According to the documentary and the documents, the key players knew each other from previous tax-refund cases, and from vacations in Cyprus, Dubai, Istanbul, Switzerland and London.
In late 2006, for instance, a company called Rengaz Holdings obtained a $107 million tax refund and deposited the money in Dmitry Klyuev’s Universal Savings Bank. That deal was handled by Klyuev’s lawyer, Andrei Pavlov, and approved by Olga Stepanova, the tax official in charge of Tax Office No. 28, according to documents unearthed by Magnitsky and provided by the Hermitage investigation. All three would later be involved in the Hermitage case.
On New Year’s Day 2007, with the money disbursed, Stepanova and her husband, Vladlen, flew to Dubai, where Klyuev joined them two days later, according to flight records. They then traveled to Switzerland, and all three returned to Moscow on the same flight on Jan. 16, 2007.
The lawyer, Pavlov, and his wife, Yulia, along with police investigator Pavel Karpov, chose London, instead, flying there together Jan. 1.
At the end of April they were off once more, this time to Cyprus. Klyuev and another police investigator, Artyom Kuznetsov, flew on the banker’s private jet on April 28. On the April 30, Karpov and the Pavlovs arrived on a commercial flight and stayed until May 5. Stepanova and her husband followed May 8 and stayed for six days. Klyuev was still there when they arrived. The two police officers, Karpov and Kuznetsov, would soon be running the investigation that landed Magnitsky in jail.
On June 4, 2007, Kuznetsov led a police raid on Hermitage, which had been the largest foreign investor in Russia. Hermitage was founded by the American-born Browder, who had antagonized the authorities in a campaign for business transparency. He was barred from the country at the end of 2005 and has run the business from London since. Police seized company records and seals. Those documents were used when three affiliated firms were re-registered later that year, one of them in the name of Viktor Markelov, an ex-convict and associate of Klyuev. The stolen companies then claimed a $230 million tax refund based on what they said were business losses.
The refund was approved Dec. 24, 2007, and on the same day, the money was deposited in Klyuev’s bank. On New Year’s Day 2008, according to the documentary and documents, Karpov and the Pavlovs flew to Istanbul for a three-day holiday. On Jan. 5 the Pavlovs flew from Moscow to Dubai, along with Stepanova and her husband. They stayed there for 12 days, during which time, the investigation discovered, the couples bought at least $4 million worth of property.
Written questions sent to the Russian Investigative Committee last week about the possibility of opening an investigation into the Hermitage allegations had not been answered as of Tuesday. The Interior Ministry has exonerated the officials named by Hermitage and has not made them available for interviews.