‘Browder had everything to gain from Magnitsky’s death’
In an interview with the Russian business newspaper Vedomosti, Dmitry Klyuev commented on allegations of his involvement in Magnitsky’s death as well as a related multi-million dollar embezzlement scheme. Klyuev says that the whole story linking him to the late lawyer’s death was invented by William Browder – the head and key owner of Hermitage Capital Fund – and his PR-managers.
“There was absolutely no connection between me and Magnitsky,” he said.
The businessman went on to claim that the whole Magnitsky affair was invented by Browder and his PR department. “This tragic death gave nothing to anyone but Browder. He got everything from Magnitsky’s death. I have this impression now, that if Sergey had not died, Browder would have had to invent this death somehow,” he said.
“When he was alive, Magnitsky was a bookkeeper and a suspect, while after his death he became an attorney and an anti-corruption activist,” Klyuev said. He also said that Browder’s PR managers had succeeded in making a brand out of Magnitsky’s name, adding that this, in his opinion, was “repulsive”.
“Whatever were the results of the forensic probe, Browder would not have been happy in any case. He did not want prison doctors to be convicted. He wanted the investigators to be presented as Magnitsky’s methodical killers, and not just any investigators, but those who were handling his own cases. I can see only one person who gained from this tragedy – no one would listen to Browder if not for Magnitsky’s death,” the Russian businessman said.
William Browder is currently under investigation in Russia over suspicion of embezzlement of 5.4 billion rubles (about $170 million). He has not entered Russia since 2005 and currently resides in the UK, a country with which Russia has no extradition treaty.
But as Browder targeted Klyuev personally in his recent film distributed on YouTube, the businessman decided to defend his reputation.
The Hermitage Capital team accuses Klyuev of repeatedly using an embezzlement scheme that allowed companies to return VAT after facing and losing false lawsuits that turned their profit into losses. Hermitage Capital published documents online that show the same scheme was used by several companies that once belonged to Browder’s company, but were hijacked in 2009. The bank that received the VAT returns and channeled it further is the Universal Savings Bank that belonged to Klyuev and this, according to Hermitage, makes the man the mastermind behind the affair.
Klyuev claims he sold the bank in 2006. He also said that he helped many companies to organize tax returns but these was a legal operation as large Russian companies always pay taxes in advance and tax returns are ordinary events.
The web-site contains reports that Klyuev had friendly relations with lawyers, law enforcers and tax inspectors who were also allegedly implicated in the scheme and that they holidayed together. Kluyev dismisses these claims as a 'fiction, as everything else in the film'. He said that the trip to Cyprus in a charted plane was a service to a friend’s friend, that the alleged dates the so-called “corruption group” traveled on did not match and that the “gathering” simply could not have taken place.
When asked why he was only telling his side of the story now, months after it was first presented by Browder and following a move by several countries to introduce sanctions against Russian citizens from the so called “Magnitsky list”, Klyuev said that before it made no sense to answer the vague accusations which themselves made no sense.
Speaking of the film, Klyuev stressed that it was typical propaganda, mixing truth and blatant lies while pulling at the viewers’ heartstrings.
He also said that he had attempted to personally explain his position at a recent OSCE session.Klyuev says he wanted to speak with Browder and discuss the matter publicly to defend his reputation, but the latter unexpectedly left before the vote on the Magnitsky list took place.
The OSCE’s Parliamentary Assembly passed a resolution on Sunday urging governments to introduce sanctions against Russian citizens allegedly involved in Sergey Magnistky’s death. Russia’s representatives opposed the move, saying that the resolution was hasty, inaccurate and lacked objectivity.
Sergey Magnitsky was a lawyer who worked for the UK-based investment company Hermitage Capital Management. He was arrested on charges of alleged tax evasion, and died of a heart attack while in a Moscow pre-trial detention facility in November 2009.
The case received widespread international attention, prompting the US administration to impose a travel ban on 60 Russian nationals who, according to Hermitage Capital, are linked to Magnitsky’s death. This past May, an updated version of the bill was introduced in the US Congress, suggesting punishment for all “individuals responsible for other gross violations of human rights” in Russia via an entry ban and asset freeze.
Russia has replied by introducing similar sanctions against an undisclosed group of US officials implicated in violating the rights of certain Russian citizens such as Viktor Bout and Konstantin Yaroshenko.