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Late lawyer Magnitsky found guilty of tax crimes

Late lawyer Sergei Magnitsky was found guilty of tax evasion Thursday in a posthumous trial. Magnitsky died in jail in 2009 after accusing Russian officials of corruption in a case that prompted US sanctions on those implicated in his death.

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A Moscow court found late lawyer Sergei Magnitsky guilty of tax evasion Thursday in an unprecedented posthumous trial of the investment fund lawyer, who died in jail in 2009 after accusing Russian officials of stealing $230 million through tax fraud.

Magnitsky, who was jailed in 2008 for suspected tax irregularities, was beaten to death in jail at the age of 37, his family says.

The case prompted the United States to impose sanctions against Russian officials implicated in his death and other rights abuses as part of the 2012 Magnitsky Act.

The court also convicted Magnitsky’s client William Browder, a Briton who was tried in absentia. Browder has dismissed the trial as a politically motivated effort to discredit him and Magnitsky and punish him for lobbying for the US legislation targeting the Russian officials he blames for the lawyer’s death.

The trial of a dead person is almost unprecedented in post-Soviet Russia, and has raised concerns that that judicial authorities continued to persecute Magnitsky because of the furor over his death.

An empty cage in the courthouse -- where normally the defendant hears the verdict -- symbolised the absence of the late Magnitsky and his co-accused Browder.

"I did not doubt that the decision would look like this," the lawyer for Magnitsky's family Dmitry Kharitonov told the RAPSI legal news agency. "I know that he committed no crimes."

Magnitsky had accused interior ministry officials of organising a multi-million-dollar tax scam, but was then charged with the very crimes he claimed to have uncovered.

He was placed under pre-trial detention in 2008 and died of untreated illnesses less than a year later at the age of 37.

Browder, who is now based in London, insists Magnitsky was tortured to death with beatings and the refusal of proper medical care.

His death led to one of the biggest Washington-Moscow rows in years after the Magnitsky Act imposed a visa ban and froze the assets of Russian officials.

The legislation infuriated Moscow, which in retaliation passed legislation prohibiting Americans from adopting Russian children.

Russia's Constitutional Court made it possible to try deceased people under a July 2011 ruling that allowed families of late defendants to push for their exoneration by the courts.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

 

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