Financier demands Swiss re-open Magnitsky fraud probe

Sergei Magnitsky died under suspicious circumstances in a Moscow jail whilst investigating alleged money laundering. Keystone / Misha Japaridze

Swiss prosecutors should re-examine a money laundering case linked to the death of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, says the British-US financier Bill Browder who brought the original complaint.

This content was published on May 12, 2022 - 15:28

Browder accuses the Swiss Attorney General of turning a blind eye to the perceived failings of his predecessor who was in office when the prosecution was dropped last yearExternal link.

Swiss prosecutors launched an investigation into alleged Russian money laundering in 2011 following a complaint by Browder, who was then CEO of financial company Hermitage Capital Management. Browder’s Russian lawyer, Magnitsky, had died in suspicious circumstances in a Moscow jail whilst gathering evidence.

But the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) dropped the case last year and returned much of the money to Russia that had been frozen during the investigation.

Browder has asked the new Swiss Attorney General, Stefan Blättler, to re-open the case.

“The new prosecutor has not changed his mind on this: he will return the money [to Russia]. That pretty much says everything there is to say about the situation in Switzerland,” Browder told public broadcaster RTSExternal link on Thursday.

Blättler has told the media that controversies surrounding his predecessor, Michael Lauber, belong to the past.

“For him, the past is not a problem. He wants to look to the future. These are not the words of a reformer. These are the words of someone who wants to maintain the status quo,” Browder said.

Lobbying Congress

“The authorities should behave differently if they wanted to show that Russia does not have Switzerland in its pocket,” he added.

The case has taken on new significance since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Earlier this month, Browder testified to the US Helsinki Commission that Swiss prosecutors have been too soft with RussiaExternal link.

Browder told RTS on Thursday that he is lobbying the US Congress to stop providing legal assistance to Switzerland unless the Magnitsky case is re-opened.

“I would be surprised if they [Congress] would witness such a miscarriage of justice without doing anything,” he said.

In a statement to RTS, the OAG said it treated all nationalities the same during prosecutions. The OAG added that co-operation from Russia had been necessary to establish whether a crime had been committed.

The OAG said it was up to parliament to change existing anti-money laudering change laws.

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