Russian authorities have been accused of allowing corrupt officials to “plunder” the state while “brutally silencing” their critics in a damning report by the Council of Europe.
Andreas Gross, a Swiss MP and chair of the Socialist Group of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, made the accusations in an official report into death of the campaigning anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky four years ago.
The findings, in which Mr Gross claims “high level” state officials orchestrated a “cover up”, will inflame the diplomatic row over Russia’s handling of Mr Magnitsky’s death. The scandal has become a national embarrassment, damaging business investment and trade relations.
The US has already imposed visa bans and frozen the assets of 60 Russians linked to the alleged crime. In response, Moscow has barred US citizens from adopting Russian children.
Mr Magnitsky was working for UK hedge fund Hermitage Capital Management when he uncovered an alleged $230m fraud against the Russian taxpayer. After publicly naming the police involved, the same officers arrested him and threw him in jail on tax evasion charges. He was held for a year, dying after developing pancreatitis, being denied medical attention, and being beaten with “rubber truncheons”.
The Parliamentary Assembly was “appalled that Mr Magnitsky died in pre-trial detention and none of the persons responsible for his death have yet been held to account”, the report said.