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Russian Whistleblower Posthumously Convicted

  • VOA News

A tombstone on the grave of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in jail, at a cemetery in Moscow, November 2012.

A tombstone on the grave of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in jail, at a cemetery in Moscow, November 2012.

A Moscow court has convicted lawyer Sergei Magnitsky of tax evasion, more than three years after he died in jail, in a case that strained U.S.-Russian ties. The American founder of the investment fund that employed Magnitsky was also convicted and sentenced in absentia.

Magnitsky was convicted along with his former boss, Hermitage Capital Management founder William Browder, who was sentenced in absentia to nine years in a prison colony.

Browder described the verdict as a "shameful moment for Russia." In an interview with VOA's Russian Service, Browder said he won't be satisfied until officials implicated in Magnitsky's death face trial.

"I think that what this shows you is the entire apparatus of Russian law enforcement and the Russian judiciary system is corrupt," said Browder. "That just about everybody is involved in crimes or involved in covering up the crimes or basically guilty of not saying anything when other people are doing the crimes."

Magnitsky, in his work with Hermitage, accused Russian law enforcement and tax officials of taking part in a scheme to fraudulently collect refunds for taxes that the company paid in Russia, totaling $230 million.

He was subsequently arrested on tax evasion charges. Magnitsky died in prison in 2009 at age 37, after being detained for nearly a year and saying he was denied medical attention.

In 2011, an investigation by then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's human rights council found that Magnitsky, who had pancreatitis, had been "completely deprived" of medical care before his death. It added there was "reasonable suspicion" to believe Magnitsky's death was triggered by a beating.

The case became a symbol of alleged prison abuse in modern Russian and led to a fresh dispute between Moscow and Washington.

The U.S. enacted the Magnitsky Act, imposing a visa ban and financial sanctions on Russian officials accused of human rights violations.

Russian President Vladimir Putin then quickly signed a law banning Americans from adopting Russian children.

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