How pressure on PwC and a dying prisoner serve state interests One of the most important and essential characteristics of a well organized Soviet-style show trial is a categorical unwillingness on behalf of third parties to participate in or assist the defense in providing any evidence or testimony. This unwillingness, perhaps the deepest perversion of justice imaginable, is not something that comes about naturally, but rather is carefully cultivated through an elaborate campaign of fear generated by high-profile examples. These are precisely the dark arts being practiced right now by certain officials within the government of the Russian Federation, which has manipulated a court decision against one of the world’s most highly respected accounting firms, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and is on the verge of murdering former Yukos executive Vasily Alexanyan in prison by illegally denying him medical care.
It seems clear that the prosecutors are no longer even concerned with getting these parties to provide false testimony (PwC already learned that withdrawing the Yukos books bought them no reprieve), but rather both the dying prisoner and squeezed foreign company serve another purpose to the state: to send an unmistakable message of how far the Kremlin is willing to go in defending the Yukos theft, and what will happen to those who dare to come forward with any information. Even worse they are getting away with it.With both parties, the prosecutors have them exactly where they want them. The Moscow Court has decided to leave in force a ruling which states that PwC colluded with Yukos on tax evasion charges, which puts their operating license at risk (it is safe to say that none of the big four accounting firms would sacrifice their Russia license over one case, no matter how outrageous and political the charges may be).Former Yukos lawyer Dmitry Gololobov was immediately aware of how the new PwC decision will be used. He told the Financial Times: “This court decision will continue to exist in some parallel dimension and it can be used against them any time. (…) It’s now a question of whether this will be used for political ends.”The implicit message from the Kremlin to all who were involved in the past with Yukos – we can destroy your future ability to conduct business in the country at the drop of a hat.With regard to Alexanyan, his lawyers report that he is now nearly blind and has contracted tuberculosis, after the Russian authorities ignored three separate orders from the European Court of Human Rights.Apart from a brief Amnesty International press release, the wider world has been almost entirely silent before this horrific violation of human rights. In Alexanyan’s impassioned and heart-breaking appearance before the Supreme Court, the transcript of which is posted on this blog, he rails in outrage against the preposterous suggestion that he has refused medical care, names the prosecutors responsible, and even relates the story of the offer he was made to exchange medical treatment for false testimony. In response, Alexanyan said “But I can’t perjure myself, I can not frame innocent people, I refused to do this. And I think that no matter how horrible my condition may be right now, the LORD will protect me, because I did not do this, I can not buy my life like that.”The implicit message from the Kremlin: if we can get away with this, it shows that we can do anything to anyone, including Mikhail Khodorkovsky himself. Everyone shall now know the full cost of telling the truth.These two seemingly unrelated events demonstrate that the Russians are keying up for another show trial very soon. For those who hoped that there would be light at the end of the tunnel with the new president, it is evident that he will be forced to allow this charade to occur under his watch despite what he may think of it. It is a genuine pity to taint the beginning of a new presidential term with yet another total miscarriage of justice.This is the true sticky power contagion effect we have seen in the past, detailed in our white paper with the sorry tale of the manipulations, harassment, and underhanded tactics used by the prosecutors to fend off truthful testimony during the first show trial. These two instances of PwC and Alexanyan are just part and parcel of the stage management of the upcoming trial, which has the added effect of being a safety mechanism – those who stole Yukos and imprisoned the innocent seek to implicate as many others as possible in order to bolster their own safety.We can only hope that the desperation shown by the procuracy to use perjured testimony will awaken some in the West to the need to telegraph to the Russians that one more show trial will not clean the kleptocrats of their guilt.[DISCLOSURE: I am an attorney representing Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the above represents my personal views]