Tuesday

31st May 2016

Investigation

Mystery death of Magnitsky informant causes fear

  • British police. The Magnitsky list names senior people in the FSB (Photo: nuakin)

The mysterious death of an informant in the Sergei Magnitsky case has created suspicion of a second high-profile Russian murder in the UK.

Alexander Perepilichnyy - a 44-year-old Russian businessman with no known health problems - was found dead outside his luxury home in Surrey, England on 10 November.

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British police made the case public on Wednesday (28 November), telling press that an initial post mortem was "inconclusive," that the coroner will now hold an inquest, including toxicology tests, and that a senior officer has been assigned to find out what happened.

Perepilichnyy had sought refuge in the UK after giving evidence on Olga Stepanova, a senior Russian tax official, to a Swiss prosecutor.

Stepanova is one of 60 Russian officials on a US travel ban list.

The US imposed the sanctions due to credible allegations that she was part of a conspiracy in 2009 to embezzle hundreds of millions of euros of Russian tax money and to murder an accountant, Sergei Magnitsky, who exposed the scam.

Other names on the list include senior officials in Russia's state security service, the FSB.

For some, the death recalls the murder in London in 2006 of Russian FSB officer-turned-informant, Alexander Litvinenko, in a case which damaged British-Russian relations.

"There were no signs of a violent death. But there weren't any in connection with Litvinenko either," Russian anti-corruption blogger Alexey Navalny wrote.

Senior people in Hermitage Capital, Magnitsky's former employers, who have campaigned for US and EU sanctions on his killers, have in the past also received death threats.

For his part, EU Council chief Herman Van Rompuy has called the Magnitsky case "emblematic" of what is wrong with modern Russia.

But EU foreign ministries have been unwilling to impose US-type punitive measures so far.

Hermitage Capital has also filed cases with prosecutors in six EU countries - Austria, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Latvia and Lithuania - alleging that their banks were used to launder the embezzled funds.

The Cypriot prosecutor, for one, has rejected the case, however.

Poland questions legality of EU probe

On eve of potentially damning EU decision, Polish strongman Jaroslaw Kaczynski has said EU rule of law monitoring could be challenged in Luxembourg court.

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