MOSCOW, March 19 (RIA Novosti) – Russian investigators said Tuesday they were ending a criminal probe into the 2009 death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow jail because they had determined that no crime had taken place.
A statement by the Investigative Committee said that during the investigation “no objective data about any crime committed against Sergei Magnitsky have been established.”
Magnitsky was arrested in 2008 on charges of tax evasion shortly after he accused Russian officials of a $230 million fraud scheme. He died before the case went to court, but is now being tried posthumously, along with his former boss William Browder, the UK-based head of equity fund Hermitage Capital. Browder is to be tried in absentia both as a co-defendant in the Magnitsky case and on separate charges.
The causes of Magnitsky’s death have been a source of contention. Investigators initially said the 37-year-old lawyer had died of “heart failure,” but in 2011 the Kremlin’s human rights council said there were “grounds to suspect that Magnitsky’s death was the result of a beating” and the denial of medical assistance.
Late last year, however, Russian President Vladimir Putin reverted to the heart-failure explanation in a nationally broadcast press conference, seemingly dismissing the findings of his ombudsmen. Two prison officials were investigated in connection with Magnitsky’s death, but one was acquitted and the other not charged.
In Tuesday’s statement, the Investigative Committee said that neither physical violence nor torture had been used against Magnitsky while he was in pre-trial detention.