BRUSSELS, April 27. /TASS/. The European Parliament canceled the first show of an investigative film about Russian lawyer Sergey Magnitsky by Russian film director Andrey Nekrasov on a direct order from Hermitage Capital Management investment fund CEO Bill Browder, lawyer and one of the Russian organizers of the show Natalya Veselnitskaya told TASS Wednesday.
"The film was accused of pro-Russian propaganda. The show’s organizers received a letter from Browder, in which he just frightened them with lawsuits," Veselnitskaya said.
"The case is that the film, which was to have been shown today, demonstrates another side of the story, which differs from the version of Browder that he presented to the Western audience," she said.
"The fact that the film was so easily removed from the first show organized in the European Parliament demonstrates that the right to freedom of speech here is only provided to one side," Veselnitskaya underscored.
Earlier Wednesday, April 27, the European Parliament canceled the show of Nekrasov’s film, which had been made with active support from European states’ television channels, due to "a number of technical and legal issues."
Magnitsky and Browder
Magnitsky died in 2009 at the age of 37 in a Moscow pre-detention center where he faced the charges of tax evasion. According to investigators, Magnitsky died because he was not timely assigned appropriate medical treatment and adequate therapy when his health deteriorated sharply.
Moscow’s Tverskoy court ruled in 2013 that Hermitage Capital CEO Browder and auditor Magnitsky were guilty of tax evasion worth a total of 522 billion rubles ($8 billion at the current exchange rate). The court sentenced Browder in absentia to 9 years in prison. In July 2014, Russia put Browder on an international wanted list.
Besides, the Russian Interior Ministry’s Investigative Department is currently investigating a criminal case against Browder on charges of fraud with Russian energy giant Gazprom’s shares, as a result of which the state incurred losses of about 6 billion rubles ($92 million at current rates).
Film director’s statements
Film director Nekrasov said in the European Parliament on Wednesday after the announcement that the film will not be shown that Magnitsky "was not killed, he had not been conducting an investigation against Russian police officers and had not brought accusations against them."
He told TASS in the European Parliament that Browder accused him of falsification of evidence.
The film director did not rule out that he would sue Browder for the accusation.
"In order to cancel the show, Bill Browder sent letters to television channels, which supported the making of the film. He accused me personally of falsifying evidence and facts. This is a very serious accusation, and I do not rule out court actions against Mr. Browder," Nekrasov said.
"The lawyers of Mr. Browder sent a number of letters to television channels that supported the shooting of the film, European deputies and me personally that we are in for multimillion lawsuits for falsification of facts. Mr. Browder was discontented with the film," he said.
"I don’t know what will happen to the film. Is Mr. Browder so strong that he can ban us from watching it today? Are we living in North Korea? It’s beyond reasonable explanations," Nekrasov said.
The director also said the film's premiere remains in the schedule of the ARTE television channel May 3, but it is unknown whether it will be shown.
Nekrasov also accused Browder of violating his copyright, as the film "was apparently stolen, his lawyers’ letters cite facts contained in the film, the film which has never been demonstrated to anyone yet."
"You may watch a film trailer to get an idea of it. The trailer is rather versatile," the director said.
"During the making of the film I reached the conclusion that Magnitsky had not been killed. Moreover, he had not conducted an investigation against Russian police officers and had not brought accusations against them. There is no evidence of that," he said.
The shooting of the investigative film "The Magnitsky Act. Behind the Scenes" was carried out with support from a consortium of European television channels supporting journalistic investigations.
The director said the documentary, the work on which began "as a story on a corruption conspiracy of Russian policemen, who killed hero and fighter against corruption Magnitsky, quickly turned into a real time investigation of the case’s versions that contradicted one another."
Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Heidi Hautala, the organizer of "the Magnitsky Act. Behind the Scenes" documentary's show, which was canceled, complained to a TASS correspondent of Browder’s pressure upon MEPs designed to cancel the film show.
Hautala said a number of letters began coming to her and her colleagues from lawyers linked to Browder the day before.
Asked whether such pressure is part of a normal lobbying practice in the European Parliament, she said: "I would say the pressure was very sudden and strong.".