Swiss Close Decade-Long Russian Money Laundering Probe

BERLIN (AP) — Swiss prosecutors said Tuesday they have closed a decade-long investigation into suspected Russian money laundering linked to a fraud scandal in which late lawyer Sergei Magnitsky played a leading role.

The Swiss investigation against persons unknown centered on money laundering alleged to have been committed in Switzerland between 2008 and 2010. It was launched in 2011, in part because of a report alleging criminal activity by Hermitage Capital Management, the company of Magnitsky’s one-time client, London-based investor William Browder.

Magnitsky drew controversy in 2008 after claiming that an organized crime group had colluded with corrupt Russian Interior Ministry officials to claim a $230 million tax rebate through illegally obtained subsidiaries of Hermitage. The money was alleged to have been laundered first in Russia and then in other countries, including Switzerland. The Swiss attorney general's office ordered assets worth around 18 million francs ($19.6 million) seized.

The attorney general's office said Tuesday its investigation of the alleged money laundering involved requests for assistance from Moldova, Lithuania, Russia, Cyprus and the United States. It said that the circumstances of Magnitsky's death and its political repercussions weren't part of the proceedings. Magnitsky was arrested on tax evasion charges and died in prison in November 2009, with human rights advocates saying he was beaten and denied medical care behind bars.

The investigation “has not revealed any evidence that would justify charges being bought against anyone in Switzerland" and is being closed, the attorney general's office said in a statement.

However, it added that because a link has been established between some of the assets seized in Switzerland and criminal activity committed in Russia, it ordered the forfeiture of more than 4 million francs.

The office said that Hermitage was originally recognized as a complainant, but that status has now been revoked because “it had not been possible to demonstrate that the funds under investigation in Switzerland originated from an offence committed to Hermitage’s detriment.”