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12 Jul 2013

Corker Binning partner comments in Law Society Gazette (12 July 2013)

Partner Andrew Smith comments on the posthumous trial of Russian lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky who was found guilty of tax evasion in a Moscow trial that began following his death in prison four years ago.

Profession denounces posthumous Magnitsky trial

Friday 12 July 2013 by Kathleen Hall

Lawyers worldwide have denounced the posthumous trial of Russian lawyer , Sergei Magnitsky (pictured) who was yesterday found guilty of tax evasion in a Moscow trial that began following his death in prison four years

Magnitsky died in a pre-trial detention after accusing Russian police of complicity in a $230m tax fraud.

In the same trial, William Browder, chief executive of Hermitage Capital Management, which Magnitsky represented, was also found guilty of tax fraud. The London-based hedge fund manager denied the charges.

Browder was convicted in absentia, and sentenced to nine years.

Lionel Blackman, chair of the Solicitors’ International Human Rights Group said: ‘The prosecution of Magnitsky following his death in custody does nothing to enhance the diminishing reputation of Russia with regard to its use
of prosecutors and courts to target political opponents or others who seek to expose official corruption.’

Andrew Smith, a partner at criminal, fraud and regulatory firm Corker Binning, which has worked closely on the Russian criminal justice system, described the judgment as ‘a very dark day for the criminal justice system under [president] Putin’.

‘It is fairly well known the charge of tax evasion is the charge of choice for a politically motivated prosecution,’ he said.

Proceeding with the trial following the circumstances of Magnitsky’s death, with allegations of ill treatment, ‘showed the relentless machine of criminal justice under Putin’.

Amnesty International UK’s head of policy Allan Hogarth said: ‘The posthumous prosecution was always farcical, but unfortunately also deeply sinister. The trial of a deceased person and the forcible involvement of his relatives has set a dangerous precedent that could open a whole new chapter in Russia’s worsening human rights record.’