Dear Friends and supporters,
Today marks the 5th anniversary of Sergei Magnitsky’s killing in Russian police custody. Sergei was my lawyer who was murdered because he exposed one of the largest government corruption schemes in Russian history. After he testified against the police officers involved, he was arrested by the same officers and was then systematically tortured for 358 days. On November 16, 2009 he went into critical condition and instead of being treated, he was put in an isolation cell and beaten by eight riot guards with rubber batons until he was dead at the age of 37.
When I learned of Sergei’s death, it was the worst news I had ever received in my life. It was like a knife going into my heart and I made a vow to myself, his family and his memory that I would get justice for him. For five years, I have tried to get that justice, but the Russian government has used every tool at their disposal to thwart me. They claimed Sergei was never tortured and he died of natural causes. They claimed that he never uncovered or exposed a crime, but was the one guilty of one. And most shockingly, they exonerated every single Russian state employee involved in spite of a mountain of documentary evidence to the contrary.
It became clear to me that there was no possibility of justice inside of Russia so I sought justice outside of Russia and have advocated for sanctions against the people who killed Sergei in many countries in the West. Three years after Sergei’s death, the U.S. government signed the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act imposing visa sanctions and asset freezes on those involved in Sergei’s death as well as other human rights violations. Similar sanctions are being considered by governments in Europe as well.
Putin and his government have become infuriated at the global reaction to Sergei’s case and have lashed out in all sorts of ways. Shortly after the Magnitsky Act was passed, Putin banned U.S. adoptions of disabled Russian children. In 2013, more than three years after Sergei died, they put him on trial in the first ever posthumous trial in the history of Russia. They also put me on trial in absentia as his co-defendant and sentenced me to nine years.
When I first started this campaign, many people thought that what happened to Sergei was some kind of anomaly. They said “this is a sad story, but probably a one-off,” but as time has gone by, more and more cases like this have surfaced and it’s becoming obvious to everyone that Russia is a criminal state taking innocent people hostage and doing horrific things to them. The most recent actions in Ukraine make it clear to even the most ardent Russian apologists that Russia is engaging in all sorts of atrocities and brazenly covering them up.
What happened to Sergei is now a global symbol of everything that is wrong with Russia, from the actual crime of what they did to Sergei to the high level cover-up to the threats against me and others seeking justice.
Despite the many horrific threats and all the misinformation Russia is spewing out in this case, I won’t back down in my call for justice for Sergei Magnitsky and neither will those close to him.
We will not stop until the people who tortured and killed Sergei are properly brought to justice.
Thank you for your continued support on this important mission.
Bill Browder is the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of the London-based investment advisory firm Hermitage Capital Management.