The yoga guru and the British firms at the heart of Sergei Magnitsky’s death

Daily Telegraph

To her students Lana Zamba is simply an experienced yoga teacher, expert in a 500-year-old form of the mystic Eastern discipline. But Mrs Zamba is equally pliable, it appears, when it comes to choosing business directorships.

The yoga instructor, who lives in Limassol in Cyprus, has been a director of no fewer than 24 British-based companies including one at the centre of an alleged multi-million-pound fraud uncovered by Sergei Magnitsky, the Moscow lawyer whose death in a Russian jail became an international cause célèbre.
Quite why a yoga instructor, who describes herself on the internet as “the leading teacher and representative of the Patanjali International Yoga Foundation”, should head so many different businesses is unclear.

But Mrs Zamba, 47, is named in a series of letters sent to authorities demanding a criminal investigation in Britain into a fraud that led to Mr Magnitsky’s death.

Mr Magnitsky, 37, who worked for Hermitage Capital Management, a British-based hedge fund, had uncovered evidence of a £150 million fraud committed by Russian tax officials and an organised crime syndicate.

He was then arrested on tax evasion charges and held in the notorious Butyrka prison for 358 days before his death in 2009, developing pancreatitis for which he did not receive proper medical treatment. He was also beaten in jail.

Despite being dead for four years – and to the anger of the outside world – Mr Magnitsky is being tried posthumously in Moscow for tax evasion.

Hermitage’s investigations into the fraud suggest as much as £35 million was laundered through 10 British companies. One of those companies – Nomirex Trading Ltd, based in an office block in Birmingham – lists only two directors: Mrs Zamba and a company based in Cyprus.

According to Companies House records, Nomirex was dormant until its dissolution in 2011, but details of financial dealings obtained by Hermitage show multi-million-pound transactions going through the company.
Hermitage’s British boss, Bill Browder, who lives in London in fear of his life, told The Sunday Telegraph that he believed Nomirex was used by the Russian mafia and by tax officials to channel stolen money.

He has written to British authorities including the police and the Serious Fraud Office, demanding a criminal inquiry, listing a series of British companies he said were being used for money laundering.
“The company [Nomirex],” he wrote, “had no commercial footprint to suggest it conducted any legitimate activity.”

Despite his protestations and ongoing criminal inquiries in five countries including Cyprus, Switzerland and Moldova, British authorities have so far refused to open an official investigation.
Last week, Mr Browder wrote to the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) supplying evidence of fraud committed by the Russian mafia and tax officials using UK companies and offering to meet investigators.

Soca told him on Thursday that it was not appropriate “to meet and discuss the details of this case”.

In the US, the Magnitsky Act was passed in December, banning 18 Russians – including the head of Moscow’s tax office and a senior judge – from entering the US or using its banking system. Britain, despite lobbying by MPs, has refused to follow suit.

Mr Browder said: “We are trying to get the authorities in Britain interested in the UK connections but they have been slow to investigate for reasons that are a mystery to us. This is a British issue. The victim of the fraud is British.

“We know that millions of pounds were channelled using companies registered in the UK despite the fact the official records of these businesses at Companies House show little financial activity.

In particular, a UK company called Nomirex appears to be at the centre of this and yet its only named director is a person registered as a yoga teacher living in Cyprus.

“How can that not be of interest to the British authorities?”

Mr Browder is being tried in his absence alongside Mr Magnitsky for alleged tax evasion. A Russian court also issued a warrant for his arrest last week on a charge of illegally purchasing shares in the energy company Gazprom.

He believes Russia will try to use the warrant to get him placed on Interpol’s wanted list, making it difficult for him to travel outside Britain.

Mrs Zamba, who was born in Ukraine but has a Cypriot passport, has been linked to another British company at the centre of other money laundering allegations.

She was listed as a director of a firm which won contracts to build a football stadium, an airport runway and roads in Ukraine before the Euro 2012 football championships.

MEPs have called for an inquiry into allegations of fraud over the awarding of contracts to the company, called Altkom. The controlling interest in Altkom can be traced to a British-based company, Eurobalt. Mrs Zamba is listed at Companies House as Eurobalt’s sole director between 2009 and 2011.

The yoga teacher was unavailable for comment yesterday. The mobile telephone number on her website was not working and she was not at her address in Cyprus.

It is likely that Mrs Zamba was used as a nominal director of the companies and has no knowledge of the money laundering or fraud.

Meanwhile, a hit list with the names of eight to 10 Russians living in London is being circulated, according to a Russian dissident living in Britain.

Valery Morozov, a former major contractor with the Russian government who was granted asylum here, told BBC One’s Panorama, to be broadcast tomorrow: “There is a hit list, I was told, which was found by the Russian home ministry, by the Russian police, and in this list there are from eight to 10 Russian citizens living in London.”

He added that the list contained the name of Alexander Perepilichnyy, 44, a businessman who had also blown the whistle on tax fraud. Mr Perepilichnyy died in mysterious circumstances while out jogging in Weybridge, Surrey in November.

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