Magnitsky Act

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Magnitsky Act
Great Seal of the United States
Long title Russia and Moldova Jackson–Vanik Repeal and Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012
Nicknames Magnitsky Act
Enacted by the 112th United States Congress
Citations
Public law Pub.L. 112–208
Statutes at Large 126 Stat. 1496
Legislative history
  • Introduced in the House as "Russia and Moldova Jackson–Vanik Repeal Act of 2012" (H.R. 6156) by Dave Camp (R-MI) on July 19, 2012
  • Committee consideration by House Ways and Means
  • Passed the House on November 16, 2012 (365–43)
  • Passed the Senate on December 6, 2012 (92–4)
  • Signed into law by President Barack Obama on December 14, 2012

The Magnitsky Act, formally known as the Russia and Moldova Jackson–Vanik Repeal and Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012, is a bipartisan bill passed by the U.S. Congress and signed by President Obama in December 2012, intending to punish Russian officials responsible for the death of Russian tax accountant Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow prison in 2009.

Since 2016 the bill, which applies globally, authorizes government to sanction human rights offenders, freeze their assets, and ban them from entering the U.S..[1]

Background[edit]

In 2009, Russian tax accountant Sergei Magnitsky died in a Moscow prison after investigating a $230 million fraud involving Russian tax officials.[2] Magnitsky was accused of committing the fraud himself and detained.[2] While in prison, Magnitsky developed gall stones, pancreatitis and calculous cholecystitis and was refused medical treatment for months. After almost a year of imprisonment, he was beaten to death while in custody.[3][4][5] Bill Browder, a prominent American-born businessman and friend of Magnitsky, publicized the case and lobbied American officials to pass legislation sanctioning Russian individuals involved in corruption. Browder brought the case to Senators Benjamin Cardin and John McCain who proceeded to propose legislation.[6]

Law[edit]

In June 2012, the United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs reported to the House a bill called the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012 (H.R. 4405).[7] The main intention of the law was to punish Russian officials who were thought to be responsible for the death of Sergei Magnitsky by prohibiting their entrance to the United States and their use of its banking system.[8] The legislation was taken up by a Senate panel the next week, sponsored by Senator Ben Cardin, and cited in a broader review of the mounting tensions in the international relationship.[9][10]

In November 2012, provisions of the Magnitsky bill were attached to a House bill (H.R. 6156) normalizing trade with Russia (i.e., repealing the Jackson–Vanik amendment) and Moldova.[11] On December 6, 2012, the U.S. Senate passed the House version of the law, 92-4.[8] The law was signed by President Barack Obama on December 14, 2012.[12][13][14][15][16]

In 2016, Congress enacted the Global Magnitsky Act which allows the US Government to sanction foreign government officials implicated in human rights abuses anywhere in the world.[17]

Individuals affected[edit]

The Obama administration made public a list of 18 individuals affected by the Act in April 2013.[18][19][20][21] The people included on the list are:

  • Artem (aka Artyom) Kuznetsov, a tax investigator for the Moscow division of the Ministry of Internal Affairs
  • Pavel Karpov, a senior investigator for the Moscow division of the Ministry of Internal Affairs
  • Oleg F. Silchenko, a senior investigator for the Ministry of Internal Affairs
  • Olga Stepanova, head of Moscow Tax Office No. 28
  • Yelena Stashina (ru), Tverskoy District Court judge who prolonged Magnitsky's detention
  • Andrey Pechegin, deputy head of the investigation supervision division of the general prosecutor's office
  • Aleksey Droganov
  • Yelena Khimina, Moscow tax official
  • Dmitriy Komnov, head of Butyrka Detention Center
  • Aleksey Krivoruchko, Tverskoy District Court judge
  • Oleg Logunov (ru)
  • Sergei G. Podoprigorov, Tverskoy District Court judge
  • Ivan Pavlovitch Prokopenko
  • Dmitri M. Tolchinskiy
  • Svetlana Ukhnalyova
  • Natalya V. Vinogradova
  • Felix Bautista, senator for the province of San Juan, Dominican Republic.
  • Angel Rondon Former Commercial Representative of Odebrecht, Dominican Republic.
  • Kazbek Dukuzov, Chechen acquitted of the murder of Paul Klebnikov
  • Lecha Bogatyrov, implicated by Austrian authorities as the murderer of Umar Israilov
  • Ramzan Kadyrov, Head of the Chechen Republic
  • Roberto J. Rivas, head of the Supreme Electoral Council of Nicaragua, accused of electoral fraud in at least six elections. Rivas is considered one of the wealthiest person in the second poorest country in the western hemisphere.
  • Francisco "Chico" Lopez, treasurer of the Nicaraguan Sandinistas Party and Head of Albanisa, a holding of companies made out of the Venezuelan aid
  • Fidel Moreno, de facto Mayor of Managua
  • Francisco Diaz, head of the Nicaraguan police.

