Trial by Russian television convicts whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky as MI6 agent

Kremlin-controlled broadcaster steps up smear campaign against lawyer who died in jail

Moscow

As Russia prepares to mount a posthumous trial of Sergei Magnitsky, state-controlled television has aired a documentary accusing the dead whistleblowing lawyer and his bosses of being part of an MI6-led conspiracy.

The documentary, which aired on Russia’s NTV on Wednesday night, said that Mr Magnitsky and William Browder, the US-born British head of the investment fund that hired him, were involved in the “crime of the century” against the Russian state.

Both the television programme and the trial, which starts on Monday, appear to be part of a vitriolic rearguard action by the Russian state, after Mr Magnitsky’s fate became the catalyst for international pressure on Moscow. Mr Magnitsky was arrested in 2008 while investigating an alleged $230m fraud perpetrated by a group of corrupt Russian officials that defrauded the Russian state. However, instead of locking up the culprits, Russian investigators moved against Mr Magnitsky himself. Locked up in Moscow’s Butyrka prison, he was refused medical treatment for a pancreatic condition, mistreated, and died in 2009.

Since then, his case has become an international rallying cry, with the US Congress passing a resolution banning Russian officials involved in his death from travelling to the US or owning property there. Enraged by the move, Russia retaliated by drawing up its own list of US officials to be banned from Russia, and also outlawed US citizens from adopting Russian orphans. President Vladimir Putin also said on live television in December that Mr Magnitsky had died of heart failure, not mistreatment, and added that the case needed further investigation, as the lawyer himself had been no angel.

Since those words, the Russian state appears to have ratcheted up a campaign against the memory of the dead lawyer, his family, and his former employer, Hermitage Capital. Hermitage, headed by Mr Browder, had employed Mr Magnitsky to investigate the fraud.

The NTV documentary insinuated that the US-born British financier had contributed to many of Russia’s recent woes, including playing a leading role in causing the 1998 default in the country. It also repeatedly suggested that Mr Browder is an agent for British intelligence services. The programme was permeated with grainy footage of the MI6 building in Vauxhall, to a background of dramatic music. This week, Russian investigators also announced a court case against Mr Browder himself, over the illegal purchase of millions of pounds of shares in the gas giant Gazprom.

“We caught them stealing an enormous amount of money from their own country, Sergei Magnitsky investigated, and exposed it and was killed by the people who stole the money,” said Mr Browder yesterday. “Now they are trying to blame this on some kind of foreign intelligence services operation, using absurd and twisted logic.”

Additionally, in recent weeks investigators have called a number of Mr Magnitsky’s relatives for questioning over the case, to the same Interior Ministry building where Mr Magnitsky himself was first taken, and from which he never returned home. “This is a clear form of psychological pressure,” said the Magnitsky family lawyer, Nikolai Gorokhov. He is boycotting the posthumous trial, which he called “outrageous and illegal”, and Mr Magnitsky will be represented by a court-appointed lawyer.

“It’s all part and parcel of the same process,” said Mr Browder, talking about the television programme and the posthumous trial. “On 20 December Putin said he wanted to delve deeper into the Magnitsky case, and in Putin-speak, that was an instruction to all government officials to come up with anything they can against Magnitsky and those close to him.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Sport
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Jimmy Mubenga died after being restrained on an aircraft by G4S escorts
voicesJonathan Cox: Tragedy of Jimmy Mubenga highlights lack of dignity shown to migrants
Life and Style
Sebastian Siemiatkowski is the 33-year-old co-founder and CEO of Klarna, which provides a simple way for people to buy things online
tech
News
Not quite what they were expecting
news

When teaching the meaning of Christmas backfires

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum