Hermitage Lawyer Dies in Russian Jail

November 17, 2009

A lawyer for invest­ment fund Her­mitage Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment, jailed on tax charges related to his work for the fund, has died in cus­tody, Irina Duduk­ina, spokes­woman for the Inves­tiga­tive Com­mit­tee of Russia’s Inte­rior Min­istry said Tuesday.

She pro­vided no fur­ther details, say­ing a release would be issued later. Sergei Mag­nit­sky and his col­leagues had accused author­i­ties of deny­ing him nec­es­sary med­ical treat­ment in prison.

Mr. Mag­nit­sky, a 37-year-old part­ner at Moscow firm Fire­stone Dun­can, was jailed nearly a year ago on charges of tax eva­sion related to his work for Her­mitage. At a court hear­ing on extend­ing his deten­tion in Sep­tem­ber, he com­plained that he had been denied med­ical treat­ment for weeks for seri­ous stom­ach pan­cre­atic ill­nesses that he hadn’t suf­fered from before his impris­on­ment. He also com­plained of inhu­mane con­di­tions — includ­ing the absence of toi­let, hot water and win­dows — at the Butyrskaya jail where he was then being held.

They held him for 11 months, ask­ing him to fab­ri­cate tes­ti­mony against Her­mitage,” said Jami­son Fire­stone, man­ag­ing part­ner of Fire­stone Dun­can. “The more he refused, the worse his con­di­tions became.”

If con­victed of tax fraud, Mr. Mag­nit­sky would have faced up to six years in prison. Russ­ian offi­cials have denied pres­sur­ing Mr. Mag­nit­sky for testimony.

Her­mitage, run by U.S.-born investor William Brow­der, denies the tax-evasion charges. The fund has accused offi­cials of the Russ­ian Inte­rior Min­istry of using doc­u­ments and seals taken from Her­mitage dur­ing a 2007 search to steal com­pa­nies used by the fund and apply for $230 mil­lion in fraud­u­lent tax refunds from the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment. The min­istry denies those charges.

Mr. Brow­der was one of the best-known for­eign investors in Rus­sia, with a rep­u­ta­tion for pub­licly cru­sad­ing against waste and mis­man­age­ment at Rus­sia state-controlled com­pa­nies. But Russ­ian author­i­ties stripped him of his visa in 2005 on national-security grounds and he hasn’t been able to return since. The Inte­rior Min­istry says he’s been charged with tax eva­sion, alle­ga­tions he denies.

By GREG WHITE, The Wall Street Journal

Радио Свобода: Обвинения в интернете: история фонда Hermitage и дело против Сергея Магницкого

October 9, 2009

24 ноября прошлого года по подозрению в уклонении от уплаты налогов в крупном размере в Москве был арестован глава аудиторской компании Fire­stone Dun­can Сергей Магницкий. В четверг, 8 октября, ему были предъявлены официальные обвинения. Клиентом этой компании был инвестиционный фонд Her­mitage, когда-то самый крупный инвестиционный фонд в России, но уничтоженный после того, как его основателю и исполнительному директору Уильяму Браудеру было в 2005 году отказано во въезде в Россию. Любопытно, что при этом были возбуждены дела и против адвокатов фонда, которые сейчас находятся в Лондоне.

В четверг же фонд Her­mitage выставил в Интернете видеорассказ, в котором утверждается, что дело против Магницкого было заведено как часть преступной кампании против фонда. Причем в ходе этой кампании были украдены деньги из российского бюджета. Глава фонда Her­mitage Уильям Браудер дал интервью Радио Свобода.

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Politically-motivated abuses of the criminal justice system

August 7, 2009

Excerpts from the report, pub­lished by the Com­mit­tee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights on alle­ga­tions of politically-motivated abuses of the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem in Coun­cil of Europe mem­ber states with rec­om­men­da­tions on series of steps to strengthen the inde­pen­dence of judges and pros­e­cu­tors across Europe to end politically-motivated inter­fer­ence in indi­vid­ual cases.

Inter alia the Com­mit­tee calls for a series of reforms to reduce the polit­i­cal and hier­ar­chi­cal pres­sures on judges and put an end to the harass­ment of defence lawyers in order to com­bat “legal nihilism” in the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion, as a pre­con­di­tion also for suc­cess­ful co-operation between Russ­ian and other Euro­pean law enforce­ment authorities.

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Keeping politics out of the law

June 23, 2009

A report approved today by the Legal Affairs Com­mit­tee of the Coun­cil of Europe Par­lia­men­tary Assem­bly (PACE) has rec­om­mended a series of steps to boost the inde­pen­dence of judges across Europe to end what it calls “politically-motivated inter­fer­ence” in indi­vid­ual cases.

The report, pre­pared by Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger (Ger­many, ALDE), exposes ways that politi­cians can med­dle with the law in four coun­tries rep­re­sent­ing the prin­ci­pal types of crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem in Europe, analysing high-profile cases such as the drop­ping of the BAE fraud inves­ti­ga­tion and “cash for hon­ours” scan­dal in the United King­dom, or the sec­ond Khodor­kovsky trial, HSBC/Hermitage Cap­i­tal case and Politkovskaya inves­ti­ga­tion in Russia.

Among other things, the par­lia­men­tar­i­ans call for:

• in Rus­sia, a series of reforms to reduce the polit­i­cal pres­sures on judges and end the harass­ment of defence lawyers in order to com­bat “legal nihilism” in Russia.

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