Sakset/Fra hofta

Allerede i 2003 utkom David Satters bok Darkness at Dawn: The Rise of the Russian Criminal State . Satter hadde vært Financial Times Moskva-korrespondent. Han visste hva han snakket om. Men for den norske eliten var budskapet uvelkomment, slik det også hadde vært det for Serbias del.

Hva vil en kriminell stat si? La oss ta Enron som eksempel. Det var svindel i massiv skala, begått av mennesker med kontakter inn i Det hvite hus. Men da boblen sprakk ble menneskene og svindelen eksponert.

I en kriminell stat er det staten som står for svindelen. Kriminelle har overtatt statsapparatet. Det beskytter ikke lenger de lovlydige, men de kriminelle. Lovene kan være så fine de bare vil. De er luft.

Når statstjenestemenn og den politiske ledelse blir kriminell, kan mye skje, som er vanskelig for vanlig kriminelle. Slobodan Milosevics håndlangere samarbeidet med albanermafia om herointrafikken gjennom Europa, spesialsoldater har brukt sin kunnskap til å begå dristige og brutale ran over hele verden. Vi lever ennå med følgene av Milosevics styre.

Russland er Serbia ganger 1.000. Landets spesielle historie, størrelse og enorme ressurser, gjør at konsekvensene blir enda større.

Historien om advokat Sergej Magnitskij illustrerer hvor dyp og hvor stor den kriminelle staten er.

Vi snakker her om en «fersk» historie. Hvis tjenestemenn i et land med svak demokratisk tradsjon får frie tøyler, vil grådigheten bare vokse.

Hermitage Capital Management var Russlands største investeringsfond. Det ble grunnlagt og ledet av amerikanske William Browder. Et amerikans-ledet fond har internasjonale øyne på seg. Myndighetene kan ikke gjøre hva de vil uten konsekvenser. Men i Russland kan de det.

I andre korrupte land kreves bestikkelser, smøring, «avgifter» for å olje forholdet til myndighetene. Det holder ikke i Russland. Her robber man banken, dvs. hele fondet.

Det kan bare ha skjedd ut fra en nøye plan, som begynte med en skatterazzia.

The tragic events that led to his death began on June 4, 2007. That day, 50 police officers from the Moscow Interior Ministry raided Hermitage’s and Firestone Duncan’s offices, under the pretense of a tax investigation into a Hermitage client company. There was no reason for the raid, as the company they were investigating was regularly audited by the tax authorities, and they never found any violations.

In the course of the raid, the police officers took away all the corporate seals, charters, and articles of association of all of the fund’s investment companies — none of which had anything to do with their search warrant. The significance of these seizures would only become apparent later.

Med de beslaglagte offisielle stempler og autorisasjoner var det opprettet fiktive selskaper, som var blitt saksøkt av mystiske selskaper, og advokatene til de fiktive selskapene hadde kjent selskapene skyldige, slik at de ble ilagt store erstatningskrav.

Det hele minnet om persontyveri i gigantskala.

In mid-October 2007, we got a telephone call from a bailiff at the St. Petersburg Arbitration Court inquiring about a judgment against one of the fund’s Russian companies. It was a strange call because the company had never been to court and we knew nothing about any lawsuits or judgments in St. Petersburg.

We called Sergei right away and asked him to look into this call. After researching the situation, he came back to us with shocking news. He discovered that our investment companies had been sued by shell companies that we had never done any business with based on forged and backdated contracts. He also discovered that the fund’s companies had been represented by lawyers that the fund had never hired, and who proceeded to plead guilty to all the liabilities in the forged contracts. As a result, the fund’s companies were hit with court judgments for hundreds of millions of dollars. On top of that, the fund’s companies had been fraudulently re-registered in the name of a company owned by a man convicted of manslaughter.

Most shockingly, when Sergei analyzed the forgeries and fraudulent re-registrations, he was able to prove that they could have only been executed with the documents seized from our offices by the Moscow Interior Ministry.

