Browder is being tried in absentia; he has not been to Russia since he was banned from entering the country in 2005.
"To try a dead man is beyond evil," Browder told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Monday. "This is a politically directed prosecution -- Putin and (Prime Minister Dmitry) Medvedev have both directed, have sent the instructions for the outcome of this case."
Russia's troubled criminal justice system has a long history of staging grandiose, politically motivated trials aimed at sending a message to opponents of the state. Under Joseph Stalin, the Soviet Union saw numerous show trials of top officials, many of which ended with summary executions.
In modern Russia, vaguely defined charges of "economic crimes" are frequently used to seize assets and silence political opponents such as former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky. One in six Russian businessmen have been accused of "economic crimes" since 2002, according to the country's business ombudsman.
Browder has used a website, Russian Untouchables, to post material that allegedly shows the officials accused by Magnitsky became substantially wealthier after the tax rebate, spending vastly in excess of their meager official salaries on international travel, luxury cars and prime real estate in Dubai. The Russian officials deny any wrongdoing.
Officials in Switzerland, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are attempting to trace portions of the $230 million rebate to banks in those countries.
Putting Magnitsky on trial posthumously underscores the Kremlin's defiance amid growing international concern over Russia's human rights record and corruption.
Last December, tensions between the U.S. and Russia flared when Congress passed a law named after Magnitsky sanctioning officials Browder accuses of involvement in the fraud. Browder says he hopes the European Union will pass its own Magnitsky act by the end of the year.
Russia responded to the U.S. law by banning adoptions of Russian children by Americans and dropping charges against a prison doctor on trial for negligence in Magnitsky's death.
Putin at that time said that Magnitsky died of a heart attack and accused Browder of politicizing his death to distract from his own crimes. The Russian president has decried the Magnitsky law as an "anti-Russian" attempt by Congress to impose America's will on Russia's sovereignty.