Hermitage, Firestone ordered to pay libel compensation to Magnitsky case detective

The Moscow City Court has ordered the Hermitage Capital fund, its co-founder Bill Browder, law firm Firestone Duncan and its co-founder Jamison Firestone to pay a total of 8 million rubles ($143,000) as libel compensation to former Russian police detective Pavel Karpov, who co-investigated the Sergei Magnitsky case, Karpov said.

The Moscow City Court has ordered the Hermitage Capital fund, its co-founder William Browder, law firm Firestone Duncan and its co-founder Jamison Firestone to pay a total of 8 million rubles ($143,000) as libel compensation to former Russian police detective Pavel Karpov, who co-investigated the Sergei Magnitsky case, Karpov said.

"Today a panel at the Moscow City Court, after giving consideration to my appeal against a ruling of the Meshchansky Court of Moscow, ordered each of the four defendants to pay 2 million rubles ($36,000). The ruling took effect the moment it was announced," Karpov told Interfax.

In March, the Meshchansky Court partially satisfied a suit from Karpov against the two companies, Browder and Firestone and ordered them to pay 100,000 rubles ($1,800) to the former police officer.

"I'm undoubtedly satisfied with the ruling of the Moscow City Court. I'm awaiting one more court action, one concerning the restoration of my good name," he said.

Karpov, who co-investigated tax evasion charges against Hermitage Capital auditor and Firestone Duncan partner Sergei Magnitsky, had demanded that Browder, Firestone and their two companies be ordered to stop disseminating what he claimed was libel against him and pay him compensation for reputational damage that had already been inflicted on him.

Karpov said he had been demanding a total of 255 million rubles ($4.5 million) - he wanted a 100-ruble ($1.8) penalty for each Internet viewing of "Russian Untouchables," a four-episode film about Magnitsky's arrest and death in detention. The lawyer died at a Moscow detention center on November 16, 2009.

Karpov accused Browder and Firestone of unleashing "an unprecedented PR campaign" to discredit him.

"The campaign is based on patently false information and ignores documented facts. Its purpose is to cloak up crimes committed by the defendants in Russia and take revenge on me for my fulfillment of professional duties by inflicting maximum damage on my reputation in Russia and abroad," the former investigator said.

Browder and Firestone said Magnitsky had been arrested after exposing an alleged large-scale fraud in which Karpov and other officials were involved.

Karpov responded by trying to take libel action against Browder, but Moscow's Presnensky Court refused to accept a suit from him. Karpov then passed his case onto the High Court of Justice of England and Wales, but the latter threw it out in October 2014.

On the other hand, the ex-detective said, Browder and Firestone were unable to get very far with their action against him.

"The defendants were unable to provide the court with at least some evidence of my complicity in torturing and murdering Sergei Magnitsky, who had died tragically. As a result of which a ruling was issued in relation to Browder and Firestone to the effect that those accusations were not supported by in sufficient evidence."

On July 11, 2013, the Tverskoi Court in Moscow sentenced Browder in absentia to nine years in prison for the alleged evasion of taxes totaling more than 522 million rubles ($9.3 million) through forging tax declarations and schemes with reduced taxes for the disabled. The court posthumously charged Magnitsky with the same type of crime.

Two weeks afterward, Russia issued an international arrest warrant for Browder.

On April 2, 2014, the European Parliament approved a "Magnitsky list," urging the European Commission to ban entry to 32 Russians, including Karpov, and freeze financial assets that they and members of their families might hold in EU countries.

Even before "Russian Untouchables" was released, Hermitage Fund had repeatedly claimed that Karpov was one of Magnitsky's killers.

In 2012, the U.S. Congress passed a bill that became known as the Magnitsky Act after President Barack Obama signed it into law the same year. The act imposed travel and financial sanctions on Russian officials blamed for Magnitsky's death and other human rights violations.

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