Posts Tagged ‘the times’

15
October 2013

Libel tourism dealt blow as Russian case is thrown out

The Times

Libel tourism suffered a serious setback yesterday when a judge threw out a claim by a Russian against a British-based fund manager.

Bill Browder, who successfully led a campaign for sanctions against Russians involved in a $230 million fraud, had been accused by Pavel Karpov, 36, of ruining his reputation.

Mr Browder had alleged that the Russian was behind a large-scale fraud on the Russian taxpayer and linked to the death of Sergei Magnitsky, an anti-corruption activist.

The case has been described as one of the worst examples of libel tourism, in which foreign nationals with little connection to Britain make use of the High Court to settle disputes.

Striking out the action yesterday, Mr Justice Simon said: “The claimant’s connection with this country is exiguous.” Russia, he added, was “the natural forum” for the litigation.

Mr Karpov, a former policeman, was trying to sue over allegations on a campaigning website run by Mr Browder, 49, the chief executive of Hermitage Capital Management. Mr Browder has become a hate figure within the Russian establishment after he persuaded the US Congress last year to adopt the Magnitsky Act. This imposed sanctions on Russians — including Mr Karpov — alleged to have been involved in the $230 million fraud and also with the death of Mr Magnitsky, an accountant and auditor Mr Browder employed to investigate the fraud.

Read More →

Share:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Buzz
  • LinkedIn
  • del.icio.us
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Tumblr
  • StumbleUpon
  • FriendFeed
  • NewsVine
  • Digg
15
October 2013

Libel tourism dealt blow as Russian case is thrown out

The Times – Law

Libel tourism suffered a serious setback yesterday when a judge threw out a claim by a Russian against a British-based fund manager.

Bill Browder, who successfully led a campaign for sanctions against Russians involved in a $230 million fraud, had been accused by Pavel Karpov, 36, of ruining his reputation.

Mr Browder had alleged that the Russian was behind a large-scale fraud on the Russian taxpayer and linked to the death of Sergei Magnitsky, an anti-corruption activist.

The case has been described as one of the worst examples of libel tourism, in which foreign nationals with little connection to Britain make use of the High Court to settle disputes.

Striking out the action yesterday, Mr Justice Simon said: “The claimant’s connection with this country is exiguous.” Russia, he added, was “the natural forum” for the litigation.

Mr Karpov, a former policeman, was trying to sue over allegations on a campaigning website run by Mr Browder, 49, the chief executive of Hermitage Capital Management. Mr Browder has become a hate figure within the Russian establishment after he persuaded the US Congress last year to adopt the Magnitsky Act. This imposed sanctions on Russians — including Mr Karpov — alleged to have been involved in the $230 million fraud and also with the death of Mr Magnitsky, an accountant and auditor Mr Browder employed to investigate the fraud.

Read More →

Share:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Buzz
  • LinkedIn
  • del.icio.us
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Tumblr
  • StumbleUpon
  • FriendFeed
  • NewsVine
  • Digg
18
July 2013

If we kowtow to Putin, his disdain for us grows

The Times

The absurd trial of a dead man is one more reason to stand up to the bully in the Kremlin
Many in Moscow complain that Vladimir Putin no longer takes counsel, that he has gone rogue. But the critics are wrong in one important respect. At his side, whispering in his ear, is the ghost of Franz Kafka.

How else to explain the political decision to prosecute, and find guilty, a dead man, the whistleblowing lawyer Sergei Magnitsky? He had uncovered a tax scam that went almost to the top and so, by the inverted logic of the Iron Law of Putinism, the corpse of Sergei Magnitsky had to be tried and found guilty of tax evasion, as he was last week. He will be unable to do time.

The absurdity of that trial has been compounded by Russian readiness to grant asylum to the renegade National Security Agency contractor, Edward Snowden. Suddenly, cynically, the Russian authorities have decided that whistleblowers, if they are American, deserve the full protection of the State.

Today Alexei Navalny, an anti-corruption campaigner, will hear whether he will be sent to jail for six years on convoluted embezzlement charges involving £400,000 of state-owned timber. It is wrong of course to anticipate the verdict of even such a plainly politically motivated trial. But I will eat my rabbit-fur schapka if Mr Navalny walks free and proceeds, as he hopes, to contest the September elections for Mayor of Moscow.

