The theory was first floated in a documentary broadcast on Russian state television last year, but widely brushed off as crude propaganda. It seemed aimed, as with many Russian disinformation campaigns, at muddying the waters around the issue without necessarily claiming to be credible.
It seems the prosecutors have been assembling the case since last year, but their activities came to light just this month when a lawyer representing Mr. Magnitsky’s family gained access to the court docket containing the information presented as evidence by the prosecutors.
“This is going on because my role in their troubles just seems to be escalating,” Mr. Browder said in a telephone interview, alluding to the sanctions. A Russian court has already convicted Mr. Browder in absentia of fraud in a case he called retaliation for his lobbying against the government of President Vladimir V. Putin.
“Basically, I’m their worst nightmare,” Mr. Browder said. “And their previous attempts to rein me in and get me back to Russia haven’t worked. It went from tax evasion, to more tax evasion, to fraud and libel, and now it is working its way up to murder.”
The case gained new prominence this summer after it emerged that a lawyer supporting the Russian government’s position had met during last year’s presidential election with the senior leadership of the Trump campaign, including the chairman, Paul J. Manafort, and Mr. Trump’s son and son-in-law.
The new accusation is made all the more sinister for its absurd and at times cartoonish details.
Prosecutors contend that Mr. Browder had colluded with an agent of Britain’s foreign intelligence agency, MI6, “to cause the death of S. L. Magnitsky,” by persuading Russian prison doctors to withhold care.
The motive, according to what prosecutors said were intelligence intercepts, was to start a scandal, or “a significant news trigger to discredit the Russian Federation in the eyes of the international community.”
While they were about it, the prosecutors used the so-called intercepts, written in grammatically flawed English, to wrap into the plot two other Kremlin nemeses — Grigory A. Yavlinsky and Aleksei A. Navalny, prominent Russian opposition politicians. The supposed scheme was called Operation Quake.
The prosecutors say that Mr. Browder was assigned the code name Agent Solomon by Western intelligence, while Mr. Navalny was called Agent Freedom.
Referring to Agent Solomon, one filing recounts how he “was offered by proxies in the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service to arrange the termination of any medical services for Magnitsky.”
The measure that Mr. Browder campaigned for in the United States passed in 2012 as the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law and Accountability Act. It denied visas and blocked access to the American financial system for Russians deemed to have committed human rights abuses and avoided punishment at home, including those involved in the Magnitsky tax fraud case.
Mr. Putin, perceiving an intrusion into his country’s affairs, campaigned hard against the measure. When it passed, he retaliated by ending American adoptions of Russian children. The law became a prototype for the blacklisting of prominent Russians later applied in new sanctions laws during the Ukraine crisis.
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