While Magnitsky rotted away in prison, the officials he had testified against grew staggeringly rich. On a government salary, they boasted foreign bank accounts, vacation villas in Dubai, and million dollar estates in Moscow. The head of the interior ministry’s tax office, Olga Stepanaova, gained $39 million as part of the $230 million tax rebate that Magnitsky uncovered. As a result, $11 million in cash was registered in Swiss bank accounts under her husband’s name, even as her mother-in-law, a pensioner, was the registered owner of a $28 million estate in Moscow. Lieutenant Colonel Artyom Kuznetsov, who had ordered the 2007 raid on Firestone and Hermitage’s offices, also registered million-dollar residences for his pensioner parents and bought luxury cars, as did his colleague at the interior ministry, Major Pavel Karpov. Notably, both Kuznetsov and Karpov had previously been accused of corruption in another case that saw a man sentenced to 11 years in prison on trumped-up fraud charges.
Magnitsky’s plight generated so much outrage that even the Russian government acknowledged wrongdoing. A Russian investigative government body concluded that police, prison officials and doctors shared the blame for Magnitsky’s untimely death, and last July Russian president Demitry Medvedev endorsed that conclusion.
Yet little has been done to win justice for Magintsky and his family. Although a government committee has said that the prison doctors and interrogators should be investigated, no such investigation has been forthcoming. Instead, interior ministry officials are trying to reopen the case against him. Magnitsky’s family has refused to participate in the proceedings, which they consider illegal and which they plausibly suspect are intended to absolve the same interior ministry officials who caused his death. Undaunted, the ministry forcibly removed the family’s lawyer last month and imposed a state lawyer on them.
If the trial is allowed to take place, it will be the second time that Magnitsky will be unable to defend himself in a court of law. It would be difficult to come up with a more damning verdict on Russian corruption than the fact that the state no longer even requires defendants to be alive to face the farce that passes for official justice.
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