8 April 1972 – 16 November 2009
Sergei Magnitsky was a 37-year old lawyer and auditor who worked for an American legal and audit firm in Moscow. Sergey was married and had two young sons. He was brilliant, well respected and scrupulously honest. He demanded honesty from everyone he worked with including from public officials. In the course of his work Sergei discovered that senior Interior Ministry officers had helped steal the investment companies of one of his clients, the Hermitage Fund, and then went on to rob the Russian treasury of 5.4 billion rubles ($230 million).
Sergey testified against the officers who participated in the theft of his client’s companies and in the theft of $230 million from the Russian government and explained their roles in the thefts.
Within weeks of testifying those same officers and their subordinates arrested Sergei on a fabricated case. They then claimed he was a flight risk because he had applied with the UK embassy for a visa, despite evidence to the contrary from the UK embassy and despite his passport having been seized by police anyway. These officers arrested and detained him without a trial or bail. For one year they held Sergei in pre-trial detention in inhumane, torturous, and ultimately deadly conditions, constantly worsening his conditions in an attempt to pressure him into withdrawing his testimony against the officers. Because of the terrible conditions in detention, Sergei developed Pancreatitis and Gall Stones. He was in constant and excruciating pain and while in pre-trial detention he was prescribed routine but life-saving medical treatment. However as a means of increasing the pressure, Sergei was not given any access to medical care. He died after being in pre-trial detention just short of a year.
Sergei was denied any recourse to justice to stop his unlawful prosecution or any relief from his torturous conditions. All his petitions about his innocence were ignored. All his requests for medical care were denied. There was nothing sudden about his death.
During the period of his detention Sergei filed hundreds of complaints about the illegal and torturous conditions of his detention, the illnesses he was developing because of them, and his need for medical care. He documented and protested the illegal actions of investigators and prison officials who were creating these conditions and denying him medical treatment. Any complaint he filed whether it was about his innocence, his unlawful arrest and detention or his conditions in detention was either ignored or rejected without any consideration.
World reaction to Sergei Magnitsky’s false arrest and murder is unanimous. The public in Russia and abroad are united in their desire to prosecute the people responsible for Sergei Magnitsky’s false arrest and murder, but so far none of the officers responsible, despite the overwhelming evidence of their responsibility, are being investigated. However, efforts are underway across both the US and the EU to refuse visas to all officials connected to Sergei’s false arrest and death and to the crime he reported and to freeze any assets they may have in those territories.