MOSCOW, January 31 (RAPSI) - The Moscow City Court on Friday declared the 9 year sentence in absentia to the Hermitage Capital Management head William Browder lawful, RAPSI reports from the courtroom. The UK refused to extradite Browder to Russia.

In June 2013, Tverskoy District Court of Moscow sentenced Browder in absentia to 9 years in prison for tax evasion to the value of 500 million rubles (circa $16.6 million).

The investigators believe that Hermitage Capital bought approximately 7% of the Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom through illegal tax schemes thought to be devised by the company's auditor, Sergei Magnitsky. These schemes included the use of offshore companies. Hermitage Capital allegedly bought the stake using funds accumulated as a result of tax incentives, in particular in Kalmykia (Russian region), where several companies which opened accounts with the bank were registered.

Magnitsky, a managing partner of the Firestone Duncan auditing firm and the tax and legal consultant of Hermitage Capital Management, was detained on November 24, 2008 and charged with tax evasion as part of the Hermitage criminal case.

Two days later, the Tverskoy District Court in Moscow issued an arrest warrant in his name. On November 16, 2009, Magnitsky died in the Matrosskaya Tishina pre-trial detention ward.