Posts Tagged ‘aaron eglitis’

January 2013

A Russian Lawyer’s Death Triggers a Global Money Hunt

Bloomberg Businessweek

In 2009, a lawyer named Sergei Magnitsky died in a Moscow jail after uncovering the biggest known tax fraud in Russian history—a theft of $230 million from the national treasury. The case has touched off a diplomatic row, with the U.S. imposing sanctions on Russian officials accused of having a role in Magnitsky’s death and Moscow retaliating on Dec. 28 by barring Americans from adopting Russian orphans.

Now about that $230 million. Russian authorities said it couldn’t be found because essential records were destroyed in a truck crash. A sawmill worker and a convicted burglar pleaded guilty to masterminding the heist, which involved filing bogus tax-refund claims. Both got five-year sentences.

Magnitsky’s associates, though, keep looking for the cash. An investigation spearheaded by his former client, Hermitage Capital Management, a London-based investment fund, has traced $134 million through bank accounts and shell companies in at least 17 countries. Banking records obtained by Hermitage and reviewed by Bloomberg Businessweek show that millions wound up in offshore accounts and real estate owned by Russian officials, their relatives, and the former owner of a Russian bank. Authorities in four of these countries confirm that they have opened money-laundering investigations.

In the Magnitsky case, Hermitage accuses government officials of stealing from taxpayers, and the Kremlin has made no apparent effort to recover the money. “That’s the most awful thing—it is our money,” says Roman Anin, a reporter at the Moscow newspaper Novaya Gazeta who has worked with Hermitage on its investigation. Russia’s Interior Ministry did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

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