No Charges For Top Investigator In Magnitsky Case

Jun 1 2011 | 10:42am ET

Russian officials have exonerated one of their own in the prison death of Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer for hedge fund Hermitage Capital Management.

Russia's powerful central prosecutors, the Investigative Committee, said Monday that Oleg Silchenko, the Interior Ministry official who ordered Magnitsky's arrest and oversaw the investigation of the lawyer, had "not allowed" any illegal treatment in the case. The committee would not comment beyond its three-paragraph statement.

Silchenko was cleared despite a finding by the head of Russia's prison oversight panel that Silchenko was to blame for Magnitsky's treatment. Magnitsky died in a notorious Moscow prison in November 2009 at the age of 37. Human rights officials say he was tortured and denied adequate medical care; the latter claim was echoed by the oversight panel's Valery Borshchev.

"They asked to have him taken to the hospital to do an ultrasound examination, and Silchenko gave a definitive refusal," Borshchev told The Wall Street Journal. "That's a clear violation of the criminal and professional code."

Borshchev added that a doctor at the prison "tried several times to transfer Magnitsky to a hospital, but Silchenko interfered."

A further condemnation is likely to come later this month, when human rights campaigners Moscow Helsinki Group release their own findings in the case. But MHG's Lyudmila Alexeyeva wasted no time in pouring scorn on the Investigative Committee decision.

"I think this is another whitewash," she said. "I am disappointed but not daunted. We will not give up the fight."

Magnitsky had accused Russian Interior Ministry officials of defrauding Hermitage, once the largest foreign investor in Russia, of US$230 million. Russia, in turn, accused Hermitage and its founder, William Browder, an outspoken critic of Russian corporate governance, of a US$16.9 million tax evasion.

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