Posts Tagged ‘WSJ’
Tourists will always flock to London to shop and see Big Ben. But they’re less likely to keep coming to settle legal scores after two High Court rulings Monday set clear limits against libel tourism in England and Wales. Along with new legislation from Parliament, the rulings might finally lift the chill on free speech and the free press under England’s plaintiff-friendly defamation laws.
The dispute at the center of Karpov v. Browder began with Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky’s prison death in Moscow in 2009. Magnitsky had been investigating a multimillion-dollar tax fraud by Russian officials against his client, Hermitage Capital. Pavel Karpov, a retired Moscow policeman, claimed that Hermitage CEO William Browder defamed him in a 2011 BBC interview, a 2012 article in Foreign Policy magazine, and in online videos about Magnitsky’s case.
Russian courts dismissed Mr. Karpov’s civil and criminal suits, so he took his case to London. Mr. Browder lives in Britain and is a U.K. citizen, but he argued before the High Court that Mr. Karpov has no reputation in England and Wales for Mr. Browder to have besmirched. Mr. Karpov rebutted that he has former schoolmates and an ex-girlfriend who live in England, and that he had previously traveled there “on five or so occasions.”
Justice Peregrine Simon threw the case out. Mr. Karpov’s “connection with this country is exiguous,” Justice Simon concluded, “and, although he can point to the [videos'] continuing publication in this country, there is ‘a degree of artificiality’ about his seeking to protect his reputation in this country.”
Mr. Karpov’s real intent—as he admitted in his libel claim—is to fight the sanctions against him imposed by America’s Magnitsky Act, for which Mr. Browder campaigned vigorously. The 2012 law prevents Mr. Karpov from entering and making financial transactions in the U.S. Justice Simon declared that the English justice system was hardly an appropriate forum to pursue that fight, especially considering that Russian courts had already rejected Mr. Karpov’s complaints.
Prosecutors filed a civil complaint seeking the assets of 11 companies linked to a $230 million Russian tax-refund fraud uncovered by deceased Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.
Mr. Magnitsky’s death in 2009 led to tit-for-tat recriminations between Washington and Moscow as the relationship between the two countries, which the U.S. had sought to “reset,” also deteriorated around other issues.
The 65-page complaint, filed Tuesday in New York federal court, accused 11 corporations of laundering a portion of the money through the purchase of real estate, including four luxury residential apartments and two commercial spaces in Manhattan.
“While New York is a world financial capital, it is not a safe haven for criminals seeking to hide their loot, no matter how and where their fraud took place,” said Preet Bharara, the Manhattan U.S. attorney, in a statement.
Among the properties targeted by thee forfeiture are four units at 20 Pine St., in Manhattan, an “office-to condo pioneer” in the borough’s Financial District.
According to the complaint, a Russian criminal organization stole the identities of portfolio companies owned by Hermitage Capital Management, an investment fund operating in Russia. (The story of the alleged scam was reported in 2011 by Barron’s.) (more…)
U.S. prosecutors seeks to seize high-end real estate they claim was bought with proceeds from a $230 million tax fraud allegedly committed by corrupt Russian officials
– The prosecutors allege the scheme took control of entities owned by U.S.-born investment fund manager Wiliam Browder
– Critics say the suit is emblematic of the Kremlin’s abuse of the legal process and has sparked tensions between the U.S. and Russia
U.S. prosecutors said Tuesday that they’re seeking to seize several luxury apartments and other high-end commercial spaces in New York that they claim were purchased with proceeds from a $230 million tax fraud allegedly committed by corrupt Russian officials.
Prosecutors said the fraud was allegedly uncovered by Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who died in a Moscow prison in 2009 under suspicious circumstances. Mr. Magnitsky, before his death at age 37, claimed Russian police and security officials took control of entities owned by his client, U.S.-born fund manager William Browder, and defrauded the Russian government of hundreds of millions dollars in tax refunds. Mr. Magnitsky was arrested in 2008 after he provided testimony about the alleged fraud.
In July, a Russian court sentenced Mr. Browder without him being present in court to nine years in prison for tax evasion and returned a guilty verdict against Mr. Magnitsky, despite his death, on similar charges. Mr. Browder is a U.K. citizen living in London.
