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Maxim Kononenko, the gadfly of Runet, on how the hunters may become the hunted in the Magnitsky saga.

The representatives of the founder of Hermitage Capital, William Browder, have informed the High Court of London that their client sees no reason to respond to respond to the lawsuit against him by Major Pavel Karpov, the former investigator who conducted the Sergei Magnitsky case.

Behind this dry communique, there may lurk such a fundamental challenge to our conventional wisdom about the outside world that it’s true magnitude as of as now even hard to comprehend.

Let’s go over the groundwork. In the commonly accepted version of events, some time ago Hermitage Capital was raided on a search warrant. In the course of the search, documentation about several companies founded by the fund were seized, as well as the seals of these companies. Soon the fund’s lawyer Sergei Magnitsky discovered that the companies had been re-registered onto unknown persons, that claims were then made against these companies to reimburse damages, and court cases were lost, as a result of which these companies obtained the right to a rebate on their profit tax to the tune of 5.5 billion rubles [RP: $230 million]. The tax was quickly refunded, at enormous loss to the Russian budget. As soon as Sergei Magnitsky informed the police of this, the very targets of his claims – including investigator Karpov – opened a case against Sergei Magnitsky himself, after which the lawyer was left to rot in jail.

This version of events is consistent and logical. After all one can expect absolutely anything from our law enforcement officers. And when there appeared a series of professionally made videos on the Internet showing how the masterminds of this scam became rich – including investigator Karpov – all remaining doubts vanished. Luxurious mansions in the capital’s suburbs, elite new Moscow apartments, apartments in the skyscrapers of Dubai, expensive automobiles – all of this was so convincing, that arguing with it seemed to be complete madness.

And when my good acquaintance Katya Gordon one day casually wrote to me on Twitter that she knows investigator Karpov well, and that he is no millionaire – well, of course, I did not believe it.

The Magnitsky Affair was expensive for many sides. It has led to a diplomatic war between Russia and the US, as a result of which both sides have already taken so many questionable and one might say “emotional” decisions, that getting to the bottom of them all will take years. The President and the Prime Minister were questioned many times on this topic, and every time their answers seemed so savage in the given context: They said that the death of Magnitsky is, of course, a tragedy, but where does the rest of this come into the picture? And it was so tempting to shout at them right through the TV screen, “Yes, what about Magnitsky? We want to know why the investigators and tax inspectors in this case all suddenly became so rich after this case?! The question isn’t about Magnitsky, but about the corrupt and untouchable system!”

And when investigator Karpov, who had previously stayed silent, stated that he had filed a claim against Browder in the High Court of London, it was seen as some kind of strange curiosity. After all, Browder had so much evidence on the skeletons in Karpov’s closet, the case was bound to become a real Nuremberg for the Russian system!

But suddenly… William Browder refuses to litigate with Karpov.

I didn’t believe my own eyes when I first read this news. And I read it again. And again. And then I tried to recall the origins of all this history about the five billions, the new untold riches, and the mansions in Dubai.

And I could recall any source, other than Browder himself. Everything that we know about this colossal scam, which the dead Magnitsky tried to reveal – we know from Browder. Everything that we know about the tax inspectors, the investigators and their families – we know from Browder.

There is no other source.

And at this point I again remembered those words from my good acquaintance Katya Gordon.

Of course, Browder’s mere refusal to litigate with Karpov – even in the impartial and independent courts of London – is not enough to change the international social opinion that has formed around this history. Nor should one expect any tectonic shifts in the diplomatic configurations that have evolved out of this – after all, recall, did the world undergo a cardinal change when it learned that it was not Russia that attacked Georgia, but the reverse?

Not to mention the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, which was introduced in response to emigration restrictions by the USSR, but remained in force for almost a quarter of a century after the last limitations on leaving the country were lifted.

So we have to bear in mind that even if it turns out that it is not Browder’s version of the Magnitsky Affair that is true, but that of investigator Karpov’s, it would not result in the cancellation of the Magnitsky Act, nor would it lead to the cancellation of the “Anti-Magnitsky Act” [PR: The Dima Yakovlev Law, banning US adoptions of Russian orphans].

However all these new developments may cardinally change the balance of power in our own country. If it somehow turns out that Browder really did slander the investigators and tax inspectors (and I still doubt this) – then first of all, it would hit Alexey Navalny hard, who had invested a lot of his efforts into promoting this story. Second, it would take off the agenda some of the most unpleasant questions that the Kremlin has had to answer – including the question of why it would retry Magnitsky in death?

Which, by the way, does nothing to negate the fact that not a single person has yet been punished for Magnitsky’s death in the detention facility of Matrosskaya Tishina.

The original publication: Второй акт Сергея Магнитского (Максим Кононенко, Известия). 1 February, 2013.

(Republished from Russia Voices by permission of author or representative)
 
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Here is the article, by Nick Cohen. And below are the two comments (one by myself) that were censored. I have corrected a few grammatical points in this post.

They were eventually restored, wonder of wonders, but only after two days – and therefore all interest – had passed, and after I had sent an email of complaint to the Guardian CiF moderation team.

