SOURCE: Russia! magazine

July 08, 2010 02:59 ET

Russia! Magazine: Helsinki Commission May Investigate Possible Link Between Philip Morris and Corrupt Russian Officials

NEW YORK, NY and MOSCOW--(Marketwire - July 8, 2010) -  According to Russia!, the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) may soon be reviewing a possible connection between U.S. cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris and a circle of corrupt Russian government officials. The matter was brought to the Commission's attention by Alexander Dobrovinsky, a Russian lawyer, in a written appeal to its chairman, U.S. Senator Benjamin Cardin of Maryland.

Dobrovinsky's letter, a copy of which was obtained by Russia! Magazine, recounted how his client, Moscow entrepreneur Armen Yeganyan, was allegedly blackmailed by corrupt Russian officials attempting to seize his $120 million wine and cognac business. Many of the officials involved in the attempted takeover, Dobrovinsky wrote, were also implicated in the tragic 2009 case of Sergei Magnitsky.

According to the U.S. Helsinki Commission, Magnitsky, a lawyer for the U.S. investment advisory Hermitage Capital, was incarcerated on false charges after he testified about a massive tax fraud ring, and died in prison last November when his captors denied him basic medical care. The case elicited widespread outrage and the attention of the CSCE, alternately known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission.

Dobrovinsky's appeal was a warning to the Commission that the perpetrators in the Magnitsky case are still using the same tactics to subjugate private businesses. "[P]arties responsible for Magnitsky's death," he wrote, "have continued to conduct activity that makes them seem complicit in the seizure of companies and in threatening the lives and wellbeing of other Russian citizens."

Dobrovinsky also called on the Commission to inform cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris that it may be indirectly implicated in corruption schemes perpetrated by these same corrupt authorities from the "Magnitsky List": "The information available to us indicates a possible link between the... criminal case against Armen Yeganyan [in] an attempt to establish control over KiN Moscow Wine and Cognac Plant's activity on the part of the structures controlled by [Russian businessman] Igor Kesayev, one of the major Philip Morris distributors in this country, and the actions of law enforcement agencies subsequent to this conflict with respect to Mr. Yeganyan," Dobrovinsky wrote, concluding: "Thus,... Philip Morris, may be an implicit participant in actions aimed at illegally imprisoning Russian businessman Armen Yeganyan and seizing his property."

The Helsinki Commission is aware of the situation and acknowledged Dobrovinsky's appeal and expressed concern about the worsening climate of corruption in Russia: "The Commission remains interested in seeking improvements in the rule of law within Russia and throughout the OSCE region and will continue its work toward that end."

Russia! Magazine (www.readrussia.com) is an award-winning US-based publication covering Russian business, art, and culture.