Swiss rapporteur denounces Magnitsky ‘cover-up’


Russian authorities have been accused of covering up the persecution and death of whistle-blower Sergei Magnitsky, who exposed massive tax fraud, in a hard-hitting Council of Europe report by Swiss parliamentarian Andreas Gross.

In the first comprehensive independent report into the case, Gross concluded: “Corrupt officials must not be allowed to plunder State property whilst brutally silencing those standing in their way, with impunity.”

The cover-up surrounding Magnitsky’s death in custody in November 2009 and the crimes he was attempting to expose must be reversed and the true culprits held to account, Gross added.

Elected rapporteur for the case in November 2012, Gross presented the findings of his six-month review of the events linked to the lawyer’s death to the human rights and legal affairs committee of the Council of Europe on Tuesday.

Magnitsky’s former client Bill Browder, who is leading a global campaign for justice for the dead lawyer and who is facing legal action himself in Russia, welcomed the Council of Europe report.

“This report is a detailed and objective analysis which destroys the Russian government’s position on nearly everything they have said about Sergei Magnitsky’s murder on a line-by-line basis,” he told swissinfo.ch.

‘Gigantic robbery’

In 2007 Magnitsky uncovered the largest tax refund fraud in Russian history ($230 million), involving the theft of companies belonging to his client Bill Browder, formerly one of the most successful foreign investors in Russia through his firm Hermitage Capital Management.

“Sergei Magnitsky had denounced a gigantic robbery whose victim was Russia herself. He died because he refused to give in to the pressure that corrupt mid-level officials had put on him in order to get away with their crimes,” Gross wrote in his 41-page report, entitled Refusing Impunity for the Killers of Sergei Magnitsky.

“Why, then, does the Russian state, and at such a high level, try so hard to cover up this crime?” asked the Swiss parliamentarian and chair of the social democratic group of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

Following a general discussion on Tuesday in Strasbourg, the Council of Europe committee decided to declassify the draft report and issued an invitation for any interested parties – including the Russian authorities – to comment on it, with a view to approving the resolution based on the report at its meeting on September 4.

“We would like to hear a [Russian] response that brings us closer to the truth, not one that attempts to hide it,” Gross told swissinfo.ch.

Fact finding

Following fact-finding missions to Russia, Cyprus, Switzerland and Britain and interviews with key parties, Gross dismissed as “unconvincing” and “doubtful” the explanations offered by the Russian government authorities who exonerated officials for their role in the thefts and then blamed Sergei Magnitsky himself, after his death, for the crimes that he had uncovered.

Part of the Magnitsky money trail led to Switzerland. In January, the Swiss Federal Prosecutor’s Office announced it was freezing additional accounts in connection with its money laundering investigation into “persons unknown” in the Magnitsky case.

Regarding Magnitsky’s death in detention, Gross deems unacceptable the official Russian position, “namely that Mr Magnitsky’s death is merely the tragic consequence of his being unable to withstand the normal rigours of detention”.

Gross provided a detailed list to the Russian authorities naming medical and prison personnel he wished to speak to who were referred to in a previous Russian investigation, but “these meetings never materialised, despite several attempts from my side”.
Fraud discovery

Magnitsky is currently the subject of an unprecedented posthumous prosecution, which claims he was the perpetrator of the tax fraud he is known to have uncovered. These charges, which have also been made against Browder in absentia, are “legally unfounded” according to Gross.

The report cites evidence that the same persons and officials were involved in a series of thefts from the Russian budget over a long period of time, both before and after the $230 million theft, using the same Moscow tax offices.

“A very strong argument against blaming the $230 million tax reimbursement fraud on Sergei Magnitsky himself is the fact that similar tax reimbursement frauds were committed before and after Mr Magnitsky was taken into custody, and even after his death,” said the report.

Gross concluded: “I am personally convinced that this crime was not committed or in any way aided or abetted by Mr Magnitsky, but by a group of criminals, including the persons he had accused before these persons took him into custody, where he died.”

Concerning the new case opened by the Russian government and accusing Hermitage Capital of “stealing” Gazprom shares, Gross found it to be an example of “selective justice” and “indicative of politically motivated cases”.

The report labels as “unacceptable” the on-going impunity of those responsible for Mr Magnitsky’s death and for the massive theft of public funds that Magnitsky had exposed.

Gross notes that the objective of his report is to “contribute to a better protection of individuals against lawless behaviour of state officials in future”.

The case continues to have international repercussions. Under the Magnitsky Act, the United States has imposed visa bans and frozen the assets of 60 Russians linked to the alleged crime. In response, Moscow barred US citizens from adopting Russian children.

Browder believes the details of the Russian government’s conduct in the Magnitsky case are so damning “that they will provide fresh impetus for various EU member states to push for Magnitsky sanctions going forward”.

But Gross does not hold that imposing sanctions against individuals is the best course of action. “Sanctions are the most primitive response we have after military action,” he told swissinfo.ch.

“This approach is too easy. We want to improve the daily life of Russian people, make sure that collected taxes are used for essential services and not stolen from them. The idea is not only to punish those responsible but to prevent this kind of persecution from happening again.” payday loan payday loan zp-pdl.com https://www.zp-pdl.com займ онлайн

займ на карту мгновенно без отказа credit-n.ru займ на кредитную карту мгновенно
онлайн займ на карту маэстро credit-n.ru займ онлайн на киви кошелек срочно
деньги на карту без отказов срочно credit-n.ru взять займ на карту без отказа онлайн
займ или кредит credit-n.ru онлайн займы на банковскую карту

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Buzz
  • LinkedIn
  • del.icio.us
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Tumblr
  • StumbleUpon
  • FriendFeed
  • NewsVine
  • Digg

Place your comment

Please fill your data and comment below.

Your comment