US Congress Introduce Magnitsky Visa Ban Law
September 29, 2010
Law Introduced in US Congress to Freeze Assets and Ban Visas for Russian Officials Implicated in Death of Sergei Magnitsky
Today, a law has been introduced in the US Congress which will enact economic sanctions and visa bans on Russian officials and other individuals involved in the torture and murder in custody of 37-year old lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.
The new law, entitled “Justice for Sergei Magnitsky Act of 2010”, will make those implicated in the repressive arrest and death of Magnitsky ineligible for admission to the United States and will revoke any existing US visas. The law will also freeze and prohibit all financial transactions of those individuals within the United States.
The co-sponsors of the “Justice for Sergei Magnitsky Act of 2010” law are some of the most prominent US political figures and leaders in the fields of human rights and justice, including Senator Benjamin Cardin and Congressman James McGovern.
The authors of the law stated its purpose to be as follows:
“A Bill to require the Secretary of State to identify individuals responsible for the detention, abuse, or death of Sergei Magnitsky or for the conspiracy to defraud the Russian Federation of taxes on corporate profits through fraudulent transactions and lawsuits against Hermitage, and to impose a visa ban and certain financial measures with respect to such individuals, until the Russian Federation has thoroughly investigated the death of Sergei Magnitsky and brought the Russian criminal justice system into compliance with international legal standards, and for other purposes.”
The economic sanctions and visa bans will affect all officials involved in the embezzlement of $230 million of budget funds uncovered by Sergei Magnitsky and those connected to his arrest and persecution in detention as well as all individuals involved in the cover-up of these crimes. The sanctions will also apply to their dependent family members. The law also calls for a freeze on transactions conducted by any people acting on their behalf.
Senator Cardin said:
“Nearly a year after Sergei’s death, the leading figures in this scheme remain in power in Russia. It has become clear that if we expect any measure of justice in this case, we must act in the United States…At the least we can and should block these corrupt individuals from traveling and investing their ill-gotten money in our country.”
The visa ban initiative was originally introduced in April 2010 after US Senator Benjamin Cardin, Chairman of the US Helsinki Commission, leaned about the absolute impunity shown by the officials responsible for the death of Magnitsky. He subsequently requested US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to impose a visa ban on 60 Russian officials involved in the arrest, persecution and death of Sergei Magnitsky. In May this year, US Congressman James McGovern, co-chair of the US Congressional Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, held hearings on the Sergei Magnitsky case where he vowed to make those visa bans into law and to strengthen them with financial sanctions.
William Browder, CEO of Hermitage Capital said:
“Making the visa ban initiative into law is a further step by US lawmakers in showing their commitment in the fight against endemic corruption in Russia. It is also a tribute to the ideals of Sergei Magnitsky who believed in the rule of law and justice and fought for them until the last moments of his young life.”
More than ten months since Sergei Magnitsky’s death, nobody has been charged in the investigation ordered by Russian President Medvedev. The corrupt Russian officials implicated by Sergei Magnitsky have in fact been promoted. They are living way beyond what their official salaries would allow, pursuing lavish lifestyles and buying properties worth millions of dollars. For more details, see Russian Untouchables videos on YouTube:
The introduction of the “Justice for Sergei Magnitsky Act of 2010” law in the US Congress comes two weeks after a public appeal from 14 prominent Russian civil rights activists who urged US and EU governments to enact sanctions against Russian officials responsible for Magnitsky’s politically motivated arrest and murder and who remain “untouchable” in Russia. Among those who supported the appeal are Ludmila Alexeeva, Chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group; Sergei Kovalev, Chair of Memorial human rights group; Lev Ponomarev, Director of For Human Rights group; Alexei Simonov, President of Glasnost foundation.
The Bill will come into force 90 days after the date of the enactment of the Act.
Summary of the “Justice for Sergei Magnitsky Act”
Senator Benjamin L. Cardin || Rep. Jim McGovern
Overview: This bill would bar all individuals connected to the 2009 death of Sergei Magnitsky from receiving U.S. visas and accessing U.S. financial markets.
Magnitsky, a Russian anti-corruption lawyer, died after suffering torturous conditions in pre-trial detention, after repeatedly being denied medical treatment. He had exposed a $230 million tax fraud scheme and accused Russian officials of stealing the millions of tax dollars paid by his client, Hermitage Capital.
No U.S. visas are to be issued to:
– Individuals who were engaged in any act that was instrumental in causing Sergei Magnitsky’s death;
– Individuals who conspired to commit tax fraud against the Russian Federation through a scheme targeting Hermitage;
– Spouses, sons, daughters or parents of the same individuals.
Financial Sanctions: The Secretary of Treasury shall freeze and prohibit all transactions of property or investments in United States financial institutions by individuals connected to Magnitsky’s death or the tax fraud scheme.
Termination: This Act is lifted when the Secretaries of State and Treasury certify to Congress that the Russian Federation has:
– Conducted a thorough and impartial investigation in Magnitsky’s case and brought those responsible to justice;
– Taken steps to bring their criminal justice system and penal system into compliance with international standards;
– Strengthened statutory whistleblower protection;
– Recognized the contribution of Sergei Magnitsky in the fight against corruption and for the rule of law.
Notes to Editors
Senator Benjamin Cardin (Democrat) is the chairman of the US Helsinki Commission, empowered to monitor human rights obligations in OSCE member countries.
Congressman James McGovern (Democrat) has been a member of the US House of Representatives since 1997. Since his election, he has been recognized as an unrivaled supporter for justice and fundamental human rights. He serves as co-chair of the US Congressional Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission.
For a full list of the original 60 implicated Russian officials published by the US Helsinki Commission: http://www.csce.gov/index.cfm?Fuseaction=Files.Download&FileStore_id=1744