Russian government reaction[edit]

In response to the adoption of the Magnitsky Act, the Russian government denied Americans adoption of Russian children, issued a list of US officials prohibited from entering Russia, and posthumously convicted Magnitsky as guilty.[22] In addition, the Russian government reportedly lobbied against the legislation acting through a public relations company led by Kenneth Duberstein.[23][24]

Ban on U.S. adoption of Russian children[edit]

On December 19, 2012, the State Duma voted 400 to 4 to ban the international adoption of Russian children into the United States. The bill was unofficially named after Dmitri Yakovlev (Chase Harrison), a Russian toddler who accidentally died of heat stroke in 2008 when his adoptive American father forgot he was in the back seat of his SUV.[25][26] The next year, 2013, two additional laws were proposed, one was to prevent US citizens from working with political NGOs in Russia and a second law, eventually abandoned, prevented any foreigner from speaking on state television if they discredited the state.[27]

Banning some U.S. officials from Russia[edit]

On April 13, 2013, Russia released a list naming 18 Americans banned from entering the Russian Federation over their alleged human rights violations, as a direct response to the Magnitsky list.[28] The people banned from Russia are listed below:

US officials involved in legalizing torture and indefinite detention of prisoners:

The Russian lawmakers also banned several U.S. officials involved in the prosecution and trial of Russian arms smuggler Viktor Bout and drug smuggler Konstantin Yaroshenko, both serving prison time in the United States:[29][30]

  • Jed Rakoff, Senior US District Judge for the Southern District of New York
  • Preet Bharara, former US Attorney for the Southern District of New York
  • Michael J. Garcia, former US Attorney for the Southern District of New York
  • Brendan R. McGuire, Assistant US Attorney
  • Anjan S. Sahni, Assistant US Attorney
  • Christian R. Everdell, Assistant US Attorney
  • Jenna Minicucci Dabbs, Assistant US Attorney
  • Christopher L. Lavigne, Assistant US Attorney
  • Michael Max Rosensaft, Assistant US Attorney
  • Louis J. Milione, Special Agent, US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
  • Sam Gaye, Senior Special Agent, US DEA
  • Robert F. Zachariasiewicz, Special Agent, US DEA
  • Derek S. Odney, Special Agent, US DEA
  • Gregory A. Coleman, Special Agent, US Federal Bureau of Investigation[28]

Trump campaign–Russian meeting[edit]

In June 2016, a Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, who was hired to lobby against the Magnitsky Act in the US, set up a Trump campaign–Russia meeting with Donald Trump, Jr., purportedly to discuss altering the Russian Duma's sanctions against American adoption of Russian children along with other alleged illegal activities. On July 11, 2017, Reuters US reported that at the meeting "[Russia] offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary [Clinton] and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to [Trump Jr.'s] father".[31] Donald Trump Jr. insisted that Veselnitskaya did not reveal any damaging information about Secretary Clinton, contrary to what his correspondence had suggested. Trump Jr. subsequently released to the public via Twitter his personal records and correspondence between the Trump campaign team and Rob Goldstone, a longtime business partner and friend of Trump Sr. who actively represents several Russian interests and who had first pitched the meeting to Trump Jr.[32]

