Adviser to Hermitage investment fund dies in Russian custody

MOSCOW Tue Nov 17, 2009 10:32am EST

MOSCOW Nov 17 (Reuters) - A lawyer who advised Hermitage, once Russia's biggest investment fund, has died in custody amid a row between the fund's co-founder Bill Browder and the Russian authorities over alleged tax frauds.

Sergei Magnitsky, 37, who advised Hermitage while at law firm Firestone Duncan, died of heart failure on Monday, Russia's Prosecutor-General's main investigative unit said on Tuesday.

Magnitsky was arrested in 2008 after Interior Ministry tax police raided the law firm's offices as part of an inquiry into Hermitage's alleged tax evasion. He was charged with conspiracy but his case had not come to trial.

Browder fell out with Russian authorities after publicly berating large companies over their treatment of minority shareholders and was barred entry to Russia in 2005 on national security grounds. Hermitage subsequently disposed of all of its Russian holdings.

Russian opened a tax evasion probe against Browder after he accused tax officers of faking tax refunds which defrauded Russian taxpayers of millions of dollars [ID:nLJ468432]. (Reporting by Dmitry Zhdannikov, editing by Michael Stott, Moscow Newsroom, + 7 495 775 12 42)

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