Court dismisses central claims
in Bill Browder's Magnitsky story.
A recent ruling in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) supports findings in a Norwegian documentary and points to a falsification of the central premise in the Magnitsky case as told by Bill Browder. The Norwegian Helsinki Committee act again as his spin doctors.

by Andrei Nekrasov
The Norwegian version was published in Agenda Magasin on 23 October 2019
In replying to my request to publish a response to an article by NHC officers the Agenda editor suggested that the "strong allegations" in my text should be revised, additionally scrutinised or dropped. In my turn I replied that I considered NHC to be the first to come up with "strong (or more precisely, unfounded and defamatory) allegations" that seemed to have been editorially unchallenged.
The English version represents the full original while the Norwegian text had to be shortened.
Bill Browder and NHC's Gunnar Ekeløve-Slydal displaying the book
"Why Europe needs a Magnitsky Law" during Oslo Freedom Forum, May 2014
Bill Browder and NHC's Gunnar Ekeløve-Slydal displaying the book "Why Europe needs a Magnitsky Law" during Oslo Freedom Forum, May 2014
I have worked with the esteemed production company Piraya Film for years making an independent documentary film, The Magnitsky Act – Behind the Scenes, which investigates the notorious Magnitsky case. The film exposes the systematic worldwide distortion of facts related to the case, and proves that Bill Browder, the hedge fund manager turned human rights campaigner, has misrepresented the role of his accountant Sergei Magnitsky. Our findings are devastating for Browder and perhaps even more so because our documentation comes from open sources, and to a large extent from Browder himself.

On September 12th, in Agenda Magasin, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC) erupted with yet another attack on me, Piraya Film and our film.
Referring to the ECHR judgement, NHC declared that "the version of the Magnitsky case that Russian authorities have tried to convince the world of" had now been utterly destroyed. At the same time NHC claims that "the filmmaker Andrej Nekrasov and Piraja film have produced a documentary, The Magnitsky Act, which reproduces the Kremlin's version and apparently tries to obscure the case." Put together those claims should represent the final nail into the coffin of our film's credibility.

Much as I find the article infuriating and offensive, I would recommend it to be studied as a paragon of manipulation and propaganda.

There is a multitude of statements in the judgement by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) published on some 64 pages. The court ruled in favour of Magnitsky's mother and widow on a number of their claims which have to do with his imprisonment conditions, lack of medical care, ill treatment by the prison staff as well as posthumous prosecution of Magnitsky. The Russian Federation violated the European Convention on Human Rights while the court's reasoning was based on legal precedents, that is, similar events that had happened in such countries as Belgium, France, Italy, Lithuania, Switzerland, Turkey, U.K. and Ukraine.
But the court rejected some of the claims made by Magnitsky's family, and even by Magnitsky himself (whose lawyers filed a complaint with ECHR while he was still alive). Most significantly it rejected the claim that Magnitsky's detention had been arbitrary, and that its "real purpose had been to force him to incriminate himself, or to retract his allegations of corruption by State officials." (§197)

Rejected? Really? This is the central tenet of the narrative Bill Browder, the notorious hedge fund manager and Magnitsky's boss, has been spreading across the world! And he has done it with the sustained help of NHC. According to them, Magnitsky was arrested, imprisoned and brutally murdered, precisely BECAUSE he had exposed state corruption, and, in particular, two police officers' involvement in a specific tax refund fraud. And yet, it is precisely that causal link, that "BECAUSE", that the European Court of Human Rights has rejected.

Russian authorities accused Browder and Magnitsky of aggravated tax evasion involving "sham employment of disabled persons". That was the grounds for Magnitsky's arrest in November 2008, while Browder was outside of Russia.

The European Court of Human Rights states:
The Court concludes that the first applicant's (Magnitsky's) arrest was not arbitrary, and that it was based on reasonable suspicion of him having committed a criminal offense. Accordingly, this complaint (by the Magnitskys) is manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 (a) of the Convention, and must be rejected pursuant to Article 35 § 4." (§205)
The European Court of Human Rights
Have NHC's Gunnar Ekeløve Slydal and Bjørn Engesland read the judgement? They probably did, but they use language to obscure the truth: "Before Magnitsky was arrested in November 2008, he had reported a tax fraud in the billion class." NHC now avoids directly insisting on the causal link between Magnitsky's "reporting" and his arrest, "before" is not the same as "because of". But will the unsuspecting reader see the difference?

"He was arrested", NHC continues, "by some of the same people he had reported on…", but that is simply not true. That is what Browder claims, falsely.

