Russian whistleblower found guilty after death

Updated 12 July 2013
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Russian whistleblower found guilty after death

MOSCOW: More than three years after he died in prison, whistle-blowing Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky was found guilty of tax evasion by a Moscow court on Wednesday.
The posthumous trial of Magnitsky was a macabre chapter in a case that ignited a high-emotion dispute between Russia and Washington that has included US sanctions against Russians deemed to be human rights violators, a ban on the adoption of Russian children by US citizens and calls for the closure of Russian non-governmental organizations receiving American funding.
Magnitsky was a lawyer for US-born British investor William Browder when he alleged in 2008 that organized criminals colluded with corrupt Interior Ministry officials to claim a fraudulent $ 230 million tax rebate after illegally seizing subsidiaries of Browder’s Hermitage Capital investment company.
He subsequently was arrested on tax evasion charges and died in prison in November 2009 of untreated pancreatitis at age 37.
His death prompted widespread criticism from human rights activists and the presidential human rights council found in 2011 that he had been beaten and deliberately denied medical treatment.
Announcing his verdict yesterday, Judge Igor Alisov said “Magnitsky masterminded a massive tax evasion scheme in a ... conspiracy with a group of people,” according to the ITAR-Tass news agency.
Browder, a strident critic of the lack of transparency at top Russian companies who has been banned from Russia since 2005 as a security threat, was also found guilty in absentia along with Magnitsky of evading some $ 17 million in taxes. He was sentenced to nine years in prison.
“Today’s verdict will go down in history as one of the most shameful moments for Russia since the days of Joseph Stalin,” Browder said in a statement. “The worst part of today’s verdict is the malicious pain that the Russian government is ready to inflict on the grieving family of a man who was killed for standing up to government corruption and police abuse.”
Russia’s top court ruled in 2011 that posthumous trials are allowed, with the intention of letting relatives clear their loved ones’ names. But Magnitsky’s relatives said they had no desire for such a proceeding. Instead, the trial of Magnitsky underlined Russia’s strong resentment of foreign criticism of its human rights record.
The court said the verdict ends the case against Magnitsky, and his lawyer Nikolai Gerasimov said he had no authority to try for an appeal. Kirill Goncharov, the court-appointed attorney for Browder, told ITAR-Tass that “undoubtedly, today’s verdict will be appealed.”
Russia’s top investigative body in March closed its probe into Magnitsky’s death, finding that no crimes were committed. A prison doctor charged with negligence in his death was acquitted in December.


Trump, Moon discuss North Korea’s threat to scrap summit

Updated 20 May 2018
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Trump, Moon discuss North Korea’s threat to scrap summit

  • Kim Jong Un has threatened to pull out of the talks with the US after calls for a unilateral nuclear abandonment
  • North Korea also canceled at the last minute a high-level meeting with the South, protesting joint military drills between Seoul and Washington

SEOUL: US President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Sunday discussed North Korea’s recent threats to cancel its unprecedented summit with Washington, Seoul’s presidential office said.
After weeks of warm words and diplomatic backslapping, Pyongyang abruptly threatened to pull out of the planned summit next month because of US demands for “unilateral nuclear abandonment,” according to the North’s official KCNA news agency.
North Korea also canceled at the last minute a high-level meeting with the South, protesting joint military drills between Seoul and Washington.
In a phone conversation on Sunday, Trump and Moon “exchanged views on various actions taken by North Korea recently,” Moon’s office said in a statement.
The two leaders agreed to “work closely” for the success of the landmark summit in Singapore on June 12, which would be the first meeting between a sitting US President and a North Korean leader.
They are due to meet in Washington on Tuesday.
North Korea’s sudden shift in attitude followed a weeks-long charm offensive that has seen leader Kim Jong Un hold a historic summit with Moon and meet twice with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
At a dramatic summit last month in the Demilitarised Zone dividing their two countries, Kim and Moon pledged to pursue nuclear disarmament and a peace treaty.
Pyongyang also raised hopes ahead of the US summit by announcing it will destroy its nuclear testing site next week.
But the promise is open to interpretation on both sides and the North has spent decades developing its atomic arsenal, culminating last year in its sixth nuclear test — by far its biggest to date — and the launch of missiles capable of reaching the US.