British-American financier Bill Browder was Russia’s largest foreign investor in the 1990s. During the 1998 Russian crisis, his fund lost almost one billion dollars. In 2005 he was expelled from the country as a „security risk“. In 2009, his employee Sergei Magnitsky died mysteriously.
According to Browder, his company was stolen by Russian officials and criminals and misused for a $230 million tax fraud. His lawyer Magnitsky uncovered this and got arrested, tortured and murdered in a Moscow prison.
Browder subsequently lobbied for the U.S. Magnitsky Act, which in 2012 imposed sanctions on Russian officials. The Council of Europe, too, adopted a report condemning Russia.
Movie director Andrei Nekrasov, a well-known Putin critic, wanted to film this story. But during the shooting he became increasingly doubtful: he realized that Magnitsky was not Browder’s lawyer, but his accountant, and that he was arrested not as a whistleblower but as a suspect in the tax fraud allegedly organised by Browder himself.
The final film traces this surprising turn of events. European TV channel ARTE, which had commissioned the original film, did no longer want to broadcast the final version. A screening at the European Parliament, on Press Freedom Day 2016, was cancelled at short notice, and a book on the case got censored by Amazon. In 2018, the film was eventually leaked.
How did Magnitsky really die in Moscow prison, and where did the stolen tax money go? Through an aluminum-based poison by order of Browder, and partly into the election campaign of Hillary Clinton — the Putin government has claimed. Russian propaganda?
The Magnitsky Act: Behind the Scenes (120 minutes)
- A current Newsweek article about the case
- A Consortium News article about the case
- Browder’s movie Justice for Sergei (2011)
Published: November 2018