Marital murmurings in Magnitsky case

Men in Suits Shaking Hands and Exchanging a Roll of CashEmbezzlement charges against tax official Olga Stepanova are now washing around her marriage and her relationship with her husband.

Stepanova and a $230 million fraud are at the centre of a media storm, with supporters of the late lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in prison, say ended up in Stepanova's husband's offshore bank accounts.

Stepanova's lawyer says that this in no way implicates her client, as the two have been separated for almost 20 years.

But the Magnitsky camp claims the separation was on paper only and they still own a Moscow flat and overseas property together, reported.

Media war

"There is an information war being waged against her right now," Larisa Move, Stepanova's lawyer, told Kommersant.

"As far as I am aware they each have their own lives and there is no business relationship between them. Vladelen Stepanov is a successful businessman," she said, pointing out that they divorced in 1992.

Sham divorce

But Firestone Duncan, Magnitsky's old boss at Hermitage Capital, where Magnitsky was working when he said he had discovered a fraud leading to interior ministry officials, says all is not as it seems.

A tax declaration of the Stepanovs was published on the pro-Magnitsky website "Stop the Untouchables!" which shows that the unhappy couple lived together in a Moscow flat from 2006 to 2009.

Magnitsky supporters further maintain that from 2006 until 2010 the Stepanovs travelled abroad together 29 times and separately on only 6 occasions, reported.

The death in prison of Magnitsky, who was suffering from a chronic liver complaint and was apparently denied adequate treatment while in custody, has kept the spotlight on the case.

Round and round

No-one disputes that the $230 million was embezzled by someone in 2007. Stepanova authorised a $230 million tax refund which took only a day to process and swept through the usual checks to the Universal Savings Bank, controlled by ex-con Dmitry Klyuyev as part of an organised crime ring, the 'Stop the Untouchables: Justice for Magnitsky' website attests.

Vladlen Stepanov founded two companies in Cyprus and the Virgin Islands, which received 7 and 1.4 million euros into their Swiss accounts shortly after the illegal tax transaction was made, Interfax reported.

The bank accounts have been frozen and Stepanova no longer works at the tax inspectorate.

The probe is continuing in Russia, "the investigation is of a long-lasting nature and at the present moment has not yet been completed," came the vague announcement from Vladimir Markin, Investigative Committee spokesman, announced, Ekho Moskvy reported.

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