Helsinki Committee for Human Rights

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sergei Magnitsky

Sergei Leonidovich Magnitsky was a Russian tax advisor. His arrest in 2008 and subsequent death after eleven months in police custody generated international media attention and triggered both official and unofficial inquiries into allegations of fraud, theft and human rights violations in Russia.

The United States Congress and President Barack Obama enacted the Magnitsky Act at the end of 2012, barring those Russian officials believed to be involved in Magnitsky's death from entering the United States or using its banking system. In response, Russia condemned the Act and claimed Magnitsky was guilty of crimes.

Over the years of its operation Hermitage had, on a number of occasions, supplied to the press information related to corporate and governmental misconduct and corruption within state-owned Russian enterprises. Hermitage's company co-founder, American Bill Browder, was expelled from Russia in 2005 as a national threat. Browder has said that he represented a threat only "to corrupt politicians and bureaucrats" in Russia, and believed that the ouster was conducted in order to leave his company open for exploitation. In November 2005, Browder had arrived in Moscow to be told his visa had been annulled. He was deported the next day and has not seen his Moscow home since.

According to Magnitsky's investigation, the documents that had been taken by the Russian police in June 2007 were used to forge a change in ownership of Hermitage. The thieves used the forged contracts to claim Hermitage owed $1 billion to shell companies. Unbeknownst to Hermitage, those claims were later authenticated by judges. In every instance, lawyers hired by the thieves to represent Hermitage (unbeknownst to Hermitage) pleaded guilty on the company's behalf and agreed to the claims, thereby obtaining judgments for debts that did not exist; all while Hermitage officials were unaware of these court proceedings.

Magnitsky was arrested and imprisoned at the Butyrka prison in Moscow in November 2008 after being accused of colluding with Hermitage. Held for 11 months without trial, he was, as reported by The Telegraph, "denied visits from his family" and "forced into increasingly squalid cells." He developed gall stones, pancreatitis and calculous cholecystitis, for which he was given inadequate medical treatment during his incarceration. Surgery was ordered in June, but never performed; detention center chief Ivan P. Prokopenko later said that he "...did not consider Magnitsky sick... Prisoners often try to pass themselves off as sick, in order to get better conditions.

An independent investigatory body, the Moscow Public Oversight Commission, indicated in December 2009 that "psychological and physical pressure was exerted upon" Magnitsky. One of the Commissioners said that while she had first believed his death was due to medical negligence, she had developed "the frightening feeling that it was not negligence but that it was, to some extent, as terrible as it is to say, a premeditated murder.

In July 2011, Russia's Investigate Committee initially acknowledged that Magnitsky died because prison authorities restricted medical care for him. Russian authorities also opened criminal cases against the two doctors who treated him; Dr. Dmitri Kratov, the chief medical officer at Butyrskaya Prison, and Dr. Larisa Litvinova who managed Magnitsky's treatment towards the end. Dr. Kratov was demoted soon after Magnitsky's death and was charged with involuntary manslaughter from negligence and is facing five years in prison. Dr. Litvinova may receive up to three years in prison if convicted of causing death through professional negligence. An independent prison watchdog commission reported that the prison doctors were pressured by investigators to deny treatment, and Dr. Litvinova disclosed to the Public Oversight Commission that she was trying to get approval for Magnitsky's treatment. However, investigators looking into the death of Magnitsky cleared Oleg F. Silchenko, who oversaw the investigation of Magnitsky, of any wrongdoing. Charges of professional negligence against Dr. Litvinova were dropped due to statute of limitations issues. On 23 December 2012, as the trial neared its end, the prosecutor conducting the trial against Dr. Kratov suddenly reversed course and sought acquittal, citing no direct connection between Kratov's actions and Magnitsky's death. On 28 December 2012, a Tverskoy court found Kratov not guilty of negligence causing Magnitsky's death, thus complying with the prosecution's request.

In 2013, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit news organization, obtained records of companies and trusts created by two offshore companies. These included information on at least 23 companies linked to an alleged $230 million tax fraud in Russia, a case that was being investigated by Sergei Magnitsky. The ICIJ investigation also revealed that the husband of one of the Russian tax officials deposited millions in a Swiss bank account set up by one of the offshore companies.

In the 2013 meetings of the World Economic Forum, the issue surfaced at the highest level, with Reuters reporting that before Medvedev gave his opening speech, some 78 percent of respondents voting in an audience packed with hundreds of Western executives and politicians agreed that Russia's biggest problem was weak government and corporate governance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.helsinski.org.rs | biserkos@eunet.rs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

U.S. HELSINKI COMMISSION TO HOLD HEARING ON HUMAN TRAFFICKING AND TRANSNATIONAL ORGANIZED CRIME

November 2, 2011

10:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.

Please join the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe for a hearing that explores the nexus between Transnational Organized Crime and Human Trafficking.

Organized Crime has evolved to meet the challenges of globalization and modern technology. In this evolution major international criminal organizations and smaller highly specialized groups of criminal entrepreneurs have found new ways to expand their operations and exploit human beings into slavery. To meet these challenges new national and international strategies have been placed into action, but their results remain to be seen. This continues the Helsinki Commission’s hearing series on new fronts in human trafficking. This hearing will focus on: (1) the evolving nature of Transnational Organized Crime, (2) the role of major international organized crime groups and smaller organized criminal syndicates in human trafficking, (3) identified trends, and (4) strategies to combat these organizations and prevent the trafficking of human beings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright * Helsinki Committee for Human Rights 2011