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Russia extends Magnitsky drama

March 6, 2013 at 7:45 AM   |   Comments

MOSCOW, March 6 (UPI) -- Russian officials said they would bring fresh fraud charges against investor William Browder in what has become an escalating international feud.

The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that Russia is poised to try a tax evasion case against Browder's former attorney, Sergei Magnitsky, who died in prison in 2009.

The rare posthumous proceedings are politically charged. A Russian human rights commission said in 2011 that Magnitsky died while being denied medical treatment after he was beaten in prison. Russian courts acquitted prison personnel charged in the case.

In direct retaliation, the U.S. government enacted the so-called "Magnitsky Act," in 2012, which freezes the assets of Russian officials involved in the case, including officials implicated in allegations of a $230 million fraud Magnitsky and Browder had said had been orchestrated by senior police officials.

The Russian government, in response, stopped adoptions of Russian children by U.S. citizens.

Browder's investment fund on Tuesday called the new charges "spurious and without any foundation."

Browder had been one of the largest individual foreign investors in Russia. The new allegations involve 131 million shares of natural gas giant Gazprom that he purchased from 1999-2004.

The purchases were permitted by Russian regulators at the time, Browder's fund said. Authorities in Russia now say he didn't have permission to buy domestically traded stock, which had a lower price than shares made available to foreigners.

The damages to the government are valued at $97.5 million, senior Interior Ministry official Mikhail Alexandrov said at a news conference.

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