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June 4, 2010 2:51 PM

Another Russian Lawyer Targeted in Hermitage Capital Case

Posted by Brian Baxter

Alexander Antipov, an attorney for London-based hedge fund Hermitage Capital, has become the eighth lawyer to be accused by Russian authorities of falsifying evidence in an ongoing case against his client that critics claim is symptomatic of corruption by the Russian state.

The Moscow Bar Association said on Thursday that an investigator working for the Russian Interior Ministry tried to strip Antipov of his law license by claiming he falsified evidence in a 2006 tax evasion case, The Moscow Times reports.

The request was made after Antipov filed a series of complaints and petitions over actions taken against Hermitage and its executives by Russian judges and investigators, Reuters reports. The Moscow Bar Association found no basis for any disciplinary action against Antipov and none was taken. (An Interior Ministry official told Reuters that the agency had not requested Antipov's disbarment, but declined to comment further.)

The case against Hermitage drew widespread attention last year following the death of Sergei Magnitsky, head of the tax practice at Moscow's Firestone Duncan. Police arrested Magnitsky as part of their ongoing investigation into Hermitage, which ran afoul of the Kremlin several years ago for campaigning against corruption at Russian companies. He died under mysterious circumstances on Nov. 16 while in custody at a pretrial detention facility in Moscow. 

The Daily Telegraph reports that Russian police investigated all seven of Hermitage's previous lawyers on various charges that critics claim were trumped up. Six of them fled, predominantly to the U.K., The Telegraph reports, but the 37-year-old Magnitsky stayed behind to oversee the case. He would later spend almost a year in jail before dying of heart failure and toxic shock.

Earlier this year The Am Law Daily spoke with Jamison Firestone, the founder of Firestone Duncan and a close colleague and friend of Magnitsky's, about the difficult situation faced by some lawyers in Russia. Firestone fled to London in January after a series of interactions with Interior Ministry investigators left him feeling threatened.

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