Russia dashes EU hopes in high-profile murder probe
02.08.11 @ 17:03
BRUSSELS - The Russian interior ministry has rubbished the findings of a special probe into the alleged murder of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky despite EU appeals for due process in the high-profile case.
Investigator Boris Kibis from the Russian interior ministry in a letter dated 14 July 2011 and sent to Magnitsky's former employers, the UK-based investment firm Hermitage Capital, said the findings of a so-called Human Rights Council probe into the case are of no value.
"From the information cited, one can find no grounds to conduct any checks into wrongdoing of members of the investigative and operational team on the case 153123," Kibis wrote.
The Human Rights Council is a special organ set up by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
The council on 5 July had reported that interior ministry officials stole $230 million from the Russian tax payer. It also said that Magnitsky, who exposed the scam, was beaten to death in jail.
Catherine Ashton's European External Action Service could not be immediately contacted for a comment on Tuesday (2 August).
But spokeswoman Maja Kocjancic in an email to EUobserver on 26 July said the service is waiting for Russian investigations to conclude before any potential discussion of EU sanctions against officials implicated in the case.
Ashton's top man on Russia, Gunnar Wiegand, in May told MEPs he had high hopes for Medvedev's council, commending its chief, Mikhail Fedetov, as a man who "takes these things very seriously."
The only remaining probe into Magnitsky's death concerns allegations he was mistreated by two junior doctors. The outcome is due in August.
Hermitage Capital boss, Bill Browder, told this website: "For the EU to take any comfort in the criminal investigation of two low-level doctors who are being scapegoated, and ignore the vast number of high-ranking officials named in President Medvedev's human rights council report indicates either gross naivety, blatant cynicism or both."
The EU has urged Russia several times to ensure the Magnitsky family gets justice. But it has not taken any action.
In contrast, Switzerland earlier this year imposed an asset freeze on several Russian officials implicated in the tax scam. The US last month banned most of the 60 men and women in question from entering America, despite Russian threats of retaliation.