Reception[edit]

Australian expatriate jurist Geoffrey Robertson, who is representing some of the Magnitsky campaigners, has described the Act as "one of the most important new developments in human rights". He says it provides "a way of getting at the Auschwitz train drivers, the apparatchiks, the people who make a little bit of money from human rights abuses and generally keep under the radar".[33]

State Duma deputy Yevgeny Fedorov argued that the real purpose of the Magnitsky bill was to manipulate key figures in big business and government, with the aim of pro-American policy in the Russian Federation.[34]

The Ministry of Internal Affairs Directorate for Special Affairs in the U.K. stated that it is aware of those on the list. The U.K. bans travel of those on the list under existing legislation which prohibits entry for those implicated in cases of human rights violations.[35]

The World Socialist Web Site condemned the United States for only invoking human rights as a cover for realpolitik, stating that Washington had supported "far greater crimes, [such] as when Boris Yeltsin in 1993 ordered bombardment of the Russian White House, the seat of the country’s parliament, killing 62 people".[36][37]

In March 2015, the parliament of Canada passed an initial motion towards passing such a law.[38]

In July 2017 on Fareed Zakaria GPS by CNN, Fareed Zakaria interviewed Bill Browder, who discussed the Magnitsky Act, and topics such as why Putin is directly threatened by it, the money given by Russia government to more than 10,000 Russian human-rights abusers, the June 2016 Trump campaign–Russian meeting, and the power and influence of Russian money in Washington DC at present.[39]

January 2017 blacklisting[edit]

On January 9, 2017, under the Magnitsky Act, the United States Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control updated its Specially Designated Nationals List and blacklisted Aleksandr I. Bastrykin, Andrei K. Lugovoi, Dmitri V. Kovtun, Stanislav Gordievsky, and Gennady Plaksin, which froze any of their assets held by American financial institutions or transactions with those institutions and banned their travelling to the United States.[40][41]

Implementation oversight in 2017[edit]

President Donald Trump gave a memorandum to Congress on the implementation of the act on April 21, 2017.[42]

In May 2017 US authorities settled a case against Prevezon Holding, one of the companies used for laundering the money exfiltrated from Russia as result of the fraud discovered by Sergey Magnitsky. The settlement dismissed the case, and the real-estate company agreed to pay a $5.8 million fine.[43][44]

Also in May 2017 an investigation was started on £6.6m that was allegedly transferred from the fraud scheme into a banking firm in the UK.[45]

On September 8, 2017 President Trump, in a memorandum, delegated authority to alter the financial sanctions in this act to the Secretary of the Treasury, and the issue of visas to the Secretary of State.[46]

Internationalization of the Magnitsky Act[edit]

In December 2016, Congress enlarged the scope of the Magnitsky Act to address human rights abuses on a global scale. The current Global Magnitsky Act (GMA) allows the US Government to sanction corrupt government officials implicated in abuses anywhere in the world.[17]

In September 2017, a group of NGOs and anti-corruption organizations identified fifteen international cases where alleged crimes were committed. Individuals from countries, including Azerbaijan, Bahrain, China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Liberia, Mexico, Panama, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam, were nominated for sanctions.[47]

On December 21, 2017, 13 additional names were added to the list of sanctioned individuals. This included Yahya Jammeh, former president of The Gambia and Roberto Jose Rivas Reyes, the president of Nicaragua’s Supreme Electoral Council.[48]

On December 22, 2017, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain stated that "the Trump Administration has failed to take up cases presented regarding serious human rights abuses committed by Bahraini government officials. Ultimately, there were no individuals or entities from any Arab League member state designated in the Global Magnitsky Act’s first list of designees, despite the submission of eligible cases."[49]

On June 12, 2018, Félix Bautista, a member of the Senate of the Dominican Republic and five companies owned or controlled by him were sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Treasury under the Global Magnitsky Act due to his involvement in significant corruption. [50] Bautista has reportedly engaged in bribery in relation to his position as a Senator, and is alleged to have engaged in corruption in Haiti, where he used his connections to win public works contracts to help rebuild Haiti following several natural disasters, including one case where his company was paid over $10 million dollars for work not completed.