Critics of the Russian government have said the case is symbolic of the Kremlin’s abuse of the legal process and it has fueled tensions with the U.S., leading to a series of tit-for-tat recriminations between the nations. Russian President Vladimir Putin and other officials have denied allegations of judicial abuses in the case.
In a civil lawsuit filed in federal court in Manhattan on Tuesday, U.S. prosecutors alleged that a criminal organization, including officials at two Russian tax offices, corruptly sought tax refunds in the amount of 5.4 billion rubles, or about $230 million, on behalf of companies associated with Mr. Browder’s Hermitage Capital Management. (more…)
Viewers of the nightly news in the central Russian city of Chelyabinsk were given a rare glimpse recently of a report condemning President Vladimir Putin, when an allegedly disgruntled employee slipped the critical clip between glowing reports about pig farming and the region’s pro-Kremlin governor.
The anti-Putin item appeared on the Eastern Express channel during its evening news report on July 31, after the newsreader introduced a relatively benign story about new medical equipment in local hospitals, according to a portion of the broadcast later uploaded to YouTube.
Instead of that report, the item that appeared was called “The Epoch of Putin”—a polemic that blamed the president for the deaths of slain journalist and anti-Kremlin critic Anna Politkovskaya and lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in prison after exposing alleged corruption. It compared corruption levels under Mr. Putin to those in Togo and Uganda.
It also accused Mr. Putin of benefiting from a boost in the polls following a series of terrorist attacks around Russia that started just before his first term as president in 2000.
The report ran for more than two minutes before the channel switched abruptly back to footage of the regional governor, according to the online footage, which spread widely following the broadcast.
Critical broadcast news reports about Russia’s president are almost unheard of in the country, where national television networks are state controlled or have close ties to the Kremlin, and privately owned local stations tend to hold a similar line. (more…)
The conviction and five-year prison sentence given on Thursday to Alexei Navalny makes Russia’s opposition leader a political prisoner and dissident. As any number of history’s disgraced dictators could tell Kremlin strongman Vladimir Putin, jailing your opponents can bring unforeseen consequences. Think Mandela, Walesa, Havel and, at a not-so-distant time in Russia, Andrei Sakharov and Natan Sharansky.
As the Putin regime bears down on the democracy movement, such comparisons might seem fanciful. Mr. Navalny, who came to prominence as an anti-corruption activist, had no chance against the Russian state. He offended President Putin by labeling his ruling clique “the party of crooks and thieves,” a nickname that stuck, and by leading large protests starting in late 2011.
The Kremlin then revived a local investigation into the alleged theft in 2009 of about $500,000 in timber from the Kirov district, which had been dismissed for lack of evidence. Mr. Navalny briefly worked in the northeastern city as an adviser to a then reform-minded local governor. During the trial, the defense wasn’t allowed to cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses or call its own. Nearly all cases in Russia end in convictions, certainly all political cases.
Other opposition figures face different criminal cases, but Mr. Navalny’s was the most prominent political trial since at least the 1970s. The sentence takes him out of the running for mayor of Moscow, an opposition bastion, in September elections. It will also keep the 37-year-old father of two small children in jail beyond the end of Mr. Putin’s third term as president in 2018. (more…)
Some kids dream of winning the World Series, others of going to outer space. I dreamed of being declared persona non grata by Moscow.
Stalin once bestowed that honor on George Kennan, architect of the Cold War doctrine of containment. Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin made this conservative’s dream come true.
On April 13, Russia banned 18 Americans from entering the country. The lucky few include a federal judge, prosecutors and law-enforcement agents, former Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, commanders of the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. And me—apparently for my Justice Department work in approving interrogation and detention policies after the 9/11 attacks.
According to Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, the blacklist punishes “people actually responsible for the legalization of torture and indefinite detention of prisoners in Guantanamo, for arrests and unjust sentences for our countrymen.” Happily, I learned the news while at Camp Pendleton for a federal judicial conference. Sitting among thousands of U.S. Marines seemed a good place to contemplate Putin justice.
Russia does not typically scour the world to protest the latest human-rights violations. Moscow announced its travel ban in response to American sanctions on 18 Russian officials involved in the 2009 death of Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer in Moscow.
