Firestone boss runs Moscow practice from London as partner death probed

The managing partner of a US law firm in Russia is being forced to run his firm from London after continuing to speak out against the authorities he believes are responsible for his former partner’s death.

The managing partner of a US law firm in Russia is being forced to run his firm from London after continuing to speak out against the authorities he believes are responsible for his former partner’s death.

Jamison Firestone is managing partner and co-founder of Moscow-based tax firm Firestone Duncan. In 2009 a partner at the firm, Sergei Magnitsky, died in custody after allegedly being refused medical treatment (TheLawyer.com, 30 November 2009).

Magnitsky had been held without trial for almost a year on charges of tax ­evasion as a consequence of an investigation into his client, investment company Hermitage Capital.

Magnitsky’s death provoked outrage in Russia and beyond, and led to the US Senate passing the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2011 to freeze assets and block the visas of Russian officials who commit human rights ­violations.

Most recently, it was leaked to a Russian newspaper that a Kremlin commission set up to investigate Magnitsky’s death is likely to find that the charges against the lawyer were ­fabricated and that members of the interior ministry and the federal security ­service were at least partly responsible for his death.

But Firestone is still not hopeful that justice will be served later this year, when the report is expected to reach Russian president Dmitry Medvedev.

“I don’t have a lot of faith in Medvedev these days,” said Firestone. “We’ll see what happens.”

Firestone has not been back to Russia since Christmas 2009, when he fled the country over fears that he was being targeted by the same people he claims are responsible for the arrest and death of Magnitsky (TheLawyer.com, 1 March 2010).

Since then Firestone has been running his firm from London, still advising companies that want to invest in Russia. He also writes campaigning articles and makes videos highlighting alleged corruption.

“We’ve just hired a new senior lawyer [at the firm] because I realise that the course I have chosen to ­follow makes it unlikely that I’ll be back any time soon,” said Firestone. “My clients are used to that already so I’ve just moved on.

“I wear my lawyer hat by day and do my extracurricular activities by night. The situation hasn’t really ­affected my work. I make my money helping foreign investors get into the ­ridiculous country we call Russia.”

Firestone added that the investment climate is difficult in Russia because the country’s law can be unclear.

“If five people go into the country to invest two won’t be able to, but three will make good money on the investment,” he said. “One of those three is then likely to have everything they’ve earned taken from them.

“I used to worry about someone doing to me what they did to Sergei, but I don’t anymore. I’m not ­worried about being arrested – I’m not going to stop.”