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Swiss freeze Russian accounts over giant tax swindle

© RIA Novosti . Andrey Stenin / Go to the mediabankSergei Magnitsky died aged 37 from acute heart failure after 11 months in a Moscow pre-trial detention facility
Sergei Magnitsky died aged 37 from acute heart failure after 11 months in a Moscow pre-trial detention facility - Sputnik International
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The Swiss authorities have frozen the bank accounts of Russian tax officials alleged to have pulled off Russia's largest tax fraud, a U.S. magazine has said.

The Swiss authorities have frozen the bank accounts of Russian tax officials alleged to have pulled off Russia's largest tax fraud, a U.S. magazine has said.

Credit Suisse accounts held by a former Moscow tax bureau head, Olga Stepanova, and her deputies were blocked at the request of Swiss prosecutors, according to an article in Barron's Magazine.

Stepanova is alleged to have approved a $230 million tax refund in 2007 to a ring of embezzlers masquerading as representatives of subsidiaries of British investment company Hermitage Capital Management, once the leading foreign portfolio investor in Russia.

When Hermitage co-founder William Browder and its lawyer Sergei Magnitsky reported the scam, which also involved Interior Ministry and Federal Security Service officials, Magnitsky was arrested. He died in prison in 2009 after being denied medical help when he was seriously ill.

Browder, who was banned from Russia as a "threat to national security" in 2005, alleges the prison authorities tortured Magnitsky to retract his evidence of the embezzlement scheme.

A campaign on the website russian-untouchables.com suggests that shortly after the payout, Stepanova and her husband bought a $4 million villa and two apartments on Dubai's Palm Island. The couple's Credit Suisse accounts also funded $800,000 construction payments for a villa in Montenegro.

An interior ministry spokesman has said the officials were tricked by outsiders.

Oleg Silchenko, the investigator implicated in Magnitsky's death, has even been promoted, along with other police officers whom Magnitsky accused.

Silchenko is even leading the investigation into the lawyer's death, on the orders of President Dmitry Medvedev.

The presidential Human Rights Council said last week that the charges against Magnitsky were fabricated and had no legal basis.

MOSCOW, May 6 (RIA Novosti)

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