U.S. Senator Calls for U.S. Visa Ban of 60 Russian Officials Involved in Corruption and the Death of Sergei Magnitsky

April 26, 2010

26 April 2010 – Today the Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, called for immediate and permanent visa sanctions against 60 Russian officials who were involved in a $230 million corruption case discovered and exposed by the late Russian anti-corruption lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky and who authorised Magnitsky’s arrest on false charges and orchestrated his torture and murder in custody. In a letter addressed to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Senator Cardin demanded that the State Department “immediately cancel and permanently withdraw the U.S visa privileges of all those involved in this crime, along with their dependents and family members.”(See http://csce.gov/)

Senator Cardin further wrote to Secretary Clinton:

“I am writing to request the immediate cancellation of U.S. visas held by a number of Russian officials and others who are involved in significant corruption in that country and who are responsible for last year’s torture and death in prison of the Russian anti-corruption lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, who testified against them.”

High-ranking officials from the Russian Interior Ministry, Federal Security Service (FSB), General Prosecutor’s Office, Federal Tax Service, Federal Prison Service and judges in the Russian court system are named in the visa ban list. These officials include:

  • Alexei Anichin, Head of the Investigative Committee of the Interior Ministry, responsible for the cover-up of Sergei Magnitsky’s testimony about the role of Interior Ministry officers in the $230 million tax rebate fraud. Anichin also directed the repressive criminal case based on false charges against Magnitsky;
  • Victor Grin, Deputy General Prosecutor of Russia, responsible for absolving from criminal prosecution the officials implicated by Sergei Magnitsky in the $230 million tax rebate fraud and instead solely charging a sawmill employee for the entire fraud;
  • Victor Voronin, Deputy Head of Economic Security Division of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), who authorised a criminal case based on false charges that was used to perpetrate a corrupt scheme to steal $230 million from the Russian Treasury, through the theft of the Hermitage Fund’s Russian companies, via the illegal seizure of their original statutory documents without a warrant.

Senator Cardin stated:

“We can take the concrete action to ensure those public officials and others who share responsibility for this crime should be denied entry visas to the United States. As you know, the United States has the policy of prohibiting individuals involved in corruption from visiting our country, and the State Department is mandated by the President to achieve this aim.”

The visa sanctions target complicit Russian officials, their dependents and family members and are based on U.S. Presidential Proclamation 7750, enacted in 2004. This Presidential Proclamation prohibits corrupt foreign officials and their family members from gaining entry to the United States (See Proclamation 7750 “To Suspend Entry as Immigrants or Nonimmigrants of Persons Engaged in or Benefiting From Corruption” http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2004/pdf/04-957.pdf).

The U.S. visa sanctions involve Russian officials who organised and approved the $230 million corrupt scheme, released from responsibility officials implicated by Sergei Magnitsky and pursued repressive criminal cases on false grounds to silence and intimidate Hermitage executives and lawyers who had reported corrupt officials to the authorities.

In his letter, Senator Cardin pointed out that the repression and arrest of Sergei Magnitsky were orchestrated by the very same Interior Ministry officers whom he had exposed in the $230 million fraud:

“The crime, which involved a fraudulent $230 million tax refund paid to the criminal group, was exposed by Hermitage’s lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky…One month after his testimony he was arrested… in his Moscow home by a team of Interior Ministry troopers reporting directly to the officers Mr. Magnitsky had accused.”

Senator Cardin further stated that in custody Sergei Magnitsky was subjected to torture designed to force him to absolve the government officials from the crimes they had committed and to falsely testify against himself and his client, the Hermitage Fund:

“As highlighted in the 2009 State Department Country Report of Human Rights in Russia, Sergei Magnitsky was tortured in an attempt to force him to withdraw his testimony and to incriminate himself and his client. His detailed letters from prison attest to the inhuman conditions in which he was kept for nearly a year without a trial.”

