MOSCOW – Russia is preparing to put lawyer Sergei Magnitsky on trial, even though he died in 2009, an unusual twist in a case that has become a byword for Russian corruption and severely strained U.S. relations with Moscow.
Russia’s top court ruled in 2011 that posthumous trials are allowed, with the intention of letting relatives clear their loved ones’ names. In Magnitsky’s case, family members say they don’t want another trial, yet prosecutors re-filed charges anyway.
The move has outraged human rights groups who see the whistleblower’s situation as indicative of the rampant judicial abuse, skyrocketing graft, and blurred boundaries between the state and organized crime that have plagued Russia.
Magnitsky drew controversy in 2008 after claiming that an organized crime group colluded with corrupt Interior Ministry officials to claim a $230 million tax rebate through illegally obtained subsidiaries of Hermitage Capital Management, the company of Magnitsky’s then-client, London-based investor William Browder.
Those same officials had him arrested and placed in pre-trial detention. Magnitsky and Browder were accused of evading $16.8 million in taxes.
A year later, the 37-year-old Magnitsky died in jail of pancreatitis, after what supporters claim was systematic torture.