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A Russian Lawyer's Death Triggers a Global Money Hunt

The death of a Russian lawyer triggers a global hunt for the lost millions
A Russian Lawyer's Death Triggers a Global Money Hunt
Photograph by William Curtis Rolf/Gallery Stock

In 2009, a lawyer named Sergei Magnitsky died in a Moscow jail after uncovering the biggest known tax fraud in Russian history—a theft of $230 million from the national treasury. The case has touched off a diplomatic row, with the U.S. imposing sanctions on Russian officials accused of having a role in Magnitsky’s death and Moscow retaliating on Dec. 28 by barring Americans from adopting Russian orphans.

Now about that $230 million. Russian authorities said it couldn’t be found because essential records were destroyed in a truck crash. A sawmill worker and a convicted burglar pleaded guilty to masterminding the heist, which involved filing bogus tax-refund claims. Both got five-year sentences.