Yesterday, Investigation Committee (IC) under the Interior Ministry officially announced the involvement of the managing partner of audit firm Firestone Duncan, Sergei Magnitsky in the theft of 5.4 billion rubles from the budget, as well as in the development of illegal tax schemes for the Hermitage Capital Fund. In addition, IC confirmed information promulgated to Kommersant yesterday about the arrest of the stolen funds on correspondent accounts of the bank "Far North". The Hermitage Fund called the investigation’s version false.
The results of the investigation of theft of the budget funds under the guise of returning the income tax was told yesterday by spokesman for the IC of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Irina Dudukina, at a briefing. Let us recall that in December 2007, the companies "Makhaon", "Rilend", and "Parfenion”, controlled by the fund Hermitage Capital, received 5.4 billion rubles in the form of tax refunds to the state budget. Later, the return was declared illegal, but the money in the accounts of the recipients could not be found.
Ms. Dudukina reported yesterday that the investigation managed to find traces of 685 million rubles out of the stolen funds. Those funds were arrested at the correspondent account of the bank "Far North", opened in Alfa-bank (see yesterday's Kommersant). The investigative committee explained such a long-term job of detecting money with a very complicated scheme of assets diversion: according to the investigation, money was split and put through 70 fly-by-night companies opened in 10 banks.
Although investigation considers the actual owner of Universal Savings Bank, Semen Korobeynikov to be the main executor of a large-scale embezzlement (he died in an accident in 2008), yesterday Irina Dudukina dedicated most of her speech at the briefing to the role of Sergei Magnitsky had played in this criminal scheme, according to investigators. As stated by the representative of the IC, he had been working out not only illegal tax schemes for the fund Hermitage Capital (he had previously been accused), but also had been involved in massive fraud with the tax return. As already reported by Kommersant, the name of Sergei Magnitsky appeared in this case after the testimony given by the general director of “Makhaon”, Vyacheslav Khlebnikov who was detained recently in Ukraine and then arrested by the Tverskoy Court of Moscow. According to Ms. Dudukina, businessman pleaded guilty, stating that Sergei Magnitsky had produced false tax returns and put on them fake stamps of "Makhaon". As the spokeswoman for the IC reported, Mr Magnitsky "filed tax returns of companies, and eventually the false documents were given stating that the company had suffered losses due to changes in stock price, after which in December 2008, he transferred the allegedly overpaid taxes of the total amount of 5 , 4 billion rubles.. "
During the briefing, Ms Dudukina unexpectedly suggested the head of the Hermitage Capital Fund, William Brauder to repay debts to the Russian budget of 500 million rubles, and promised that "in case Mr. Brauder pays the tax arrears, his prosecution in this part will be discontinued."
Ms. Dudukina also mentioned the so-called list of Cardin, providing a ban on entry into the U.S. for more than fifty Russian investigators, prosecutors and judges, who used to participate in the investigation or the proceedings of the Sergei Magnitsky’s case. Representative of the IC linked the appearance of the list with the reluctance of the fund managers to contribute to the objective investigation.
In turn, the Hermitage Capital fund noted that the charges against Sergei Magnitsky of the IC under the Ministry of Internal Affairs were based on the words of twice convicted Vyacheslav Khlebnikov and a reference to the two dead people, who can neither confirm nor deny this information. In addition, the Hermitage Capital Fund claimed that three weeks before the transfer of budget funds to the accounts of "Makhaon", "Rilend" and "Parfenion” Mr. Magnitsky submitted statements to the Prosecutor General and Ministry of Internal Affairs about the companies’ theft from the fund. According to representatives of the Fund, if the police had paid attention to those statements, the directors of the company "would have been arrested in early December 2007 and the budget would not have lost 5.4 billion rubles." Mr. Brauder himself called the proposal by the IC under Ministry of Internal Affairs to return 500 million rubles to be absurd.