Sergei Magnitsky, a 37-year old Russian lawyer for the Hermitage Fund, exposed the largest known tax rebate fraud in Russian history perpetrated by government officials. In 2008, he testified against senior Interior Ministry officers for abuse of office, theft of his client’s (the Hermitage Fund) companies in order to steal the $230 million they had previously paid to the Russian government, and the fabrication of a false criminal case in order to perpetrate the corrupt scheme. A month after his testimony, Magnitsky was arrested by direct subordinates of the officers he testified against, kept in custody without a trial for a year and tortured to withdraw his statements. Magnitsky refused and instead on 13 October 2009 gave further detailed testimony implicating the Interior Ministry officials in a corrupt $230 million scheme and in orchestrating his repression in custody. A month later, on 16 November 2009 Sergei Magnitsky was found dead in a Moscow pre-trial detention center under circumstances described as “intentional death” and “murder” by Russian human rights defenders.

Senator Cardin added that five months after Sergei Magnitsky’s death, none of the officials involved in the $230 million fraud and the persecution and death of Sergei Magnitsky have been brought to justice:

“Since the death, a number of prison officials have been fired, but no one has been prosecuted for his torture or death, nor for participating in the corruption he exposed.”

In a separate development last week, the Moscow Helsinki Group, an independent Russian human rights organisation, called upon Russian authorities to immediately press charges against Russian Interior Ministry officers involved in Sergei Magnitsky’s case for crimes under several articles of the Russian Criminal Code: “Conduct of criminal prosecution of a knowingly innocent man,” “Unlawful arrest and detention”; “Forcing to give testimonies”; “Torture”; “Murder committed with special degree of brutality” and “Murder committed to conceal other crimes” (See Moscow Helsinki Group application: http://www.mhg.ru/news/EB81324).

The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, is an independent U.S. Government agency created in 1976 to monitor and encourage compliance with the Helsinki Final Act and other OSCE commitments.

Senator Benjamin L. Cardin has a long-standing interest in foreign affairs and human rights. He has been a Member of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (the U.S. Helsinki Commission) since 1993, serving as Ranking Member from 2003-2006. In the 110th Congress, he was appointed Co-Chairman of the Commission, and is currently Vice President of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly.

For further information:

Senator Benjamin L. Cardin
+1 202 224 4524

The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Helsinki Commission)

Hermitage Capital
+44 207 440 1777


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Contact: Neil Simon
+1 (202) 225-1901
+1 (202) 340-7450 cell

Cardin Urges Visa Ban for Russian Officials Connected
to Anti-Corruption Lawyer’s Death

WASHINGTON—The State Department should impose visa sanctions against 60 Russian officials and others involved in a $230 million corruption case that resulted in the death of a Moscow anti-corruption lawyer, U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) said today in a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. (A copy of the letter text is below and here as a pdf.)

As Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), Senator Cardin has held hearings on corruption, including a 2009 event that highlighted the case of Hermitage Capital Management, the company whose lawyer — Sergei Magnitsky — exposed a $230 million tax fraud scheme perpetrated by numerous Russian officials, including Artem Kuznetsov and Pavel Karpov. Magnitsky died while in pre-trial detention, after repeatedly being denied medical treatment.

“I urge you to immediately cancel and permanently withdraw the U.S visa privileges of all those involved in this crime, along with their dependents and family members,” Cardin wrote in the letter.

The 60 names on the list include senior officials from the Russian Interior Ministry, Federal Security Service, Federal Tax Service, Arbitration Courts, General Prosecutor Office, and Federal Prison Service, along with detailed descriptions of their involvement in the case. (Click here for a pdf of the complete list.)

“The visa sanctions will send an important message to corrupt officials in Russia and elsewhere that the U.S. is serious about combating foreign corruption and the harm it does. It will also help to protect U.S. companies operating in Russia who risk falling prey to similar schemes in the future,” Cardin said.

The officials for whom Sen. Cardin has requested visa sanctions remain unpunished and in positions of power.


Letter to Secretary Clinton – April 26, 2010


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