Fordi Hermitage var amerikanskledet ville man ikke finne seg i røveri ved høylys dag. Et kobbel av advokater ble satt på saken, og den mest iherdige var Magnitskij. Advokatene forfattet et 247 sider langt anklageskrift.

To help us find the answer, Sergei sent out more than 50 letters to different tax authorities and registration offices requesting information on our stolen companies. Almost no one replied, but on June 5, 2008, Sergei received a letter that broke the case wide open.

På grunnlag av domstolsvedtak om erstatninger var Hermitages skattesituasjon endret. Fondet hadde betalt store 230 millioner dollar i skatt i foregående år. Med store erstatninger hadde Hermitage krav på tilbakebetaling, og hvem krevde pengene: de samme som hadde utgitt seg for å representere Hermitage!

According to the letter, which was from tax authorities in Khimki, a suburb of Moscow, our stolen companies had been re-registered in Khimki, and had opened bank accounts at two obscure Russian banks. Once we learned about the banks, everything started to make sense. At those banks, Sergei found a spike in deposits exactly equal to the taxes that the Hermitage Fund companies had paid in 2006. Apparently, the people who stole our companies did so to fraudulently obtain $230 million that the Hermitage Fund companies had paid in taxes in 2006 by claiming that the sham court judgments had wiped out their profits.

The refund of «overpaid taxes» — the largest in Russian history — had been granted by the Moscow tax authorities in two days on Dec. 24 2007. The date of the wire transfer showed that it was carried out in total disregard of the complaints the fund filed to the Russian authorities three weeks earlier.

Sergei didn’t start out as an anticorruption crusader, but when corruption stared him in the face, he felt compelled to do something about it. In July 2008, Sergei helped us prepare a detailed criminal complaint about the stolen tax money, which was filed with seven different Russian government agencies.

Med en slik dokumentasjon i hendene kunne Magnitskij anmelde svindelen. Men det gjør ikke inntrykk på Putins siloviki: de går til motsøksmål.

Magnitskij rygget ikke. De som ikke lar seg skremme, risikerer fysisk skade. Det er den ytterste løsning, og den kom til anvendelse overfor Magnitskij.

After our complaints were filed, the Interior Ministry officers who were involved in the fraud retaliated by opening criminal cases targeting all the lawyers who represented the fund. The pressure became so intense that six of our lawyers from four different law firms were forced to either leave the country or to go into hiding.

The one lawyer who didn’t leave Russia was Sergei. In spite of the clearly malicious activity by the police, he was sure that he was safe because he had never done anything wrong or illegal. He believed that the law of Russia would protect him.

His belief in justice was so strong that he went on to do something many people would be petrified to even consider. On Oct. 7, 2008, he went to the offices of the Russian State Investigative Committee (the Russian equivalent of the FBI) and testified against two officers of the Interior Ministry, Lt. Col. Artem Kuznetsov and Maj. Pavel Karpov, for their involvement in the theft of $230 million. It was an enormously brave move, and we feared for him that day. Amazingly, Sergei was the only person who wasn’t worried.

En måned senere dukker det opp tre offiserer som sorterer under Kuznetsov og arresterer ham for økonomiske misligheter. Dermed er hans skjebne beseglet.

Han flyttes nå fra arrest til arrest og forholdene blir stadig verre. Han går ned tyve kilo på kort tid og blir syk, alvorlig syk. Likevel gir han ikke opp, men skriver klage på klage over behandlingen og bruddene på lov og rett, alle skrevet i et sobert, juridisk språk.

Sergejs skjebne er som ekko av Russlands historie; hvor mange ganger har ikke Makten vist seg overveldende. Folket lider i taushet. Noen få sjeler lyser i mørket. Makten knuser dem, men lyset deres fortsetter å skinne.

Den 16. november 2009 døde Magnitskij. Men hans skjebne gjør sterkt inntrykk. William Browders artikkel i Foreign Policy har nådd mange amerikanere. FSB og silovikis kynisme og hensynsløshet rammer også dem selv. Dette er ikke et system som kan overleve i det lange løp.

They Killed My Lawyer
A story of Putin’s Russia.

BY WILLIAM BROWDER | DECEMBER 22, 2009