Good Lord! I thought the story of Sergei Magnitsky was pretty gross. Not quite as gross as the Gongadze case in Ukraine, but up there. The gross out concerned the way he died — or was murdered — in a Moscow prison after uncovering fraud. Pretty bad. So how could Gongadze have been worse? Magnitsky may have been beaten to death, but at least he was not beheaded and his dead body set on fire the way that Ukrainian officials dispatched Gongadze. Sorry you asked, right?
But the Magnitsky gross out is getting worse. It seems that Russian authorities are not fully satisfied that justice has been served in the Magnitsky case. The problem is that Magnitsky died before he could be convicted … of something. And state authorities very much want the final word about Magnitsky to be that he was a criminal. Why? Because that has been their message to the world. He may have died in prison, but he was a bad, bad guy. And they can’t say that with a straight face without a conviction — that they did not get before he went for his extended chat with St. Peter, or whoever is up there these days. Moreover, a conviction would help them prosecute the guy they really want to embarrass, Magnitsky’s client, a foreign fund manager by the name of Browder who resides in London. Yes, yes, that would be the grandson of the former head of the US Communist Party, Earl Browder. Back to our story — So … what to do?
The authorities got very clever. A Russian Constitutional Court decision allows a criminal matter to go forward in a special case — even after the death of the defendant — with the consent of the family — in order to see if that person should be exonerated. You get the idea, you should not press forward to convict someone who can no longer defend himself, but it may be ok to see if the original charges were BS. So, prosecutors have asked the criminal court to keep Magnitsky’s case going to see if he should be exonerated. Onward … to exoneration? Well, that would be nice, right? But the smart money is betting that things will not turn out that way.
The Institute of Modern Russia tells the tale rather well. And it is pretty gross. Drum roll please …. well, the smart money was right. WSJ is pleased to inform you how the trial ended. Yes, they convicted Browder too (in abstentia).