Russian corruption: crooked officials steal multi-billion-dollar company, $230M tax refund, then murder campaigning lawyer

Foreign Policy's got a chilling tell-all account of the crooked Russian tax-cops who engineered a law-office raid that ended with their criminal pals forging documents transferring a company to them, stealing a $230 million tax rebate, and murdering a partner at the firm who complained about it.

The piece is written by Jamison Firestone, who founded the Moscow law firm Firestone Duncan. Firestone Duncan represented an investment firm called Hermitage Fund. In 2007, Russian Interior Ministry officers conducted a warrantless raid on the firm and stole Hermitage's corporate seals and internal documents, severely beating a lawyer who objected and landing him in hospital. The cops turned the seals and docs over to a criminal gang, who used them to forge documents that transferred title in Hermitage to them. They also forged $1 billion in fake liabilities, entitling them to a $230M tax rebate, which then also stole.

When Firestone's partner Sergei Magnitsky refused to back off and insisted on complaining to all levels of Russian officialdom, he was arrested by members of conspiracy, tortured and murdered in jail.

The more Sergei insisted on his testimony in sworn statements and in court, the more pressure Silchenko applied to him. He was put in a cell with eight inmates and only four beds so the detainees had to sleep in shifts. In December 2008, he was put in a cell with no heat and no windowpanes — he nearly froze to death. Later, he was moved to another cell with no toilet, just a hole in the floor where the sewage overflowed.

After six months of this treatment, Sergei — who went into detention a healthy 36-year-old man — had lost 40 pounds. He developed pancreatitis and gallstones and needed medical attention. In July 2009, Sergei was moved to Butyrka, a maximum-security facility that had no medical facilities. At Butyrka, Silchenko repeatedly denied medical care to Sergei, hoping that it would break him. Sergei remained defiant and continued to write complaints about his innocence and the pressure applied to him. But nearly one year after his arrest, on the night of Nov. 16, 2009, he became gravely ill. He was transferred to the intensive-care wing of Matrosskaya Tishina detention center, but instead of receiving medical attention, he was put in a straitjacket, chained to a bed, and left by himself in an isolation cell for one hour and 18 minutes while doctors waited right outside the door until they were certain he was dead.

Russia's Crime of the Century