the so called theft of the companies, law suits were filed against Browder's companies
. In eight or so law suits almost a billion dollars was claimed from Hermitage. Here, curiously, is another rare fact everyone agrees on. There was a series of lawsuits, all fake
in the sense that the litigating parties were controlled by the same people. The aim was to artificially wipe out the profit the companies had made and paid the tax on. So that one can go back to the tax man and ask for the tax to be refunded.
The question is who did all that.
Normally the default position would be that Browder was and remained in control of his companies, and the burden of proof that he lost it is entirely on him. But in the real world he is not required to prove his story, especially if it has something to do with human rights and Putin.
If the Browder organisation had not known about the preparations for the refund fraud, about those law suits in particular, the question is when and how they found out about them eventually. If I sue someone I need to notify those I sue. In Russia the plaintiff notifies the defendant, and so does the court. The notification is sent by registered mail, signed by the defendant, and the law suit goes ahead. The law suits against Browder's companies did go ahead, in the summer of 2007, before the so-called theft - re-registration - of the companies in September that year.
The law suit notifications were sent to the correct addresses of the companies, I'm sure Jamison still remembers, Staropimenovsky 13. The letters were signed on reception and returned. Which means the Browder organisation must have known about the law suits.
One could claim, however, that the criminals had sent the notifications to a wrong address under their control, and persuaded many different officials to do the same, Russia's so corrupt. But there are problems with that explanation. If the criminals had the plan Browder says they had, the police raid, the secret re-registration of the companies and then the tax refund, why did they not re-register the companies first
(And the companies were of course re-registered, but later). The re-registration gives one a new address beyond Browder's reach. It simply makes no sense suing someone for a billion dollars for artificial criminal reasons, which requires secrecy by definition, when you are suing a real company, with a real address, under control of Messrs. Browder, Magnitsky and Firestone.
But it gets worse.
Magnitsky, out of all people, states on the record that he did receive those law suits notifications. But he says he received them on 16 October.
That is two and a half months after the beginning of the law suits and a whole month after the companies' re-registration or theft. For some extraordinary reason the criminals sent the notifications to the correct address where Magnitsky and Browder would get them. Even after the address was changed at the public companies registry! Why would the criminals be notifying - alerting - the real old owners about the sham law suits when they could have sent the letters to their new addresses where the Browder organisation would have never found them? Alerting the old owners - Browder, Magnitsky - means ruining the whole operation!
None of this makes sense. The only logical explanation is that the Browder organisation got all the letters as they normally would, the law suits went ahead with their knowledge as lawsuits normally would, and the company theft story was made up later.
But even if one accepts that the Browder organisation only found out about the multimillion law suits on 16 October, one wonders why they did nothing to thwart those lawsuits for many weeks still to come. Magnitsky claimed they were determined to send a lawyer, Mr Khairetdinov, to the next hearing the moment they found out about this attack against their companies. The next hearing was on the Monday October 22. Well the court records show, and Khairetdinov confirmed to me, that no one showed up for Hermitage. The first time Browder's lawyers did show up, was in the next year, well after the money was stolen.
The Browder organisation claims that they filed complaints to the authorities about the company theft in December. Firstly, that's way too late, - if someone steals your companies and sues you for hundreds of millions of dollars would you wait for weeks and do nothing? And secondly, the letters ("complaints") they sent to the authorities were not really about the theft of the companies. It was about an attempt to steal money from them. Most letters were not even proper criminal complaints. The one which was did not have a return address of the plaintiff and no information about the companies in question. Strangely unprofessional. A red herring, an attempt at alibi, as far as I can see.