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June 25, 2010 2:12 PM

With Medvedev in U.S., Exiled American Lawyer Speaks Out Again

Posted by Brian Baxter

While Russian President Dmitry Medvedev toured the U.S. this week, eating burgers with President Barack Obama and stopping in Silicon Valley in search of investments for a planned Russian technology hub, Jamison Firestone, a U.S. lawyer who cofounded Moscow law and audit firm Firestone Duncan 17 years ago, turned to YouTube and Congress to shed light on the plight of a client and death of a former law partner.

JamisonFirestone

Firestone represents Hermitage Capital founder William Browder, whose investment fund was the largest in Russia until Browder ran afoul of the Kremlin by campaigning against corruption. In November 2009, the head of Firestone Duncan's tax practice, Sergei Magnitsky, died under mysterious circumstances while locked up in a pretrial detention facility in Moscow where he had been held for more than a year.

Firestone (pictured at right) abandoned Moscow in December for London where he remains to this day--click here for a Q&A with the lawyer on why he felt he had to leave. With lawyers for Hermitage Capital reportedly still targeted by Russian law enforcement, Firestone decided that this week, while Medvedev sought to "reset" his country's relationship with the U.S., might be an ideal time to bring attention to whether or not Russia is governed by the rule of law.

"We are outraged that Medvedev continues to allow Sergei's killers to go free, and it is crazy that he is touring Silicon Valley trying to tell American companies that there is rule of law in Russia," Firestone wrote in an e-mail to The Am Law Daily. "We do not have rule of law and we may never get there if [Medvedev] doesn't personally get involved in overseeing that his laws are put into practice and that members of his law enforcement mafia are imprisoned for crimes against their own people."

Medvedev, who also happens to be a lawyer, has spoken publicly about ending Russia's "legal nihilism." But the arrest and conviction of Russian businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and the subsequent breakup of his now-defunct oil company Yukos, resulted in harsh international criticism of Russia's legal system. Both Khodorkovsky and Yukos were discussed on the floor of the U.S. Senate earlier this week just prior to Medvedev's visit.

Firestone chose YouTube as the forum for his discussing Hermitage and Magnitsky. He told us that after setting up a Web site to honor Magnitsky, posting a video seemed like a natural next step.

"Several months ago a group of people who knew Sergei got the idea of doing a movie like Browder had done for Hermitage a year earlier," Firestone said in his e-mail. But YouTube's roughly ten-minute limit on the length of videos made him think long and hard about what he wanted to focus on. Firestone and his supporters settled on the following:

"Sergei did what Medvedev asked and fought legal nihilism and was killed for it," Firestone told The Am Law Daily. "The guys who steal and murder wear uniforms, were promoted, and got rich. This is not the first time they have done this."

Medvedev has left the U.S. for Toronto, where he will attend the G8 and G20 summits this weekend. As for Firestone, he hopes to one day return safely to Moscow, but is skeptical that will ever happen.

"Clearly there is no rule of law in Russia, and Medvedev should spend time making sure his reforms are working before he tries to bring other investors into this mess," Firestone said. "If he fixes [the] rule of law at home, Russia will be flooded with investments, both Russian and foreign, and [Medvedev] won't even have to do a road show."

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