Russian Officials Said to Reap Wealth in Tax Case

New York Times

After accusing government officials here of involvement in large-scale tax fraud three years ago, Sergei L. Magnitsky, a lawyer for a major international investment fund, was arrested and jailed for nearly a year until he died mysteriously in detention.

Mr. Magnitsky’s claims have never been fully investigated, and on Monday, a year and a half after his death, his former colleagues unveiled information that they said showed that the officials he implicated had become astonishingly wealthy.

The findings are the latest in a series of independent investigations into Russian officials by Mr. Magnitsky’s supporters, including William F. Browder, the owner of Hermitage Capital Management, the fund that Mr. Magnitsky represented. A $12 million country house outside Moscow and seaside villas in Dubai and Montenegro are some of the purchases made by the officials since Mr. Magnitsky made his accusations against them, according to the investigation.

Details about the inquiry appear on a Web site called Russian Untouchables and in a short documentary film released on YouTube on Monday.

Officials have not yet responded to the accusations, which, if true, could prove to be a major embarrassment for the Kremlin. President Dmitri A. Medvedev has made fighting corruption the focus of his presidency, and he has personally ordered an independent commission to investigate Mr. Magnitsky’s death, though the inquiry appears to have stalled.

Just before his arrest, Mr. Magnitsky accused Interior Ministry officials of having used three Hermitage subsidiaries in a scheme with tax officials to receive an illegal tax refund of $230 million.

The Interior Ministry has since said that Mr. Magnitsky masterminded the scheme. The police officials Mr. Magnitsky accused of devising the fraud have been promoted.

Officials from Hermitage and Mr. Magnitsky’s former law firm, Firestone Duncan, have called the charges absurd. The bureaucrats involved in the tax scheme, they say, have stashed millions of dollars away in offshore bank accounts and shell companies and spent millions more on luxury goods like cars and homes.

Among the officials they investigated is Olga Stepanova, the former head of Moscow’s 28th District Tax Inspectorate.

Three weeks after her office was said to have approved a portion of the tax refund in question, Ms. Stepanova put a $629,030 down payment on a luxury apartment in Dubai, according to financial documents gathered in the investigation and reviewed by The New York Times. The purchase, documented in a bank statement from Credit Suisse, was made under the name of Ms. Stepanova’s husband, Vladlen Stepanov, a construction worker.

Days later, two of Ms. Stepanova’s colleagues at the tax office also bought luxury apartments in the same elite Dubai neighborhood, taking money from the same account, according to the documents.

In addition to the Dubai apartment, Ms. Stepanova and her husband bought a large villa in Dubai and another in Montenegro, and built an 11,900-square-foot house outside of Moscow, according to the investigation. In total, Ms. Stepanova acquired nearly $39 million in assets and cash after her office authorized the tax refund.

According to tax returns available on the Untouchables Web site, Ms. Stepanova and her husband had been making a combined salary of just under $40,000 annually.

Reports from previous investigations by Mr. Magnitsky’s supporters have unveiled purchases of luxury cars and apartments in Moscow and elsewhere by the police officers involved in Mr. Magnitsky’s arrest.

It is unclear whether the new investigation will prompt a response from the authorities.

Earlier this year, Ms. Stepanova became the subject of a tax fraud investigation that the authorities said was unrelated to the Magnitsky case. She has since resigned as head of the 28th District Tax Inspectorate.

Mr. Magnitsky’s former employer, Jamison Firestone, wrote in an e-mail that he planned to file an official complaint with the Russian Investigative Committee this week, on the basis of the latest findings.

He wrote, “I fully expect it to be ignored,” because the Interior Ministry and prosecutor’s office “have been protecting Stepanova and the criminals who organized this fraud for years.” займы онлайн на карту срочно быстрые займы на карту https://www.zp-pdl.com https://zp-pdl.com/online-payday-loans-in-america.php unshaven girl

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