Russian Investigator Responsible for the Death of Sergei Magnitsky Seeks Warrant to Search London Homes

August 31, 2010

Major Oleg Silchenko, an investigator in the Russian Interior Ministry who became widely known for his role in the false arrest, torture and death of 37 year-old Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, is continuing his attempts to attack Hermitage Capital executives and lawyers in retaliation for the criminal complaints filed by Magnitsky and Hermitage Capital regarding the involvement of Russian Interior Ministry officers in the largest tax fraud in Russian history.

Russian court documents emerged last week showing that Major Silchenko, who is facing three criminal complaints for fraud in office, falsification of evidence and murder, filed a request on 18 May 2010 with the Moscow Tverskoi Court to apply for mutual legal assistance with the UK Home Office in order to conduct searches of the London home of a Hermitage Capital executive. In his other requests, he also sought approval to use Interpol to gather information on a number of lawyers working for Hermitage. Major Silchenko further applied for Russian court permission to conduct seizures of documents in the offices of HSBC Moscow where Hermitage Fund subsidiaries kept accounts.

The current actions by Major Silchenko directly contradict Council of Europe Resolution 1685 passed on 30 September 2009, calling on Russia to immediately cease its abuse of the criminal justice system in its case against Hermitage Capital executives and lawyers. The Council of Europe, of which Russia is a permanent member, formally stated that the proceedings targeting Hermitage Capital executives represent an “emblematic case” of the politically motivated abuse of the criminal justice system and called on all member states to deny any Russian Federation requests for mutual legal assistance targeting Hermitage Capital executives and lawyers.

All his petitions were granted by Tverskoi District Court of Moscow Judge Alexandra Kovalevskaya on 20 May 2010. However, processing of Russian Mutual Legal Assistance requests in the UK requires approval by the UK Home Office and involves UK courts. In the last 10 years, there have been very few precedents of Russia successfully obtaining UK Mutual Legal Assistance because of the consistent abuses of the Russian criminal justice system by the Russian police.

Major Silchenko and Judge Kovalevskaya already have a history of working together in politically tainted cases. Three years ago they were both involved in carrying out the politically motivated criminal proceedings against Ms Manana Aslamazyan, the head of a Russian NGO promoting independent media. Major Silchenko targeted Ms Aslamazyan using similar attempts to abuse international mutual legal assistance treaties. Ms Aslamazyan was forced to remain in exile despite the fact that the case against her was later dismissed following a ruling from the Russian Constitutional court.

The latest action by Major Silchenko comes amidst death threats and other intimidation and attacks on Hermitage executives and lawyers that form part of a full-scale campaign of abuse and harassment in retaliation for Hermitage Capital’s exposure of corrupt Russian officials and their role in the theft of $230 million of budget funds and the murder of Sergei Magnitsky.

“The last time there was a search of Hermitage’s offices by the Russian Interior Ministry, the officers used the materials seized to execute the largest tax fraud in Russian history, which lead to the death of Sergei Magnitsky,” said a Hermitage Capital spokesman. “If Major Silchenko seriously thinks he can come to London and try the same thing here, he will find himself in a legal mess so large, he will need a very good lawyer for a very long time.”

Major Silchenko is one of the 60 Russian officials on U.S. Senator Benjamin Cardin’s list of Russian government officials who played a role in the theft of $230 million of taxes that Hermitage paid and in the torture and death of Sergei Magnitsky in custody after he exposed the officials involved in the scheme. Senator Cardin sent the list to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and is seeking to permanently ban those individuals and their family members and dependents from obtaining US visas under Presidential Proclamation 7750 (“To Suspend Entry as Immigrants or Non Immigrants of Persons Engaged in or Benefiting From Corruption” (12 January 2004)).

In early May 2010, Major Silchenko also attempted, using falsified evidence, to open a criminal case against Alexander Antipov, a Russian lawyer working for Hermitage in Moscow. His unlawful acts were documented in a complaint from the Moscow Bar Association and the Russian Interior Ministry responded in a public statement saying that Major Silchenko had been acting in a “private” capacity, rejected his actions and formally apologized to Mr Antipov.

Major Silchenko has been allowed by his superiors to stay in the job and carry on the persecution of Hermitage executives and their lawyers despite the fact that he faces three criminal complaints against him for his illegal actions and abuse of office.

The first criminal complaint was filed by Ludmila Alexeeva, Head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, the leading Russian human rights organization, with the Russian State Investigative Committee on 26 March 2010. She requested the opening of a criminal case against Oleg Silchenko and other Interior Ministry officials for the false arrest, systematic torture and murder in custody of Sergei Magnitsky, which was carried out in order to conceal the role of Interior Ministry officials in the theft of $230 million of budget funds (

The second criminal complaint was filed by Hermitage Capital with the Russian State Investigative Committee on 8 June 2010. It calls for the prosecution of Major Silchenko for the falsification of evidence against the Hermitage Fund lawyer Alexander Antipov.

The third criminal complaint was filed by the Moscow City Bar Association with the Russian General Prosecutor on 30 June 2010. It requests the prosecution of Major Silchenko for abuse of office and the obstruction of the lawful activities of Hermitage Fund lawyers. In the complaint, Henry Reznik, President of the Moscow City Bar Association, stated that Major Oleg Silchenko “used dirty and illegal methods to obstruct the lawyers’ work” in an attempt to intimidate Hermitage lawyers ( The complaint further stated that Major Silchenko’s actions constituted crimes under the Russian Criminal Code, including “fraud in office” and “falsification of evidence.”

For further information, please contact:

+ 44 20 7440 1777

Materials about the false arrest and torture of Sergei Magnitsky:

For more on the persecution of Hermitage executives and lawyers see the Council of Europe’s Report on Politically Motivated Abuse of the Criminal Justice System:
p 4, 26-28, 32-36


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