Hermitage says Estonian banks involved in Magnitsky affair

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By Andrei Skvarsky.

Hermitage Capital said, citing an Estonian prosecutor, that a $10m chunk of the $230m that Hermitage lawyer Sergei Magnitsky accused Russian officials of stealing from the state passed through Estonian banks in being transferred from Russia.

Ten Estonian firms were involved in the alleged transfers, prosecutor Piret Paukstys said, according to a statement from the British investment fund.

The firms, which were not named, wired the money to “various persons in other jurisdictions”, the statement said.

Estonia’s BBN online business news service said, citing Paukstys, that Estonian authorities had opted against launching criminal action as the money had not stopped in the Baltic country.

“The uncovering of the trail of money is a substantial breakthrough in the investigation of the criminal conspiracy exposed by Hermitage and Sergei Magnitsky,” a Hermitage spokesperson said.

Magnitsky died in a Moscow jail while awaiting trial on a tax evasion charge slapped on him after he accused senior officials of stealing money that had been paid by Hermitage in taxes.

A gravely sick man, he was denied essential medical assistance during his detention, and, according to the Kremlin’s human rights advisory body, was beaten by batons shortly before his death in November 2009.

The case set off diplomatic rows between the west and Russia, with both sides launching sanctions.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev told Russian television during last week’s World Economic Forum in Davos that business leaders don’t care about the Magnitsky affair and that “not a single businessman” has brought the matter up during meetings with him.

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