On July 5, 2018, 3 additional names were added to the list. These belonging to the same country, Nicaragua. The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned Nicaraguan National Police Commissioner Francisco Javier Diaz Madriz (Diaz) and Secretary of the Mayor’s Office of Managua Fidel Antonio Moreno Briones (Moreno) for being responsible for, or the leaders of entities involved in, serious human rights abuse in Nicaragua.

Additionally, OFAC designated Jose Francisco Lopez Centeno (Lopez), the Vice President of ALBA de Nicaragua (ALBANISA) and President of Petronic, for engaging in corrupt activities. [51]

On August 1, 2018, the U.S. Department of Treasury sanctioned top Turkish government officials, Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, who were involved in the detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson.[52] Daniel Glaser, the former Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing under President Barack Obama, said: "It’s certainly the first time I can think of" the U.S. sanctioning a NATO ally. "I certainly regard it as a human rights violation to unlawfully detain somebody, so I think it falls within the scope of the Global Magnitsky Act."[53]

Magnitsky Acts in other countries[edit]

Legislation similar to, and inspired by, the December 2016 US Global Magnitsky Act has subsequently been enacted in other countries.

Estonia[edit]

On December 8, 2016, Estonia introduced a new law, inspired by the Sergei Magnitsky case, to ban foreigners deemed guilty of human rights abuses from entering the country. The law, which was passed unanimously in the Estonian Parliament, states that it entitles Estonia to forbid entry to people if, among other things, "there is information or good reason to believe" that they took part in activities which resulted in the "death or serious damage to health of a person".[54]

United Kingdom[edit]

On February 21, 2017 the UK House of Commons unanimously passed an amendment to the country's Criminal Finances Bill inspired by the Magnitsky Act that would allow the government to freeze the assets of international human rights violators in the UK.[55] On May 1, 2018, the UK House of Commons, without opposition, added the "Magnitsky amendment" to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill that would allow the British government to impose sanctions on people who commit gross human rights violations.[56]

Canada[edit]

In May 2017, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs warned Canada that its anticipated new law, known as The Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Bill (Sergei Magnitsky Law), was a "blatantly unfriendly step", and that "If the Canadian Parliament approves this sanctions legislation, the relations between our countries, which are already experiencing difficult times, will suffer significant damage". CBC News in Canada also reported that Russia has placed Canada's Foreign Minister, Chrystia Freeland, and twelve other Canadian politicians and activists on a Kremlin 'blacklist' and has barred them from entering Russia because of their criticism of Russian actions in Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea.[57]

On October 19, 2017, the Canadian Parliament passed the Bill into law,[58] after a unanimous vote in Canada's House of Commons, with 277 for, and none against.[59] Russia's President, Vladimir Putin, accused Canada of "political games" over its new Magnitsky law.[60]

Canada's Magnitsky Act also targeted 19 Venezuelan and 3 South Sudanese officials, along with the original 30 Russian individuals under sanctions.[61]

Lithuania[edit]

On November 9, 2017 the Parliament of Lithuania approved for discussion relevant amendments to the law, with 78 votes in support, one against and five abstentions. Finally, on November 16, 2017 (the 8th anniversary of Sergei Magnitsky’s death) the Parliament of Lithuania passed the law unanimously.[62]

Latvia[edit]

On February 8, 2018, Parliament of Latvia (Saeima) accepted attachment of law of sanctions, inspired by the Sergei Magnitsky case, to ban foreigners deemed guilty of human rights abuses from entering the country.[63]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]