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Swiss courts to drop fraud case against Russian officials over lack of evidence; frozen assets to be released and investigation to be closed

Russian fraud case dropped

By Dan Byrne for AMLi

A NINE-YEAR PROBE into potential Russian fraud against an investment fund is due to be closed by the Swiss Attorney General.

The Federal Prosecutor’s office confirmed that the case – concerning asset management agency Hermitage Capital – will no longer be pursued, Swiss media outlet Tages Anzeiger reported Friday.  

The potential fraud by key Russian citizens against the company is understood to have amounted to more than €194 million.

€16+ million in further assets had been seized as part of the probe, but most of this will now be released back to Russia. Authorities have said they only have enough evidence to hold on to a maximum of around €3.7 million.

CEO and founder of Hermitage Capital William Browder had criticised the decision by Swiss authorities to drop the case.

“The termination of the investigation is an invitation for money launderers to come to Switzerland,” he said. “Here, they have nothing to fear.”

Hermitage Capital is an asset management firm which, for many years, dealt primarily in the Russian market.

This long-running case has drawn widespread attention following the death of former Hermitage client and tax advisor Sergei Magnitsky.

In addition, former Swiss attorney general Michael Lauber was previously alleged to have taken bribes from Russia in an effort to compromise the investigation.

Browder – the initial whistleblower who raised the red flag following his experience in the country – is currently a wanted man there, but western nations have shown him support by refusing to cooperate with Russian law enforcement seeking his extradition. 

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