How will Britain react to his jailing? Almost certainly with head-shaking disappointment. Or perhaps just demure silence. The Magnitsky verdict was assessed by David Lidington, the Foreign Office Minister, as an “exceptional step”. That fell short in capturing the trial’s perverted essence. Britain, he said, was going to make sure it wouldn’t happen again. The nine-year jail term in absentia of William Browder, Magnitsky’s former employer and co-defendant, drew no significant comment from the Government, even though he is a British citizen.

As for poor Alexander Litvinenko, ex-KGB but also a British citizen, poisoned in London, he too is getting short shrift. First, the Foreign Office has withheld documents from Sir Robert Owen, the coroner, on grounds of national security. That made it next to impossible to determine whether the Russian state was involved in his killing (as Litvinenko claimed on his deathbed). Then, last week, the Government blocked the possibility of a public inquiry that would have allowed the coroner to study classified evidence in private. Russian officials are well pleased: Litvinenko’s dirty secrets about Mr Putin have been frozen out of the Anglo-Russian relationship.

Read More →

Share:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Buzz
  • LinkedIn
  • del.icio.us
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Tumblr
  • StumbleUpon
  • FriendFeed
  • NewsVine
  • Digg
18
April 2013

Putin turns up heat on hedge fund boss Bill Browder

The Times

The Kremlin has escalated its battle with Bill Browder by announcing that it will seek the arrest of the outspoken hedge fund manager in a new case.

Mr Browder, the founder of Hermitage Capital, was a prominent foreign investor in Russia during the early years after the fall of communism, but he was barred from the country seven years ago amid allegations of tax fraud. The American-born investor is now based in Britain, where he has been a critic of President Putin’s administration. He has lobbied fiercely recently for restrictions on travel to the United States and Britain by Russian officials accused of involvement in the death of Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer for Hermitage, in a prison in Moscow in 2009.

Moscow retaliated this month by barring 18 Americans from entering Russia. Yesterday Russia’s Interior Ministry said that it would seek Mr Browder’s arrest on charges dating back to the 1990s.

According to a statement by Hermitage, Russian prosecutors have alleged that Mr Browder embezzled shares in Gazprom, defying rules against foreign ownership, and then used his illegitimate stake to try to influence the gas giant’s management.

Read More →

Share:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Buzz
  • LinkedIn
  • del.icio.us
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Tumblr
  • StumbleUpon
  • FriendFeed
  • NewsVine
  • Digg
25
March 2013

Dead lawyer has a case to answer, judge in Sergei Magnitsky trial rules

The Times

A Moscow court yesterday began the first trial of a dead man in modern Russian history.
Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer who died in prison three years ago after accusing police and government officials of stealing $230 million in a tax fraud, was put on trial for tax evasion despite the objections of his family, who have called it illegal and refused to have anything to do with the proceedings.

Nikolai Gerasimov, the late Mr Magnitsky’s state appointed defence lawyer, told Tverskoi district court that “there were no grounds for this prosecution to take place” and added that he had no business being there himself without the victim’s family’s approval.

However the judge Igor Alisov rejected each of Mr Gerasimov’s objections, stating that “the court has the right to examine the case against the dead man, including with the aims of rehabilitating him”.
Human rights activists, Mr Magnitsky’s family and his co-accused, the US born British businessman William Browder, who was also absent yesterday, have all described the trial as politically motivated.
They claim that it is an attempt to discredit the memory of Mr Magnitsky, whose name has become a touchstone for Russia’s deteriorating relations with the West. In December President Obama signed a law, now known as the Magnitsky Act, which introduced sanctions against a list of Russian officials linked to the lawyer’s death.

President Putin’s government retaliated with reciprocal legislation and a ban on Americans adopting Russian orphans, which has also been attacked by rights activists in Russia and abroad.

Share:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Buzz
  • LinkedIn
  • del.icio.us
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Tumblr
  • StumbleUpon
  • FriendFeed
  • NewsVine
  • Digg
15
March 2013

Russia may be coming in from cold after talks with Hague

The Times

Britain signalled that it was ready for a thaw in the difficult relationship with the Kremlin yesterday —but not at the expense of sweeping under the carpet possible Russian involvement in the killings of the defector Alexander Litvinenko and the whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky.

A meeting in London between William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, was intended to usher in a new level of co-operation on Syria, Iran and the troop withdrawal next year from Afghanistan.

But it was held a day before Sir Robert Owen, the Assistant Deputy Coroner, was due to hold a pre-inquest hearing on Litvinenko, a former Russian secret police officer who was poisoned with polonium in 2006. Mr Hague had no choice but to raise the issue, at least behind closed doors.