The court does appear to disagree with Browder's narrative about Magnitsky having proved officers Karpov and Kuznetsov's involvement in the "alleged fraud".
"No connections between the police officers and alleged perpetrators of the tax fraud had been established." (§118)
The European Court of Human Rights
The judgement by the ECHR is not the only time the Magnitsky case was looked at in a Western court of law. One of the Russian police officers in question, Pavel Karpov, attempted to sue Browder for libel in High Court in London, but the case was eventually thrown out on jurisdictional grounds. Karpov had never lived in the UK and admittedly had no reputation there to defend. The judge, however, did hand Karpov a "measure of vindication". Judge Simon stated:
"The link which is made between the arrest and imprisonment on the one hand, and Sergei Magnitsky's death on the other hand, is that the latter was the 'reasonably foreseeable' consequence of the former, 'not least' because of high mortality rates in Russian prisons. The causal link which one would expect from such a serious charge is wholly lacking; and nothing is said about torture or murder." (§128, Page 25)
Judge Simon
What this means is that Browder, in a court of law where all the details of the matter would be considered, did not dare, as he has done on numerous occasions elsewhere, claim that Magnitsky was actually tortured and murdered. Browder was only saying that the corrupt officers had stuck Magnitsky in jail, counting on the "high mortality rates" to get rid of him. Browder still wanted to stick to his cause-effect chain: Magnitsky was unlawfully arrested only because of his statements and was kept in prison in order to be forced to retract those statements. Now the European Court of Human Rights confirmed that there was no causal link between anything Magnitsky might have alleged on the one hand, and his arrest on the other.

This and many other highly dubious aspects of the Magnitsky case is what our film is about. It is about a fake narrative Browder constructed around the figure of his accountant Sergei Magnitsky. It is also about me personally, who at first believed Browder, in part for political reasons, even though I remembered how in the early noughties he consistently put out the message that Putin is the best thing that ever happened to Russia, while I was putting my life on the line making films about the human rights Putin was violating. Our film is NOT at all about the Russian government being right in a human rights case. One human right this particular film claims is the right to know the truth about purely economic crimes involving people who can co-opt the world's media, governments and human rights organisations to obfuscate economic crimes.
By claiming that our film "reproduces" the Kremlin's version, NHC is utterly disingenuous, manipulating and defamatory. Which "version" are they talking about? That Magnitsky was arrested because he was duly investigated for tax evasion and not because of something he said about the authorities? Well then it is the European Court of Human Rights that is reproducing the Kremlin's version. The Russian source documents quoted in the film are those which Bill Browder himself had quoted to support his version, except that in some cases he (or his team) had manipulated them in translation from Russian into English.

My version of the events is entirely a result of hard work of my own. As a filmmaker and journalist I feel I am being judged and accused on the basis of political slogans. That is how authoritarian states have always treated their critics, but I feel similar methods are now being employed by NHC against me and my colleagues for just doing our job.

We were not working in some mysterious vacuum. Throughout the making of "The Magnitsky Act – Behind the Scenes" commissioning editors (ZDF/ARTE, NRK and others) who observed our investigation had only praise for our work.
Now NHC essentially calls it disinformation, while failing to cite a single example.
"Democratic states, NHC writes, must do more both to support whistleblowers and to prevent criminal abuse of financial institutions."
Great words. Democratic states should support companies like Piraya Film who in their investigative work are trying to expose and prevent criminal abuse of various kinds, including that of financial institutions. And ask yourself, who, to use NHC's wording again, are "the criminals who plunder the state" here? The person who seems to fit that description, if you read the ECHR's judgement (§31, Page 5), is none other than Bill Browder.
Few serious investigative journalists have escaped a measure of antipathy on the part of the subjects of their investigation, but in a democracy one expects controversies to play out by certain rules. We have invited Bill Browder to virtually every public screening we managed to hold, despite the fact that he did his best to have our film banned. Instead of trying to argue his case he resorted to smear and abuse in the media and in communications with various NGOs, politicians, government and intelligence agencies. He even managed to have the film removed from online distribution.

Our film uncovered a multitude of inaccuracies, forgeries and falsehoods most of which have come from Bill Browder himself. We attempted to engage with NHC in an honest and open debate on the verifiable specifics of the Magnitsky case and the findings of our film. They at first agreed to organise such an event, but a year later walked away from their promise and instead held "The Oslo Magnitsky Hearing" that looked like a tribute to Bill Browder, not even pretending to be a balanced inquest into the case.

NHC's and Browder's narrative of Magnitsky having been murdered for his whistleblowing activities is falling apart, now on the basis of the judgement by the ECHR. In my opinion the narrative's main purpose is diverting attention from Browder's conviction for tax evasion, as well as his false explanation of the tax rebate fraud allegedly exposed by Magnitsky. My purpose right now is not analysing the ECHR judgment in every detail, I need first and foremost to respond to NHC's defamation. But, in my humble opinion, the judgement is pretty disastrous for Bill Browder in legal terms. Yet misrepresentation of white collar crimes as an emotive human rights case offers, for now, a way out. For that purpose Norwegian Helsinki Committee acts as one of the most willing among Browder's agents.
Read Browder's statements with regards to the "posthumous conviction" of Magnitsky in the transcript of the videotaped deposition on April 15, 2015, New york (Page 106 ff.)

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