Nekrasov’s film, The Magnitsky Act — Behind the Scenes, has caused great controversy by presenting a side of the story of Sergei Magnitsky seldom heard in the West. Nekrasov has been known for most of his career as a fierce critic of the Russian government, and was embraced by the pro-Western opposition. This has all dramatically changed with the release of The Magnitsky Act. Nekrasov attempted to screen the film in several European countries, but the film was blocked.
The official story in the mainstream media about Sergei Magnitsky goes something like this: Magnitsky was a courageous lawyer, who uncovered huge government fraud that implicated members of the Russian government. He was imprisoned on trumped up charges, beaten and tortured in prison, and finally died as a result of this abuse and medical neglect about a year into his pretrial detention. However, Nekrasov’s film challenges this narrative. It argues that in fact Magnitsky may have been Browder’s accomplice in one of the largest cases of tax fraud in Russian history. Browder, with the help of his accountant Magnitsky, may have falsely claimed that they had taken a loss on what was in fact a tremendously profitable investment. In doing so, they may have been able to claim a tax rebate of $230 million.
The controversy over Magnitsky’s death has had serious implications for U.S.-Russia relations. In the context of growing hostility towards Russia as their geopolitical interests came increasingly into conflict, the U.S. Congress passed a law in 2012 called the Magnitsky Act (from which the film takes its title). This law imposed sanctions on a wide range of Russian officials the U.S. government accuses of being involved in Magnitsky’s death.