BRUSSELS, July 12 (RIA Novosti) – European foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Friday that she was concerned by the guilty verdict issued posthumously against whistleblowing Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.
Moscow’s Tverskoi Court on Thursday found Magnitsky guilty of tax evasion, a conviction that came more than three years after he died in disputed circumstances while in pretrial custody. His former boss, Hermitage Capital CEO William Browder, was convicted in absentia of tax evasion and sentenced to nine years on Thursday.
“Magnitsky has been posthumously declared a criminal on the basis of unfair procedures and unconvincing evidence, while neither the corruption scandal he helped to uncover nor the circumstances of his death have been clarified,” Ashton’s spokesperson said in a statement.
According to the spokesperson, Ashton “remains concerned about the premature closure of the investigation into Mr. Magnitsky’s death last March, in spite of compelling evidence of wrongdoing."
Magnitsky, who worked as a tax lawyer for the British investment fund Hermitage Capital Management in Russia, was arrested in 2008 on tax evasion charges.
Prior to his detention and subsequent death in a Moscow jail in November 2009, Magnitsky claimed that a group of Russian law enforcement and tax officials had swindled the Russian federal budget out of $230 million in a phony tax scheme. His supporters claim that he was jailed and tortured to death in retribution, allegations that Russian authorities deny.