officials he was investigating.
Moscow’s Tverskoy Court was packed with journalists, but the defendant’s cage stood empty, as Judge Igor Alisov handed down the bizarre verdict. He convicted Mr Magnitsky of tax evasion, though for obvious reasons was unable to hand down a sentence.
“Magnitsky masterminded a massive tax evasion scheme in a ... conspiracy with a group of people,” said Mr Alisov in barely audible tones as he took 90 minutes to read out the verdict. The court claimed that Mr Magnitsky was aided by William Browder, the British head of Hermitage Capital, the investment fund that had hired Mr Magnitsky to look into corruption. Mr Browder was sentenced in absentia to nine years in prison.
“This show trial confirms that Vladimir Putin is ready to sacrifice his international credibility to protect corrupt officials who murdered an innocent lawyer and stole $230m from the Russian state,” said Hermitage Capital.
The London-based hedge fund manager has denied the charges and said the trial was politically motivated. His defence team have said they will appeal against the verdict.
Mr Magnitsky’s family refused to attend the trial, calling it a “farce” and an “insult” to the lawyer’s memory.
It is the first posthumous trial in modern Russia, and most observers agree that the case was politically motivated. Even the Kremlin’s own human rights ombudsman, Mikhail Fedotov, said that he opposed the trial and verdict, which he said “contains elements of ancient and pagan thinking”.
Russia is furious as the use of Mr Magnitsky as a geopolitical rallying call. Last year, the US passed the “Sergei Magnitsky Act”, which bans Russian officials implicated in his death from entering the country.
None of the officials whom Mr Magnitsky implicated in the alleged corruption, nor those who were believed to have been responsible for his death, have been convicted of any crime. Last year, a court acquitted a prison doctor accused of negligence over the death.
- 1 I'm A Celebrity 2014: Jungle security stepped up after murder and 'suspicious death' near to camp
- 2 To help fuel their propaganda machine against the poor, our government has now decided to redefine the word 'welfare'
- 3 Jeremy Hunt: 'I took my children to A&E because I didn't want to wait for GP appointment'
- 4 Girl, 7, gets Tesco to remove 'stupid' sign suggesting superheroes are 'for boys'
- 5 This letter from a reader explains why women can’t play football
Sarah Vine criticises lesbian mother Jack Monroe: 'If she was unsure about her sexuality, she should have taken greater precautions'
'Kidnapped boy may have been abused and murdered by VIP paedophile ring,' say police
Black Friday 2014: Opening times for Asda, John Lewis, PC World, GAME and Argos
Jeremy Hunt: 'I took my children to A&E because I didn't want to wait for GP appointment'
Michael Brown shooting: Driver smashes into crowd as protests erupt across the US during a second night of unrest
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
Ukip says babies born to immigrants in the UK should be classed as migrants – which would include Nigel Farage’s own children
Rochester by-election: Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigns after posting white van and England flags tweet
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst - Insurance ...
£25000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent, growing Sales...
£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Multi-skilled graphic designer ...
£30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: Court of Protection Solic...