Investigation

Swiss prosecutors say death of Russian whistle blower will not derail huge fraud investigation

Alexander Perepilichnyy, a 44-year-old businessman who left Russia three years ago, was found dead outside his luxury mansion on an exclusive private estate in Surrey two weeks ago

Prosecutors in Switzerland say the sudden death of a Russian whistle blower who was helping them uncover a money laundering network will not derail their investigation.

Alexander Perepilichnyy, a 44-year-old businessman who left Russia three years ago, was found dead outside his luxury mansion on an exclusive private estate in Surrey two weeks ago. 

The Independent revealed today that he was helping investigators uncover a network of Swiss bank accounts that were used by Moscow tax officials who became incredibly wealthy in the immediate aftermath of an enormous fraud that cost Russian tax payers £230m.

In a statement the Swiss Attorney General’s office told The Independent that the investigation remained on-going and that prosecutors were “still hearing [from] different witnesses”.

“Concerning the death of Mr Perepilichnyy and its consequences on the criminal proceedings, we'd like to stress that our strength resides in our ability to minimise the influence of such a regretful event on our investigation,” the statement read. “A good cooperation with other judicial authorities is also essential to carry on our investigation efficiently.”

The statement added: “In the course of the investigation, the [Office of the Attorney General] has ordered several Swiss bank accounts blocked and the flow of suspicious assets was analyzed. The investigation is continually turning up new findings that require additional examination. No further information is being provided at present in order not to prejudice the ongoing investigations.”

Prosecutors have however confirmed that Russia had requested updates on the investigation through a mutual legal assistance request – a mechanism by which countries officially ask for information from police for on-going investigations. The revelation could indicate that Russian police are looking to open their own investigation into allegations of money laundering but given the country’s historical refusal to go after those responsible for Russia’s largest declared tax fraud it might seem unlikely.

Mr Perepilichnyy brought Swiss prosecutors a treasure trove of information earlier this year which is showed how a number of tax officials in Moscow used shell corporations and Swiss bank accounts to move millions of dollars and pay for luxury properties in Dubai and Montenegro.

Months earlier the same officials approved of a £230m tax rebate for a company that was once owned by Hermitage Capital Management, a British investment fund. Ownership of the subsidiaries of Hermitage had been illegally transferred using stolen corporate seals months before the tax rebate was applied for. The money disappeared into a little known Moscow bank which was liquidated soon afterwards.

Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer, was hired by Hermitage to investigate the scam. After months of forensic examinations he publicly pointed the finger of blame at a network of Russian Interior Ministry officials and underworld figures. Rather than investigate the fraud, police arrested Magnitsky and handed him over to the very men he had accused. He died nine months later in November 2009 after months of brutal treatment and deliberately withdrawn medication.

The case has since become a major source of international embarrassment for Russia as well as generating anger at home over corruption and corporate criminality. A new law in the United States which is named after Magnitsky and calls for visa bans on officials involved in his death is expected to be approved soon after it was voted overwhelmingly for by lawmakers.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: KS2 Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is a two form entry primary schoo...

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee