“The farcical conviction of the deceased lawyer Sergei Magnitsky on tax evasion charges will only increase the pressure on European countries to follow the US lead and adopt a ’Magnitsky list’ of banned Russian officials involved with the case,” writes FT analyst Neil Buckley:
Yet the biggest impact of the Magnitsky affair may come not from any official response by western governments, but precisely where it now hurts Russia and its leadership most – in investment… When it comes to its investment image, moreover, the Magnitsky case is a particularly unfortunate example of Russia’s capacity to shoot itself in the foot – repeatedly. The man who employed Magnitsky, Bill Browder, once led a fund that was the biggest foreign portfolio investor in Russia.
There prosecution of opposition leader and dissident blogger Alexei Navalny and the jailing of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot, amongst others, all “strengthen the impression that the legal system is not just beholden to the Kremlin, but offers no protection to individuals – or indeed to companies – that fall foul of the authorities,” he adds:
Things might have been different. Even after the fraud and Magnitsky’s death, Moscow could have partially redeemed itself by energetically pursuing those responsible for both – fulfilling the campaign pledge of then president Dmitry Medvedev to fight Russia’s “legal nihilism”. If investment and growth continue to stagnate, the Kremlin may one day rue its decision not to do so.