Russia Eases on William Browder

Any regular reader of this blog is no stranger to William Browder’s roller-coaster history as a foreign investor in Russia, a one-time success story turned ultimate victim, including the horrific death in prison of his lawyer Sergei Magnitsky following torture by denial of medical services. 

While still no one has ever been held accountable for the death of Magnitsky, and instead of investigations into the matter the prosecutors seem much more interested in producing cases and investigations against the victims, today Kommersant is reporting some small developments that may indicate a softening stance towards Browder.

As reported by Miriam Elder on GlobalPost:

According to Kommersant, Browder has been removed from an international wanted list and his case transferred from the general prosecutor’s office to the interior ministry (police) department of Russia’s Central District (which includes Moscow). Sources told the paper the departmental transfer was an attempt to gain “objectivity” in the case. General Prosecutor Yury Chaika, recently reappointed, has come under fire both inside and outside Russia for politicization of cases. On Monday, Hermitage’s lawyers said they asked Russia’s investigative committee to open an investigation into Chaika.

The paper notes that the case will now be under the control of adepartment that until recently was headed by Valery Kozhokar, a formerclassmate of President Dmitry Medvedev’s (he was recently promoted). (SoI guess they’re basically noting that if there are any positive stepsin the Browder/Magnitsky cases, it’s not because Russia has suddenlydeveloped rule of law but because Medvedev has decreed that, in thiscase, there be rule of law).

Browder remains unmoved by the gesture, however, and has pledged to continue to press for all possible measures to bring justice to the family of Magnitsky (after all, it is understandable why Browder would have little reason to place much trust in Interior Ministry).  The following is from a press statement we received by email earlier today.

In response to this story, Mr. Browder has issued the following statement:
“The case against me and against Sergei Magnitsky was fabricated from the very beginning. It was used to arrest Sergei under false pretences and torture him in pre-trial detention. It is the case that ultimately led to his death in custody on 16 November 2009.
If Russian law enforcement officials think that dropping a fabricated case against me will somehow exonerate them from responsibility for the torture and death of Sergei Magnitsky, they are sorely mistaken.
I, and all of Sergei’s colleagues, are going to fight for justice for Sergei until all of those responsible are properly prosecuted under the law. The whole world is watching what Russia will do, and there are no half measures that will be acceptable.”

This is not the first time that the Central Federal District of the Russian Interior Ministry has been involved in this case. This same department oversaw the investigation prior to the case’s transfer to Investigator Silchenko of the Interior Ministry’s Investigative Committee. During that time, staff of the Central Federal District were responsible for the introduction of documents that have since been revealed as false, fraudulent and thereafter used to cover up, from legal liability, the Interior Ministry officials involved in the illegal expropriation of Hermitage Fund’s investment companies and the theft of $230 million of public funds – crimes discovered and exposed by Sergei Magnitsky.