Swiss Federal Prosecutor’s Office July 21 closed a criminal case related to the record embezzlement of money from the Russian budget and the death in a Moscow prison of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in 2009. The Swiss investigation lasted about ten years and ended with no charges brought. However, the international financier, founder of the investment fund Hermitage Capital, William Browder, told The Insider that the actions of the prosecutor’s office confirm the involvement of the person involved in the laundering of $ 230 million stolen from the Russian budget.
As part of the Swiss investigation, which was launched at the request of Browder, the accounts of Russian businessman Denis Katsyv, owner of Prevezon Holdings Limited, were arrested in 2012. His lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya claims that these investigative actions initially had nothing to do with the history of Hermitage, Browder and Magnitsky.
“This criminal case was initially stillborn, so its termination is a regularity that sooner or later had to come, – speaks Natalia Veselnitskaya in an interview with the Prime agency. – Back in 2017, the Americans terminated a similar case initiated on the basis of a Swiss case at the request of the same Browder. This happened precisely for the same reason – when the curtain of various conspiracy theories about persecution, corruption and torture in Russia was thrown back, the case simply did not amount to debit and credit. “
However, William Browder believes that the involvement of Prevezon in money laundering is confirmed by the actions of the Swiss prosecutor’s office. “The decision of the Swiss prosecutor to close the criminal case also included an order to confiscate $ 78,000 from Prevezon. Investigators believed that this was part of the $ 230 million that had been stolen from the Russian budget, as Sergei Magnitsky learned about. Although most of the money frozen by the Swiss will be returned to Prevezon (and this is evidence of a major failure of the Swiss investigation), the fact of confiscation and part of these funds as proceeds of criminal activity completely contradicts the statements of Prevezon representatives, ”the financier explained.
Denis Katsyv’s lawyers emphasize that the businessman has never been charged. They are also considering the possibility of recovering damages for material and moral damage inflicted, holding them accountable for false denunciation.
Although no charges were filed following the Swiss investigation, and the persons involved in the laundering of Russian money remained unidentified, the country’s authorities ordered the confiscation of more than 4 million Swiss francs (4.4 million dollars) out of 18 million francs. The funds were previously frozen as part of an investigation into the proceeds of crime in Russia, according to a press release from the Swiss prosecutor’s office issued on Tuesday.
Recall that in 2007, the Russian prosecutor’s office suspected subsidiaries of the investment fund Hermitage Capital of tax evasion. After the searches in the company, the fund’s lawyer Sergei Magnitsky accused the officials of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the prosecutor’s office of using the materials they received to steal more than $ 230 million from the state, disguised as a VAT refund.
In response, the prosecutor’s office accused Magnitsky of tax evasion. He was arrested and died in the Matrosskaya Tishina SIZO in November 2009 at the age of 37. Before his death, Magnitsky was deprived of medical care and, in fact, tortured. His death caused a huge public outcry both in Russia and abroad, and also became the reason for the adoption in a number of countries of the so-called “Magnitsky law” aimed at combating transnational corruption.
In 2016, the US Congress unanimously passed a bill to extend the Magnitsky Act to all countries of the world, not just Russia. The law empowers the President of the United States to update the list of foreign citizens who, according to him, are guilty of corruption and human rights violations. Canada, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Great Britain also adopted similar legal acts.
International financier, founder of Hermitage Capital, William Browder is considered the main initiator of this law. Russia viewed the “Magnitsky Act” as interference in its internal affairs. The Russian Foreign Ministry called the document unfriendly and provocative. The response to the Magnitsky Act was the so-called Dima Yakovlev’s law (the law of scoundrels), which prohibited Americans from adopting Russian orphans.
Following the Panama Papers leaked in 2016, the Organized Crime and Corruption Investigation Center published evidence that the money stolen from the budget, about which Magnitsky spoke, settled on the accounts of a longtime friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, cellist Sergei Roldugin – he is called Putin’s “wallet”.
Meanwhile, a number of criminal cases were opened in Russia against the founder of the British investment fund Hermitage Capital, William Browder, in which he was already twice convicted in absentia. On July 11, 2013, the Tverskoy Court of Moscow found him guilty of tax evasion on an especially large scale (522 million rubles) and sentenced him to nine years in prison. According to investigators, Browder falsified tax returns and illegally used benefits intended for disabled people.
In July 2014, Russia put Browder on the international wanted list. The Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation has repeatedly sent a request to Interpol for the arrest of the founder of Hermitage Capital.
At the end of 2017, the Tverskoy Court of Moscow again sentenced Browder in absentia to nine years in prison, finding him guilty of premeditated bankruptcy and tax evasion for more than 3 billion rubles. Browder’s partner Ivan Cherkasov was also sentenced to a similar term. Russian investigators also charged Browder with several murders, including Magnitsky, and the creation of a criminal community.