MOSCOW, September 11 (RAPSI) – US prosecutors have filed a civil action seeking the seizure of New York real estate allegedly used for money laundering purposes by a Russian criminal group and the imposition of money-laundering penalties against companies established by the organization, Bloomberg reported Tuesday.

According to Bloomberg, the US prosecutors allege that the criminal organization used “sham lawsuits” against Hermitage Fund, an investment fund which operated in Russia, in order to “generate phony money judgments” that were used by criminals posing as Hermitage Fund officials in order to claim tax refunds.

The Tverskoi District Curt in Moscow on July 11 found Hermitage CEO William Browder guilty of tax evasion and sentenced him in absentia to nine years in a low security correctional prison.

Magnitsky, an auditor at the London-based investment fund, was arrested on November 24, 2008, on suspicion of having masterminded large-scale corporate tax evasion. He died while in pretrial detention on November 16, 2009, after spending a year behind bars. The case was closed after his death, only to be reopened later. Under Russian law, a person can be prosecuted after death. On July 11 Magnitsky was found guilty of tax evasion.

According to the Prosecutor General's Office, Magnitsky died of heart failure. His death evoked an international outcry, triggered amendments to the Criminal Code and a reshuffling of officials in the penal system.

Hermitage maintains that it paid 5.4 billion rubles ($180 million) in taxes, but the money was stolen by corporate raiders with the help of law enforcement officials.

On Dec. 6, 2012, the US Senate approved the Magnitsky Act, to severe criticism from the Russian State Duma, stipulating visa sanctions for Russians who are believed by US authorities to have been involved in human rights violations. The Magnitsky List, which was published in part on April 12, includes the names of 18 Russian officials who are barred from travelling to the United States.