Despite having approved it editorially and technically, the Franco-German TV network ARTE removed this important investigative documentary from its schedule shortly before its planned broadcast on 3 May 2016. Before April 27, 2017, it had been advertised on the ARTE website with trailers. Today, one can only find some sorry traces
of that in the Internet archives. One of the trailers
has since been hosted by the Norwegian film festival "Movies on War" on its YouTube channel. German film title is "Der Fall Magnizki". We worked closely with the editors of ZDF/ARTE on this film. Andrei Nekrasov knew one of them from his work on the documentary series "Farewell, comrades!", for which he received a Grimme Prize. While working on "The Magnitsky case" we did not experience any major differences of opinion, had no political arguments with the ZDF/ARTE editorial staff. The editor, who was directly responsible for the film, even demanded that Andrei use more "direct language"
in his voice-over narration in the film, and say, for example, that such self-serving stories as Browder's should not be made an instrument of international politics. Everything should be called by its name.
This is how the German television version summed up the case in the voice-over narration: "Deceived by the made up story of Magnitsky uncovering a crime and having been killed for it, were the U.S. congress, and the President, the Parliament of Canada, the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, OSCE, numerous NGOs, the media, and many ordinary citizens including myself."
Since our documentary still can't be released, only Browder's version of the affair is known.
Bill Browder used to be a hedge fund manager but now is, in his own words, one of the world's biggest human rights activists, and the self-proclaimed Putin's enemy no. 1.
Bill Browder told his story to Andrei Nekrasov for the first time in an interview in 2010. Andrei wanted to make a film about it. The focus of the story was to be Sergei Magnitsky, Browder's lawyer, as Andrei believed at the time. Browder was the head of the Hermitage Fund that used to be one of the largest investment funds in Russia. In 2007, police searched his Moscow offices. According to Browder, there was no reason whatsoever for this. He then hired Sergei Magnitsky, the best lawyer in town (according to Browder), to find out what was going on. Magnitsky is said to have thoroughly investigated everything and allegedly found out that the same police officers involved in the search had carried out a huge financial fraud. With the help of the confiscated company documents, they allegedly arranged a spectacular illegal tax refund. The Russian tax authorities had transferred $230 million to the fraudsters. Magnitsky allegedly uncovered this and reported the crime to the authorities.
A month later, Magnitsky was arrested, according to Browder, by the same police officers Magnitsky had exposed. Browder claims that they tortured Magnitsky in prison daily for a year, trying to get him to retract his accusations of the police. Magnitsky refused, and as a result, on 16 November 2009, he was beaten to death with rubber batons by eight riot guards in a Moscow prison cell.
We often feel impatient with those who still believe in that story today, but in the end one can understand them. After all we were deceived, too. The implied moral of Browder's fable is that there is still a place for fearless honesty and heroism in the capitalist financial world and that unconditional virtue can still defeat ubiquitous greed and cynicism.
Browder speaks of Magnitsky, as if he's "almost like a god"
and – despite the torture – did not give in. Indeed there is no comparable figure known in contemporary history who has literally been "tortured for 358 days" without giving in.
Unfortunately, it is still often the case in Russia that people are put behind bars for questionable reasons, and numerous human rights organisations, NGOs, opposition parties and the mass media see it as their task to make such cases known to the public. The cases of Khodorkovsky, Nadia Savchenko, Oleg Sentsov and others have been widely reported. Some whistleblowers from the financial world have been prosecuted, e.g. Hervé Falciani, Bradley Birkenfeld and Rudolf Elmer. In these cases, as with Magnitsky, there was a talk of a lot of money and there was a dispute about the whistleblowers' motives, but at any rate, such stories always attract public attention.
The world, however, did not hear of Sergei Magnitsky the whistleblower, either at the time of his alleged sensational revelations or even after his arrest, because Browder only came up with the idea of declaring him a whistleblower hero after his death.