As already noted, on the Guardian, while comment is free, some comments are freer than others.

SublimeOblivion:

Let us look at this rationally and by the numbers.

(1) How can Karpov afford this? This is doubtless a question that will be examined in great deal in the actual trial. It is not necessarily, of course, his own money. One explanation is that the Russian government is funding it if it thinks there is a high chance that a British court would find Browder’s claims to be libel. After all, it is its reputation that has been hardest than anyone else’s in this entire sordid affair. Another alternative is that the lawyers that Mr. Cohen castigates think the defendant has a good case and are prepared to work on a no win – no claim basis. Both alternatives were suggested by a British lawyer friend of mine with experience in libel cases (no not the ones in the article).

(2) Likewise the question of how Karpov could afford a one million dollar flat will also be examined in detail given the heart of Browder’s allegations is that Karpov and his buddies murdered Magnitsky to prevent him from reporting on Karpov’s own corruption. Needless to say that this is a question of vital interest that is well worth spending public taxpayer money on because in addition to its legal aspects it has also had wide-ranging political and diplomatic ramifications (although, this being a libel case, that would not be the case anyway, as it will be the losing party that will also have to pay any court costs).

(3) Some people are complaining that it is political and it is wrong to let foreign let alone Russian criminals “abuse” the British legal system to suppress Browder’s right free speech. The reality however is that it was always going to be political because of the political nature of Browder’s activities, which were to lobby for the Magnitsky Act and similar legislation in other parliaments. If however one of the key alleged figurants turns out to be demonstrably innocent, that in turn will put major question marks over the rest of Browder’s narrative. To the contrary, if the court finds that the libel claim is baseless, then that will provide some degree of legitimacy to the Magnitsky Act, something which it desperately needs (because the persons it sanctions have not turned up there by way of a legal process, but on the say-so of Browder – who, needless to say, has his own private motives for doing so).

As such, the only people who should logically oppose this case are those who are not interested in helping establish the truth, but either want to fight a new cold war (on which Mr. Cohen qualifies, I imagine) or protect characters like Karpov, whose activities have been undeniably shady, from scrutiny.

Beckow:

Good summary, but I don’t have the same faith in UK courts as many here. Courts are reluctant to go against policy of their country. If no evidence is shown against Karpov, they might avoid embarrassing UK/US Congress, by dismissing it on some technicality or muddling the verdict. That’s the way it usually happens, but it is worth the entertainment.

Regarding Karpov’s money – there are plenty of people in E.Europe who own expensive real estate, but are cash-poor. After 1990, flats/houses were given to may who lived in them and as real estate sky-rocketed, they became wealthy overnight. Could be that Karpov’s mom is one of them. It also matters very little if Karpov is rich or not, it proves nothing. As it would prove nothing in the West.

And finally, as a matter of possible curiosity, the email I sent:

Dear CiF Moderators,

I am the user “SublimeOblivion”. As I have been forwarded to this email by Matt Seaton, could you please explain why my comment at 06 January 2013 10:54 PM to this article by Nick Cohen was deleted?

It did not break any of the Guardian’s “community guidelines” that I could possible see. I did not insult anyone, and my reply was a great deal more restrained than any number of others I can point out there. I did not even disagree with one of Cohen’s main points which was that Karpov’s ability to afford expensive lawyers was suspicious (although of course as I understand, in theory CiF does not censor comments for mere disagreement anyway).

As Rozina said in the last comment to that article as of right now (which I hope you will not likewise delete):

Also I wonder why previous comments by Sublime Oblivion, Beckow, myself and others were moderated. SO’s comment looked reasonable and he questioned Karpov’s ability to pay his legal costs. If there are certain things posters are not allowed to mention because they concern details of the court case, then either the original article should have included a warning that any comments referring to facts about Karpov and Browdler which will be part of the trial’s scope may be subject to moderation, or the article should not have invited comments at all.

I would appreciate it if you could send a copy of my comment with the part that was objectionable in particular marked out so that I can avoid repeating any such mistake in the future.

Finally, I would also like to note the deep irony of a comment being deleted to an article that complains of libel lawyers and Russian litigants purportedly infringing on the right to free speech of British citizens. It would be interesting and deeply appreciated to hear a comment on this too.

Thanks and Best,
Anatoly.

The reply:

Hello,

Thanks for getting in touch.

On review I have decided to reinstate your comment (please see: http://discussion.guardian.co.uk/comment-permalink/20433454).

Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

Kind regards

CIF Moderation Team

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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Anatoly Karlin
About Anatoly Karlin

I am a blogger, thinker, and businessman in the SF Bay Area. I’m originally from Russia, spent many years in Britain, and studied at U.C. Berkeley.

One of my tenets is that ideologies tend to suck. As such, I hesitate about attaching labels to myself. That said, if it’s really necessary, I suppose “liberal-conservative neoreactionary” would be close enough.

Though I consider myself part of the Orthodox Church, my philosophy and spiritual views are more influenced by digital physics, Gnosticism, and Russian cosmism than anything specifically Judeo-Christian.