“There was a full, substantive and comprehensive exchange on bilateral issues that we do not agree on including human rights and the cases of Sergei Magnitsky and Alexander Litvinenko,” a Foreign Office spokesman said. Mr Hague also emphasised the importance of the Magnitsky case in an interview with the Interfax news agency before the talks.

“I have urged my Russian counterpart to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice without further delay, and [that] measures be put in place to prevent such cases from happening again,” Mr Hague said.

Read More →

Share:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Buzz
  • LinkedIn
  • del.icio.us
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Tumblr
  • StumbleUpon
  • FriendFeed
  • NewsVine
  • Digg
05
March 2013

Trial of dead lawyer Sergei Magnitsky may shine light on UK investigators

The Times

There were two empty chairs in Room 17 of Tverskoi court in Moscow yesterday. The defendants were indisposed.

One, Sergei Magnitsky, a whistleblowing lawyer, died more than three years ago in his prison cell. The other, the millionaire US businessman Bill Browder, expelled from Russia, was sitting in his office in Soho, Central London, fuming about a case that is worthy of the absurdist 19th-century Russian novelist Nikolai Gogol.

“We’re not going to dignify a Stalinist show trial by our presence,” said the head of the investment fund Hermitage Capital, a campaigner for sanctions against 60 officials who he claims were complicit in the torture and death of his associate.

He argues that the officials defrauded some $230 million from the Russian state using documentation stolen from Hermitage offices in Moscow. When he and Mr Magnitsky uncovered the conspiracy, the authorities turned the tables on the two whistleblowers, accusing them of a $17.5 million tax evasion.

The trial has given Mr Browder a chance to prod European investigators — including in Britain — into tackling those involved in the Magnitsky affair, which he describes as “potentially the Watergate of the Putin era”.

In mid-April, the US Government will publish the names and that should, Mr Browder says, galvanise Britain into action. The list include senior officials from the Interior Ministry, tax and customs officials and prison functionaries.

Read More →

Share:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Buzz
  • LinkedIn
  • del.icio.us
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Tumblr
  • StumbleUpon
  • FriendFeed
  • NewsVine
  • Digg
04
March 2013

‘Farcical and sinister’ trial of lawyer in tax fraud case who died in prison

The Times

A macabre new chapter in legal history will begin in Moscow today when the Russian authorities put a dead man on trial for tax evasion.

Sergei Magnitsky’s mother, Natalya, said that the proceedings were immoral, illegal and designed to turn her son, a lawyer and anti-corruption whistleblower who died in prison three years ago, into a criminal.
Magnitsky’s co-accused, Bill Browder, a US-born British investor who was once one of the most vocal Western cheerleaders for the Putin Administration, said last night that the case would “bring Russia to an entirely new level of depravity; even during the worst moments of Stalin’s purges they never prosecuted dead people”.

Amnesty International has called the hearing — in a closed Moscow courtroom — “farcical but also deeply sinister”. According to Russian law, a criminal case can be restarted after a defendant’s death but usually only if the deceased’s relations are seeking his or her rehabilitation. Natalya Magnitskaya has written repeatedly to the authorities to say that neither she nor any of her son’s relations want the process to go ahead.

Last week Magnitsky’s brother-in-law was summoned for questioning by the Interior Ministry and then given a gag order. A scheduled pre-trial hearing in January was twice postponed because the family refused to recognise the case. The State has had to find its own defence lawyers as well as a prosecution team.

Read More →

Share:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Buzz
  • LinkedIn
  • del.icio.us
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Tumblr
  • StumbleUpon
  • FriendFeed
  • NewsVine
  • Digg
18
February 2013

Russia puts dead lawyer Sergei Magnitsky on trial

The Times

Russia is to press ahead with an extraordinary trial to put a dead man in the dock, in a move his family has described as “inhuman”.

The whistleblowing lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in pre-trial detention three years ago, tried to expose a $230 million scam – and now faces posthumous prosecution for alleged tax evasion.

“It is cynical and inhuman,” said Mr Magnitsky’s mother Natalya, in a statement read out in court by the family lawyer. Mrs Magnitsky has been urging defence lawyers not to come forward to represent her dead son since that would legitimise the case.

However, a Moscow court today shrugged off the family’s protests, appointed defence lawyers against their will and indicated that the trial is likely to go ahead, some time after a second preliminary hearing on March 4.

The case of Mr Magnitsky has become a thorn in US-Russian relations.

Read More →

Share:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Buzz
  • LinkedIn
  • del.icio.us
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Tumblr
  • StumbleUpon
  • FriendFeed
  • NewsVine
  • Digg