RIGA - Latvia is to investigate whether the country's banks played any part in an alleged multi-million dollar Russian tax fraud made public by Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer who died in detention in Russia in 2009.
The state prosecutor’s office said on Wednesday, Oct. 3, it had
reversed a decision by police to reject a complaint from British
law firm Brown Rudnick alleging Latvian banks were used to
launder $19 million.
Prosecutors have checked material linked to the case and
sent the complaint back to the police for further investigation
as it was rejected without considering the facts presented.
In July, Latvian authorities received a letter from Brown
Rudnick, acting on behalf of London-based Hermitage, once the
largest foreign investor in Russia and for whom Magnitsky
worked, alleging six Latvian banks had been involved in
laundering $19 million.
The case stems from whistleblowing by Magnitsky, who died
just under a year after being held on tax evasion and fraud
charges which, former colleagues said, were fabricated by police
investigators he had accused of stealing $230 million from the
Russian state through fraudulent tax refunds.
While Magnitsky’s death was officially attributed to an
undetected illness, the Kremlin’s own human rights council has
said he was probably beaten to death.
U.S. lawmakers have drafted legislation named after
Magnitsky that would impose sanctions on Russian officials
involved in human rights violations.
Russia strongly opposes the bill, saying it would have
disastrous consequences for the U.S.-Russian relationship.