On 21 March 2017, Nikolai Gorokhov, a lawyer representing the family of Russian whistleblower Sergei L. Magnitsky, was gravely injured in a four-story fall. The fall came days before he was to appear in court to represent Magnitsky’s mother, Natalia Magnitskaya.
Magnitsky reportedly discovered a $230 million fraud perpetrated by Russian officials using documents they found when they raided the offices of London-based financial firm, Hermitage Capital Management. At the time, Magnitsky was working as a lawyer for the firm, which was run by William Browder.
Both Magnitsky and Browder were charged with the crime that Magnitsky allegedly uncovered. Browder was arrested in absentia. Magnitsky died in prison in 2009 after being denied medical care for gallstones and pancreatitis. In 2013, the Guardian reported:
Magnitsky was thrown into one of Russia’s harshest pre-trial detention centres, repeatedly denied medical care and allowed to die. A presidential human-rights commission later found evidence that he was tortured.
In a surprising move, Russia posthumously charged and convicted Magnitsky for the very tax crimes he had uncovered.
Gorokhov sustained severe head injuries in the incident, though Browder says he is conscious and responsive in an intensive care unit. He has represented Magnitsky’s family since 2011. Gorokhov is also a key witness in another case against a Cyprus-based company accused of laundering some of the money made from the fraud Magnitsky uncovered. The New York Times reported:
[Browder] said Mr. Gorokhov was to appear in a Moscow court on Wednesday to appeal on behalf of Mr. Magnitsky’s mother for an investigation into new evidence relating to the fraud scheme first exposed by Mr. Magnitsky.
“Basically, there is a trail of dead and seriously injured people leading from the Magnitsky case,” Mr. Browder said in a telephone interview early Wednesday. He said Russia’s post-Soviet version of the K.G.B., the Federal Security Service, or F.S.B., “is doing everything it can to shut down any serious investigation.”
While Browder has insisted that Gorokhav was pushed from the fourth floor window, Russian state media have claimed that he fell while trying to raise a bathtub using a pulley system.
The BBC cited conflicting reports about the nature of Gorokhov’s injuries:
Russian media say Nikolai Gorokhov fell from the fourth floor when a rope snapped as he and others tried to lift a bathtub into his house near Moscow.
He was flown to hospital by helicopter, a medical source was quoted as saying.
However, British businessman Bill Browder, for whom Mr Magnitsky worked, said he had been “thrown”.
He did not give a source for his allegation.
An article in Barron’s reported:
This morning Browder said the injured Gorokhov was conscious and responsive, in an intensive care unit. Russian state media described Gorokhov’s fall as an accident, but Browder said in a statement today that eyewitnesses contradicted the accounts in the official media. One of the participants in the original 2007 treasury scheme died after also falling from a Moscow apartment building.
The Magnitsky scandal has wide-ranging implications for U.S.-Russia relations. Bowder successfully lobbied to get those involved in the alleged fraud banned from traveling to the United States (as well as Great Britain) and Russia retaliated by banning U.S. citizens from adopting Russian babies.
U.S. Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.), said in a statement released Wednesday:
Gorokhov appears to be the latest victim of the culture of brutality that Vladimir Putin has created in Russia, where those who speak the truth about corruption and tyranny are persecuted, attacked, and killed, and no one is ever held responsible. Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Nikolai Gorokhov, and we pray for his full and speedy recovery.
We will never be silent about the culture of violence, death, and impunity that Putin has unleashed across Russia, and will continue to advocate for measures to hold him and his kleptocrats accountable for the destabilization they sow in their own country and worldwide.