MOSCOW Russia is preparing to put lawyer Sergei Magnitsky on trial, even though he died in 2009, in the latest twist in a case that has become a byword for rampant Russian corruption and has severely strained U.S.-Russian relations.
The posthumous trial has already provoked anger among rights groups who see the whistleblower’s case as indicative of the rampant judicial abuse, skyrocketing graft, and blurred boundaries between the state and organized crime that have plagued Russia under President Vladimir Putin.
Prosecutors accuse Magnitsky and his former client, London-based investor William Browder, of a $230 million tax fraud carried out through subsidiaries of Browder’s company, Hermitage Capital Management.
Magnitsky claimed in 2008 that the fraud was committed by an organized-crime group who colluded with corrupt Interior Ministry to register themselves as the owners of three Hermitage subsidiaries, and then claim a $230 million tax rebate. He was arrested shortly after by the same officials and accused of stealing the money himself.
A year later, the 37-year-old Magnitsky died in jail of pancreatitis, after what supporters claim was a systematic torture campaign.
A report by Russia’s presidential human-rights council found in July 2011 that Magnitsky had been repeatedly beaten and deliberately denied medical treatment.