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When Governments Incorporate Mafias

Jamison Firestone, a lawyer for Hermitage Capital Management and former employer of murdered lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, has a powerful piece published in Foreign Policy today.

When I opened my law firm, Firestone Duncan, in Moscow in 1993, I was aware of the dangers of doing business in Russia. The stories about “mafia” groups of tracksuited thugs extorting businesses were well known to me. What I never expected was that the Russian mafia would merge with the government; its members are now the same officials who are supposed to be protecting the public. (…)

The scale of the crime and the coverup is truly astounding. It directly involves the Russian deputy interior minister, the deputy general prosecutor, the head of the economic counterespionage unit of the secret police, the heads of Moscow Tax Offices 25 and 28, and a dozen judges, as well as hundreds of functionaries throughout the system. But the Kremlin has shown little willingness to prosecute this case. Instead, Medvedev has tried to deflect attention away from it and portray Sergei’s case as an important investigation of Russian prison conditions after a possible death in detention due to “negligence.”

As this farce plays out, Medevedev continues to make reassuring statements that he is serious about fighting corruption, that the rule of law is sound, and that international investors have nothing to fear in Russia. It is clear that the Kremlin is prepared to let things lie.