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Anti-Corruption Lawyer Dies In Moscow Jail

A Russian lawyer who fought against the alleged $230 million looting of a foreign-owned investment fund by police officials, bankers, judges and lawyers has died in a Moscow jail after being held a year without trial. London-based Hermitage Capital Management said in a press release that Sergey Magnitskiy, 37, died on November 16. He was arrested in November 2008 shortly after giving formal testimony “naming officers of the Interior Ministry and their role in the seizure of Hermitage Fund” assets. The release said he was arrested by the same Interior Ministry officers named in his testimony.

Magnitskiy died in Moscow’s Matrosskaya Tishina pre-trial detention center. During the past year, he was moved between four detention centers, the release said, and not allowed contact with his family. In September this year, he sent a 40-page complaint to the public prosecutor. It described his worsening health and lack of medical attention. The release said lawyers representing Magnitskiy were told by authorities he died of a rupture to the abdominal membrane. The VOA said,

Magnitsky developed problems with his pancreas and gall bladder as a result of what his American business associate, Jamison Firestone, described to VOA as filthy prison conditions. They included a tiny cell with two other people, no hot water, a shower once a week, and a kitchen above a hole in the floor that served as a toilet.

Hermitage Capital Management was once the largest foreign investor in the Russian stock market. Its Russian assets were allegedly looted after its U.S.-born chief executive, William F. Browder, was expelled from the country in 2005 by the Interior Ministry on what Browder claimed was a trumped-up tax charge.

In retaliation, Browder posted a video on YouTube in English and Russian accusing Russian authorities of complicity in the looting. 

Russia ranked 146 on the 2009 Corruption Perception Index, tied with Cameroon, Ecuador, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Timor-Leste, Ukraine, and Zimbabwe.

See our prior post about Hermitage here.

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