Russia to reopen Magnitsky investigation

Russian investigators have been ordered to reopen the case of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, which had been closed after his death in police custody, Russia’s Kommersant paper reported on Tuesday.

Magnitsky died after almost a year in a notorious Moscow pre-trial detention center in November 2009. He had been arrested on tax evasion charges just days after claiming that police investigators had stolen $230 million from the state.

The case had been closed without consent of Magnitsky’s relatives and without clearing him of charges.

“The Prosecutor General’s Office deemed the court’s decision to close the case unconstitutional because Magnitsky’s relatives – mother and wife – have not agreed on its closure,” the paper said.

Russia’s Constitutional Court has recently ruled that the death of a defendant must not lead to the closure of the investigation, especially when the closure is opposed by the relatives.

Magnitsky was working for the Hermitage Capital investment fund when he was arrested as part of an embezzlement and tax evasion investigation. He had claimed to have uncovered massive fraud on the part of law enforcement officials just before he was detained by some of the same officials. His death led to an international outcry.

A Kremlin human rights council report said in July that Magnitsky’s death was likely to have been the result of a beating and that the charges against him were fraudulent. Human rights activists and his former colleagues allege the officers he had accused were involved in his death, which was originally said to have been the result of “heart failure” at the age of 37.

The United States has recently imposed visa bans on at least 60 Russian officials allegedly involved in Magnitsky’s death.

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