* Seeks forfeiture of assets of 11 companies
* Includes luxury apartments, commercial spaces in New York
* Scam linked to death of Russian lawyer Magnitsky
By Bernard Vaughan
NEW YORK, Sept 10 U.S. authorities are looking
to seize luxury apartments and other property that they say was
used by Russian companies to launder proceeds from a $230
million tax fraud.
The scheme was uncovered by Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer who
died in a Russian jail, U.S. prosecutors said in a civil
complaint filed in New York on Tuesday.
"As alleged, a Russian criminal enterprise sought to launder
some of its billions in ill-gotten rubles through the purchase
of pricey Manhattan real estate," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet
Bharara said in a statement.
According to the complaint, the organization stole the
corporate identities belonging to the Hermitage Fund, an
investment fund operating in Russia, and used them to make
fraudulent claims for tax refunds.
The organization included officials at two Russian tax
offices who approved the refunds of approximately $230 million,
according to the complaint.
The complaint said Magnitsky, who was hired by Hermitage to
investigate, faced retaliatory criminal proceedings after
uncovering the scheme and the involvement of Russian officials.
He died on Nov. 16, 2009, while in pretrial detention.
"While New York is a world financial capital, it is not a
safe haven for criminals seeking to hide their loot, no matter
how and where their fraud took place," Bharara said.
Lawyers for the defendant companies, which include Prevezon
Holdings Ltd, could not immediately be reached for comment.