Russia Promotes Investigator Responsible for the Arrest and Death of Anti-corruption Lawyer Sergei Magnitsky Amid Sharp US Criticism of Impunity of Russian Officials

October 12, 2010

Russian authorities have promoted the chief investigator responsible for the arrest and torture to death in custody of 37-year lawyer Sergei Magnitsky who uncovered a US$230 million corruption committed by police officials. Investigator Oleg Silchenko of the Russian Interior Ministry, who falsified materials against Magnitsky, pressured him to change his testimonies and refused Magnitsky’s medical assistance requests, has been promoted from Major to Lieutenant Colonel.

“This is a shameful response from the Russian authorities to the requests to bring to justice Silchenko and other officials responsible for the arrest and torture of Sergei Magnitsky. The Russian Interior Ministry rewards them for the murder of an anti-corruption lawyer as a job well done, – said a Hermitage Capital representative. – It is time for the officials who played a role in Sergei’s tragic death to be criminally charged instead of protected by their colleagues.”

US Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Ian Kelly slammed Russia for the lack of accountability of officials implicated in $230 million corruption and repression and death of Magnitsky. Speaking at the OSCE summit on human rights in Warsaw last week, he said:

“Withering publicity and international outrage have thus far been powerless to pierce the atmosphere of impunity that surrounds corrupt officials and stifles the rule of law in this tragic case in which no one yet has been brought to justice.”

In reference to the on-going impunity in Russia of all those implicated by Magnitsky in the $230 million corruption case, US Ambassador Kelly said:

“In the case of Mr. Magnitsky, a tax attorney imprisoned and denied any contact, either in person or by phone, with his wife and two young sons, a wide net of law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges, a convicted murderer, and even private attorneys have been publicly, but not formally, accused of corruption.”
US Ambassador Ian Kelly said that the tragic death of Magnitsky in custody, along with other recent deaths, must serve as “solemn reminders of the human cost of a deficient criminal justice system”.

In a recent public opinion poll conducted by an independent Levada center, 60% of Russians said they sought an open investigation of police officials implicated in death of Magnitsky and corruption he uncovered. However, so far, the authorities have refused to even open a criminal case against the officials, and none have been charged.

For his crimes in office, Silchenko is facing requests for criminal prosecution from several Russian civil rights groups. In June 2010, the Moscow Bar Association applied to Russian General Prosecutor Chaika to prosecute Silchenko for the falsification of evidence and fraud –

In March 2010, the Moscow Helsinki Group, a leading Russian human rights organization, requested that the Russian State Investigative Committee prosecute Silchenko and other officials in accordance with the UN Anti-torture Convention for the unlawful arrest, torture and murder of Magnitsky;

In both cases, the Investigative Committee refused to open a criminal case against Silchenko.
Earlier, Silchenko’s actions in mounting proceedings against Sergei Magnitsky and other Hermitage lawyers and executives, have been condemned by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe as an “emblematic case” of politically motivated abuse of the criminal justice system (

The promotion of Silchenko, one of the 60 officials on the US Helsinki Commission list of people to be banned from entering the US, will spark alarm bells all over the world over the continued impunity of corrupt Russian officers who took an innocent life and who continue to face no consequences for their actions.
“We have been following the case very closely and are well aware that there has been no breakthrough in the investigation into Mr Magnitsky’s death until now…We have to admit of course that despite the President’s rhetoric and despite the continuous domestic as well as international pressure, until date not one person has been officially charged with a crime in this case. Also, no further inquiries have been made into the corruption case that Mr Magnistky was working on prior to his death”, said the European Commission in a recent statement.

Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer for a US law firm Firestone Duncan, who represented the Russian companies of the Hermitage Fund, was arrested and kept in custody for nearly 12 months after he testified about Russian police involvement in the theft of his client’s companies and the embezzlement of US$230 million those companies had paid in taxes that were abetted by police. Magnitsky was subjected to pressure and torture in detention to force him to change his testimony. Despite a drastic deterioration in his health, and over 20 official filings requesting medical attention, he was denied any medical help and died as a result of his treatment, aged 37, leaving a mother, a wife and two children.

For more on torture and death of Sergei Magnitsky, visit:

Statement by US Ambassador Kelly at:


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