Court to decide March 22 whether to prosecute dead whistleblower Magnitsky
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MOSCOW, March 11 - RAPSI, Diana Gutsul. On Monday the Tverskoy District Court in Moscow postponed the hearing of the tax evasion case against Hermitage Capital auditor Sergei Magnitsky, who died in pretrial detention in 2009, until March 22, the court told RAPSI.
Magnitsky's court-appointed defense attorney has requested the hearing to be postponed so as to give him time to study the case materials.
Sergei Magnitsky, formerly an auditor with Hermitage Capital Management, is accused of tax evasion, alongside Hermitage CEO William Browder.
The Magnitsky's and Browder's defense attorneys did not attend Monday's hearing of the case. The judge said that Magnitsky's widow, mother and lawyers had been notified of the time and date of the hearing. The lawyers sent a letter to the court saying that they had studied five volumes of case materials. They were appointed to the case by the court because Magnitsky's and Browder's previous attorneys did not attend any of the preliminary hearings.
The case has so far been heard in absentia, since the UK has refused to extradite Browder.
Magnitsky was arrested on November 24, 2008 on suspicion of masterminding large-scale corporate tax evasion. He died in a Moscow pretrial detention center on November 16, 2009, after spending a year behind bars. According to the Prosecutor General's Office, Magnitsky died of heart failure.
Magnitsky's death evoked an international public outcry, triggered amendments to the Criminal Code and a reshuffling of officials in the penal system. Dmitry Kratov, former deputy chief of the Butyrka pretrial detention center, and the ward's doctor, Larisa Litvinova, were defendants in the case of Magnitsky's death.
In December 2012, the court acquitted Kratov of negligence which resulted in Magnitsky's death. The case against Litvinova was closed in spring 2012 following amendments to the Criminal Code affecting the statute of limitations.
According to investigators, Magnitsky and his accomplices embezzled hundreds of millions of rubles from the budget by manipulating tax returns between September and October 2007.
For its part, Hermitage Capital maintains that it paid 5.4 billion rubles (around $180 million) in taxes, but that the money was stolen by corporate raiders with the help of law enforcement officials.
Magnitsky's prosecution has been attributed to this theft. The case was closed after his death, only to be reopened at a later point. Under Russian criminal law, it is possible to prosecute a person even after their death.
In May 2012, the Moscow City Court rejected an application filed by Magnitsky's relatives, who demanded to have the criminal case against him closed.