Norway to Intervene Investigation of Killing of Russian Lawyer Sergei Magnitsky

Sergei Leonidovich Magnitsky was a Russian accountant and auditor. Magnitsky had alleged there had been a large-scale theft from the Russian state sanctioned and carried out by Russian officials. He was arrested and eventually died in prison seven days before the expiration of the one-year term during which he could be legally held without trial.

Norwegian Helsinki Committe(NHC) has submitted an application for opening a criminal investigation of Russian Interior Ministry Officer Oleg Silchenko et. al. today. The case is now under consideration of Siri Frigaard, the Chief Public Prosecutor of Norway.

“The Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC) hereby requests that Norway’s Prosecutorial Services open a criminal investigation into Russian citizen Oleg Silchenko for his role in the torture and killing of Russian tax lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in 2009. In addition, NHC requests investigations of the role of others, including Mr Markov and Mr Kuznetsov, in the torture and killing of Sergei Magnitsky,” says the application.

According to Law and Order in Russia, a blog claiming to fight corruption, Sergei Magnitsky was a Russian lawyer and accountant who helped Hermitage to reveal a big tax fraud in Russia, a $230m crime allegedly involved senior police officers, judges, tax officials, bankers and the mafia. Magnitsky was arrested and later died in prison. After Magnitsky’s death, Russian investigators have opened posthumous criminal investigation into him for taxes evasion for the first time and for organizing tax refund for the second time recently, according to The Independent.

William Browder, the British-American CEO and co-founder of Hermitage Capital Management said to FT, “We decided that if we couldn’t get justice [for Magnitsky] inside Russia, we should try to get justice outside Russia.”

The legislation in Norway allows criminal cases over human rights abuses to be applied even if both perpetrator and victim are in another country. However, in 2013, Norway had no plans for Magnistsky Sanctions, reported The Moscow Times,”Norway has no tradition of introducing unilateral actions against individual countries or persons. This policy remains also in the Magnitsky case,” the Norwegian Embassy in Moscow said in a statement. The Norwegian foreign minister Barth Eide indicated that the UN Security Council should consider sanctions.

It seems things have changed in a year’s time. On April 10th, Norwegian government offered William Browder, the leader of the Magnitsky campaign, protection against Russia’s proceedings against him. Two weeks later, the formal application was submitted by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee .  “Norway is in a good position to do it,”said Gunnar Ekelove-Slydal, deputy secretary-general of NHC, to FT, “We have the resources, we have the legislation, we have a clear interest in fighting impunity in our big neighbouring country.”

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