Magnitsky had discovered that Interior Ministry officials had used his client, Hermitage Capital, as a front to procure a fraudulent $230 million tax refund. Instead of prosecuting the corrupt officers, Russian police arrested the whistleblower. According to an investigation by the Public Moscow Oversight Commission, jailers tortured and beat Magnitsky and withheld critical medical treatment until he died. (more…)
Russia banned 18 Americans from entering its territory over the weekend, responding to a list published Friday by the Obama administration that barred the same number of Russians from the U.S. for their alleged involvement in the death of a whistle-blowing tax attorney in a Moscow jail.
The diplomatic row heightens discord ahead of a meeting Monday between U.S. National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow. Relations between the two global powers have grown tense, even as the White House tries to revive a “reset” in hopes of gaining the Kremlin’s support in dealings with North Korea, Syria and Iran.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry divided the list of banned current and former U.S. officials into two categories: four former U.S. officials that it alleges were involved in legalizing or authorizing torture at the Guantanamo Bay detention center and 14 U.S. officials that it alleges were involved in “violating the human rights and freedoms of Russian citizens abroad.”
The Guantanamo Bay list includes two former commanders of the detention center and former Bush Administration officials David Addington and John Yoo. The other list includes U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff, as well as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara and seven current and former officials from his office. It also includes four Drug Enforcement Administration officials and a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent.
“I have rarely received such an honor,” Mr. Rakoff said in response to a query from The Wall Street Journal on Sunday.
Mr. Yoo, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and former Justice Department official known for writing a series of controversial legal memos on enhanced interrogation techniques, said he has never been to Russia and has no plans to go. “But there goes the Black Sea vacation home for the wife,” he wrote in an email. (more…)
There’s an irony in the fact that the grudging bailout of Cyprus by other members of the European Union came at the end of the same week in which the late Sergei Magnitsky was due to go on trial in Russia.
Magnitsky was the Russian lawyer who died in prison in 2009 after pursuing Russian officials who seized companies from his client Hermitage Capital and allegedly perpetrated a $230 million tax fraud. It’s a quirk of Russian law that the dead can be put on trial, with Magnitsky charged with the same offenses as the officials he pursued (The initial hearing on the case was delayed until March 22). His treatment led to U.S. sanctions on those officials in the form of the “Magnitsky list.”
What does this have to do with Cyprus? The Mediterranean nation has become what the good-governance group Global Financial Integrity described in a recent report as a “laundry machine for dirty Russian money.” GFI’s report said $128.8 billion flowed into Russia from Cyprus in 2011, more than five times its gross domestic product. (more…)
Wall Street Journal
It sounds like something out of a Nikolai Gogol story, but it’s true: Sergei Magnitsky, killed by abuse and neglect in a Russian prison at the age of 37, is now on trial more than three years after his death.
On Tuesday a Russian court held the second hearing of a sham trial to convict him posthumously of tax evasion. That hearing was postponed at the request of Magnitsky’s state-appointed defense attorney, who pleaded for more time to prepare a defense.
Assuming this gesture was not part of the charade, he needn’t have bothered. As in the show trials of the 1930s, the outcome is assured. The whole point of putting this dead man on trial is to secure a conviction and rob the victim of his status as an international martyr. Last year the U.S. passed the Magnitsky Act, which sanctions and bans from travel to the U.S. Russians implicated in his murder. Some countries in Europe may do the same.
The Putin government has no interest in seeing Magnitsky’s name cleared. Yet it is revealing that Moscow feels bound to produce a verdict. Even Vladimir Putin’s Russia seeks to adopt the trappings if not the substance of criminal justice.
Magnitsky’s real “crime,” the one for which he was killed, was to expose official corruption and the theft of state assets after his client, investor Bill Browder of Hermitage Capital, was expelled from Russia in 2005 and forced to liquidate his holdings there. Perhaps conscious of the absurdity of trying a corpse, last week prosecutors added Mr. Browder to the dock in absentia. So the world will be treated to the spectacle of a trial of a dead man and a foreigner living in Britain—all to improve the image of Putin’s regime.
The Russian state, in its benevolence, granted the defense attorney the time he requested this week. But there can be no stay of execution for Sergei Magnitsky, and his trial deserves the full measure of the world’s contempt.