Riga police have questions for the Russians, whose money is related to the “Magnitsky case”

The investigation of a cross-border fraudulent money laundering scheme uncovered by Sergei Magnitsky is acquiring new details in Latvia – writes «Novaya Gazeta». In May, the state police confiscated assets totaling 230 thousand euros – these are several real estate objects in the center of Riga. According to law enforcement agencies, the real estate was purchased by foreign citizens with money obtained by criminal means.

This article is available in Polish.

This is not the first episode when traces of money withdrawn from Russia for the purpose of legalization are found in Latvia. The Latvian police have been investigating the Magnitsky case since 2012.

A criminal case in Latvia was opened in 2012 at the request of Bill Browder, co-founder and head of the Hermitage Capital fund. According to the fund, out of a total of $ 230 million, $ 19 million was laundered through 16 accounts in six Latvian banks. A few years later, Hermitage Capital reported on the discovery of 430 more suspicious accounts in 14 banks through which the stolen money could have flowed. In 2019, Bill Browder wrote to the Latvian Minister of Justice Janis Bordans, stating that Latvia is inactive in the fight against money laundering and has not provided any information since the beginning of the investigation.

In the same 2019, journalists from the Swedish television SVT found traces of money withdrawn according to the scheme disclosed by Sergei Magnitsky in the Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian branches of Swedbank. Reporters found that between 2007 and 2015, $ 4.3 billion was laundered through the bank – of which $ 26 million was associated with the Magnitsky case. The police first publicly reported on the results of their work in February 2020 – the assets were arrested – including two houses and an account used to sell yachts – totaling half a million dollars. This year several more properties were arrested (their total cost – 230 thousand euros).

“The investigation has established that foreign citizens acquired exclusive real estate in Latvia with money acquired through crime,” Simona Gravite, a representative of the Latvian state police, told «Novaya Gazeta». – During the investigation, several episodes were established when foreign citizens bought real estate in a prestigious area of ​​the Quiet Center of Riga in order to obtain a residence permit in this way. When these assets were discovered, they were immediately arrested to clarify the circumstances of their acquisition and their links to money laundering”. According to Simona Gravite, the purchase of real estate was carried out with money laundered through offshore companies, while the origin of the funds was hidden. In particular, the money originally came from a Russian bank to a company in Cyprus owned by a certain “leader of a criminal gang,” whose name the police did not disclose.

“In the course of the investigation, interconnected stages of the transit chain for the transfer of criminal assets were identified, civil transactions were modeled through which these funds were transferred to Latvia, thereby actually changing the country and source of origin,” says Simona Gravite. – The owners were unable to provide evidence of the origin of the funds and the transparency of the purchase of real estate, which would confirm their legality. Consequently, after a thorough investigation of the origin of the property, the evidence collected for the investigation did not raise any doubts that the seized property was linked to a money laundering scheme”.

The investigation is ongoing.

Pic: flickr.com/photos/valstspolicija/