U.S. Republican Senator John McCain on Tuesday said he expected President Barack Obama to consider additional sanctions in the case of Hermitage Capital lawyer Sergei Magnitsky’s death in 2009.
In his letter to Obama, McCain proposed imposing sanctions against an organized crime group he claims comprises Russian officials and bankers allegedly involved in Magnitsky’s death.
“I write you today to request that you begin a process to determine whether to designate and impose sanctions, under the authority of Executive Order 13581, against a dangerous transnational criminal organization known as the ‘Klyuev Group,’ which publicly available information suggests may have been involved in numerous international crimes,” McCain said in his letter.
“It is possible that one of those crimes was the murder of Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer killed in jail in retaliation for exposing the corruption of Russian officials who appear to have been aligned with the Klyuev Group,” he said.
“Publicly available information, much of it uncovered by Mr. Magnitsky himself before his arrest in Russia in 2008, suggests that the Klyuev Group has colluded with senior Russian officials to engage in bribery, fraud, embezzlement, company thefts, and other serious financial crimes,” he said.
McCain said Obama may impose sanctions as part of an executive order he signed last year. The order allows the U.S. administration to use travel bans, asset freezes and related measures in cases when activities of transnational criminal organizations threaten political and economic stability.
The Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, sponsored by U.S. Democratic Senator Benjamin Cardin, seeks to impose visa bans and asset freezes on Russian officials allegedly involved in the death of 37-year-old Russian anti-corruption lawyer Magnitsky, as well as in other gross human rights abuses in Russia.
The act that Russia strongly objects to has broad support in Congress but the Obama administration does not look too enthusiastic about it.
Magnitsky was arrested on tax evasion charges in November 2008, days after accusing police investigators in a $230 million tax refund fraud, and died after almost a year in the Matrosskaya Tishina pre-trial detention center in Moscow.
A probe into his death revealed that the lawyer, who was suffering from untreated pancreatitis and a heart condition, did not receive proper medical treatment. Rights activists pointed to multiple violations of his rights during his arrest and in detention, including signs that he was beaten by prison guards hours before his death.
Russia has warned that it would respond to the adoption of the bill in kind, imposing restrictions on U.S. officials.
The U.S. Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday unanimously approved a bill that would impose sanctions on Russian officials allegedly linked to Magnitsky’s death in 2009.