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.