The Hermitage Saga Turns Tragic As Fund Lawyer Dies In Jail

The saga of Hermitage Capital, whose clip highlighting its recent plight we posted previously, has just taken a turn for the sad and surreal. The WSJ reports that 37 year old Sergei Magnitsky, Hermitage's lawyer has died in custody. As a reminder Sergei was arrested in November of 2008: "Sergei Magnitsky, a legal and accounting adviser for Moscow-based law firm Firestone Duncan, was detained Monday [November 24th] after a raid on his home and police issued a formal warrant for his arrest two days later, said Bill Browder, chief executive officer of Hermitage Capital Management."

Reports the Wall Street Journal:

Mr. Magnitsky, a 37-year-old partner at Moscow firm Firestone Duncan, was jailed nearly a year ago on charges of tax evasion related to his work for Hermitage. At a court hearing on extending his detention in September, he complained that he had been denied medical treatment for weeks for serious stomach pancreatic illnesses that he hadn't suffered from before his imprisonment. He also complained of inhumane conditions -- including the absence of toilet, hot water and windows -- at the Butyrskaya jail where he was then being held.

"They held him for 11 months, asking him to fabricate testimony against Hermitage," said Jamison Firestone, managing partner of Firestone Duncan. "The more he refused, the worse his conditions became."

If convicted of tax fraud, Mr. Magnitsky would have faced up to six years in prison. Russian officials have denied pressuring Mr. Magnitsky for testimony.

Irina Dudukina, spokeswoman for the Investigative Committee of Russia's Interior Ministry said Tuesday, stated more information would be forthcoming shortly. In other news, emerging markets are, once again, all the rage. For those who can't wait to see the opportunity cost of the investment climate in Russia, here is a snapshot of the prison which was Mr. Magnitsky's final resting place.