It is the first time ever that an international leading medium questions Browder's story. To attack Russia's "Public Enemy No. 1" and media darling Bill Browder so directly, it takes some courage.
To formulate this text was incredibly difficult for me, because it is not about protecting Russia or its bestial prison system. But Browder's story has gaps and becomes more contradictory the closer you look at it https://t.co/lPGzWo7bV8
– Benjamin Bidder (@ BenjaminBidder) 23 ноября 2019 г.
However, the "mirror" author should be spared praise here because he would strongly reject him anyway: On Twitter, Bidder proudly declared that he could not help himself with "applause from the wrong side". The "wrong side" includes Sputnik and the station RT – the latter he has called in any case as a "propagandist bastard".
But you really should not be angry with the "Spiegel" journalist: in a media world, where anyone who dares to say anything about Russia in a positive way, immediately as Putin "Useful idiot" To be abused and risk his reputation as a reputable journalist, one must take preventive measures. Better safe than sorry.
Presumably, that's not the only reason the author found the text difficult. Because the "political camp" or not – what happened to the lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, is a terrible and shameful tragedy. And therefore it can be difficult to write about a possible involvement of the deceased lawyer in dubious machinations: Nobody wants to be accused of having vilified the victim and downplayed the guilty.
But the "Spiegel" correspondent was not the first to notice the inconsistencies in Browder's story.
It started with a judgment
Why does Browder's story, which reads like a real thriller in his book, suddenly crack?
Last August, in the case of Magnitski, the European Court of Human Rights ordered Russia to pay 34,000 euros to the lawyer's survivors. The Russian authorities had failed to uphold Magnitsky's "right to life", the prison guards had severely abused him. He was also denied the necessary medical help.
Interestingly enough, there is no talk of intentional murder.
Browder himself cheered after the verdict on Twitter and spoke of a victory of Magnitsky's family against Russia. However, the fact that the judges in Strasbourg put his whole narrative on its head practically did not mention the US investor. Even in the media was only reported on the fine against Russia.
But there was a man who took the trouble to fully read the verdict of the court. This was the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray. On his website he wrote a post titled "The Magnitsky Myth Exploded" about the inconsistencies in Browder's story.
What do the judges say?
The European Court of Human Rights considers the allegation that the arrest of Magnitsky in 2008 was arbitrary wrong. Nothing indicates arbitrariness in this case – on the contrary, the arrest is on one "Reasonable suspicion" based.
The Russian authorities had also begun the investigation into suspected tax evasion against Browders investment fund Hermitage Capital Foundation in 2004: So long before Magnitsky had filed corruption allegations against the Moscow police Artyom Kuznetsov and Pavel Karpov.
This one sentence disproves the whole narrative of Browder, according to which the Russian authorities were after Sergei Magniski, because he was on the verge of bleeding up corrupt Russian officials.
For, according to Browder's account, a group of criminal Russian officials had stolen $ 230 million from the treasury and blamed Browder. His lawyer Magnitski had come to the corrupt public servants on the loose, which is why he was arrested and murdered in his cell in 2009.
The officially distributed chronology is not correct. In Browder's story, Magnitsky's death is an act of revenge by the Russian state against an honest lawyer. The judges in Strasbourg, however, came to a different conclusion: The charge against Magnitski, according to which he helped Browder in tax evasion, was not unfounded.
Specifically, it is about two companies founded by Browder. A tax audit by Russian authorities had revealed at the time that these companies had been unfairly benefiting from tax incentives by hiring disabled people who were allegedly investment analysts, but in fact had no knowledge of the subject. The goal of this machination should have been up to 50 percent tax rebate.
The court also confirmed that the Russian investigators arrested Magnitsky only after learning of his plans to move abroad. Magnitski had applied for a British visa shortly before his arrest and bought plane tickets to Kiev.
It does not follow that Magnitsky's allegations of corruption against Russian officials were unfounded. But these details make the whole case appear in a new light.
Death of Sergei Magnitsky
On November 24, 2008, Sergei Magnitsky was arrested. He was accused of helping the head of the mutual fund Hermitage Capital with tax evasion.
The tax attorney, who was diagnosed with pancreatitis at the detention center, was denied medical treatment, or came too late.
Eleven months later, on November 16, 2009, Magnitski died at the age of 37. On the day of death, he is said to have panicked, which is why the guards should have handcuffed him to immobilize him. The lawyer is said to have been beaten with a rubber truncheon, as the Russian Human Rights Commission stated.
Browder's campaign against Russia
Browder is considered one of the biggest critics of Russia. For years he has demanded isolation of the country. His dogged criticism has brought him great fame and success: Politicians, diplomats and human rights activists welcome him both in America and in Europe.
In addition, his book "Red Notice: How I Became Putin's Public Enemy # 1" became a "New York Times" bestseller. The reviews on Amazon are largely high: 85 percent of users gave the book five stars. It was extremely well received by the readers: you have to do something to find skeptical or negative reviews on the site.
Browder had achieved in 2012 that the Obama administration sanctions against Russia under the so-called "Magnitsky Act" imposed. Several other states subsequently passed a similar law. But the US investor is not about to stop: Browder travels through Europe and makes speeches, so that more countries follow the example of the United States.
Could the sudden change of heart of the "mirror" in the Magnitsky Browder case damage plans? Hardly: He remains in the eyes of the Western public Putin's biggest critic, so he is practically above any criticism. So far, no major Western medium has taken up history. Still has "Putin's enemy No. 1" probably nothing to fear.
* The author's opinion does not have to correspond to that of the editors.