Russia, Russia, and a bit of Ukraine

Starting with the Magnitsky affair, and Magnitsky’s mother.

Natalia Magnitskaya, mother of Sergei Magnitsky, recently applied to the Moscow district city court to have the names of the 12 prosecutors in charge of her son’s case revealed. The claim asserts that for more than a year Russia’s General Prosecutor’s Office has not told her the identities of the prosecutors, despite laws that bind the Prosecutor’s office to act openly.

Sergei Magnitsky was a Russian lawyer imprisoned after accusing officials of tax fraud, only to have charges of tax evasion leveled back at him. He died in jail in 2009 under dubious circumstances.

In addition, Magnitsky’s lawyer wants the ex-deputy head of the Butyrka prison, Dmitry Kratov, who was responsible for Magnitsky’s medical services while behind bars, charged with murder as opposed to negligence. Kratov’s defense lawyer Roman Kuchin says his client denies all charges, whether negligence or murder.

The Moscow Times quoted Kratov as saying it was simply “extreme stress” that killed Magnitsky.

"I know that Magnitsky did not even have pancreatis. It was cholecystitis [gall stones]. But Magnitsky did not die from this. Magnitsky died from congestive heart failure," he said. "This can be provoked by extreme stress. And this has been confirmed by serious professionals."

Moving to another Russian individual, this one outside of prison (for now), Alexander Lebedev, the Russian billionaire oligarch and newspaper owner, says he has proof that Russian officials stole tens of  billions of dollars, including $1 billion in state pension funds.

“I want an international investigation into tens of billions of U.S. dollars stolen from banks and companies in this country,” said Lebedev according to Bloomberg Business Week.

Lebedev is already facing criminal investigations for hooliganism after he punched a property developer on a television show last year, and potentially money laundering because his bank, National Reserve Bank, is under investigation.

Lebedev is preparing for the worst, announcing that he may sell all of his Russian assets. Lebedev told Reuters his plan is to "Roll back my businesses just completely to zero, frankly, just roll back, try to roll back everything. Just to get out of business."

Levedev is concerned he’ll face the same fate as opposition blogger Alexei Navalny, who last week was barred from leaving the country after being charged with embezzlement.

And there’s good reason for Lebedev’s concern. On Monday, Navalny brought a wiretap detector into his office and discovered what he thought was surveillance material. After summoning police, they confirmed the presence of a microphone and a hidden camera.

Navalny recorded the incident, which can be seen here.

“Honestly, I thought they’d hide them better,” said Navalny, according to the New York Times.

At the time of the article, Russian authorities had not responded.

Ukrainian Corruption: “Political” to Ruling Party, Pretty Real to Everyone Else

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych said Monday that his government is fighting corruption, but his “attempts to step up the fight against corruption have caused strong opposition,” reported the Kyiv Post. According to Yanukovych, there are attempts to politicize the process. He says his government has never been biased, and never will be.

The opposition thinks otherwise, especially after Yanukovych signed a new procurement law on August 1st. According to the Kyiv Post, the new law will shield billions of dollars of government spending from public oversight every year. Critics may be politicizing the government’s legislation, but they’re doing so because they say this new law with fuel corruption, insider dealing and cronyism.

Furthermore, an investigation by details how the controversial US-based corporation Halliburton is getting drawn into Ukrainian corruption. In 2001, Naftogaz, Ukraine’s national energy company, bought an offshore drilling rig for approximately $400 million from a UK intermediary company. However, the UK company had earlier purchased the rig from a Norwegian operator for $248.5 million.

Suspicious, yes. But Naftogaz and Ukrainian officials claim that Halliburton appraised the rig for $400 million, which should exonerate them from accusations of corrupt dealings. However, Halliburton actually subcontracted the work to a company called Marine Surveyors Incorporated, which turns out sent one man, Captain Michael Barrie, to appraise the rig by himself.

The whole business gets stranger yet when it turns out the rig’s sale went through a Latvian Bank, with alleged links to Naftogaz Ukraine. Read the full story here.