Deceased businessman Perepelichny not connected with Magnitsky case - Russian Interior Ministry

Businessman Alexander Perepelichny, who died in Britain and who was named the key witness in Hermitage Capital lawyer Sergei Magnitsky's case by foreign media, is not at all connected with this case, a source in the Russian Interior Ministry told Interfax on Wednesday.

"Perepelichny has nothing to do with the so-called tax case against Magnitsky," he said.

Media reports said earlier, citing the online version of the UK's Independent newspaper, that Perepelichny, who died in mid-November, was the main informer in the Magnitsky case.

Perepelichny was found dead at his private estate in Surrey in southeastern England.

These reports claimed that the 44 year-old Russian citizen died more than two weeks ago, but information about that became accessible to the Independent only now.

The circumstances of Perepelichny's death, which the Independent described as mysterious, have not been clarified yet.

Moscow's Ostankinsky Court on April 3, 2012, ruled to re-open the tax case against Hermitage Capital lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, saying that the prosecutors' request for the case to be reopened was motivated by numerous complaints from and interviews with Magnitsky's mother, who insisted on her son's rehabilitation.

On May 21, the Moscow City Court upheld this ruling.

Magnitsky, who was charged with tax evasion under Russian Criminal Code Article 199, died at the age of 37 at Moscow's Matrosskaya Tishina detention center on November 16, 2009. A criminal case into his death was opened.

The tax evasion case against Magnitsky was closed after his death but then reopened after the Constitutional Court ruled that such steps were unconstitutional and violated the presumption of innocence principle. The court decided that such cases must be reopened if the defendants' relatives so desire.

Lawyers for Magnitsky's mother objected to reopening the case, arguing that this had not been done at their request.

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