In recent years events connected with Russia and Russian citizens have become a regular feature in the British media. Unfortunately, the frequent appearance of such headlines is not a result of strengthening of friendship and collaboration between the two states. Often these reports accompany scandalous trials in British courts, violation of human rights in the Russian Federation, and so on. For instance, today the Magnitsky Legacy round table sessions are taking place in the Parliament building in London. All this attests to the fact that the Russian justice and law-enforcement systems are in a deep crisis and leave no hope for fair decisions based on compliance with legal provisions or, at least, human rights.
Today, the Russian justice and law-enforcement systems are operating solely in the interests of political bosses and commercial clients (who, as a rule, are close to the political bosses) and are focused exclusively on the vicious circle of mutually dependent and self-serving functions – punishment, intimidation, extortion. Citizens of the Russian Federation whom the authorities find undesirable are subjected to unlawful pressure and persecution under the cover of court decisions. The system’s main blows fall on the journalists, human rights campaigners and civil activists. They are tortured, imprisoned, crippled and killed. Not one of the relevant high-profile cases has been solved in Russia in recent years. At the same time, the number of Russians accused and convicted on political motives continues to grow. The YUKOS case, the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, the Bolotnoe case, the Pussy Riot case, the case in connection with the Anatomy of Protest-2 report – these are unlawful trials everybody is talking about.
The Magnitsky case, which I have already mentioned, is widely known to the British citizens and to the entire world thanks to the active information policy employed by the Hermitage Fund, which has been exposing the criminal nature of the actions of the Russian law-enforcement and judicial authorities, as a result of which the Fund’s 37-year-old lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, died in prison. He died because he found proof of fraudulent actions of the representatives of the very same law-enforcement and judicial systems who had allowed the theft of £150 million from the state. Incidentally, not one of the Russian officials involved in this case has been brought to trial to this day.
Using Magnitsky’s case as an example I will define the second category of Russian citizens who are in the risk zone. These are the representatives of the business community. The owners of private companies are of great economic interest to the dishonest officials heading Russian courts and law-enforcement authorities. Businessmen unwilling to “obey the boss” are imprisoned, and so are the people from their closest circles.
Nearly two years ago, I had to seek refuge in London after falling foul of a Kremlin assets grab. My ‘crime’ was to have helped build up the Bank of Moscow from the mid-90s onwards to an organisation with assets of more than £20 billion and nine million private customers. I was stunned when an emissary of the then president Dmitry Medvedev came calling, telling me that my bank was to be taken over by its state-controlled rival VTB.
Naturally, I protested that I had no intention of handing over my life’s work to the Russian government. I was immediately subjected to a programme of threats and harassment, rough searches of my offices and home, intimidation of my family and friends and finally malicious and politically motivated criminal charges. In this climate of fear, along with other loyal shareholders subjected to similar duress, I agreed to sell my substantial stake in the Bank of Moscow at way below its market value. But the nightmare did not end there. I rapidly found myself the target of spurious theft and fraud investigations by the Russian authorities, endorsed by the political leadership, and further intimidation.
There is no right to a fair trial in Russia. Therefore the only way of fighting the Russian state criminals is through the justice systems of the countries whose authority has been acknowledged by the global community. One such measure is the passing of laws in Great Britain and the US (the so-called Magnitsky List) restricting the Russian criminals’ movements, legalisation and use of their illegal capital. I hope that this initiative will be joined by as many states as possible, because, I will repeat myself, today this is the only way of truly fighting for the rights, freedoms, and sometimes lives of Russian citizens.
By Andrey Borodin, Former President of the Bank of Moscow.