A group of Russian officials linked to the case against lawyer Sergey Magnitsky have been banned from entering the US.
Apart from banning the blacklisted officials from crossing US borders, the authors of the bill demand that the US Finance Ministry should seize their assets and not allow them to perform any financial operations in the US or even in US banks abroad.
Among those blacklisted are high-ranking officials from such state agencies as the Federal Security Service, the Federal Tax Service and the Prosecutor’s Office, as well as court members. Officers from the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ Investigative Committee top the list. Their close relatives will be subject to the same restrictions.
“Nearly a year after Sergey’s death, the leading figures in this scheme remain in power in Russia,” Senator Benjamin Cardin said back in September 2010 when the legislation was drafted. “It has become clear that if we expect any measure of justice, we must act in the US. At the least, we can and should block these corrupt individuals from traveling and investing their ill-gotten money in our country.”
The US has already imposed such restrictions on officials from North Korea, Belarus and Zimbabwe.
The legislation threatens to put an end to the Russia-US “reset”. Russian officials say that once the Magnitsky blacklist is in force, Russia will no longer support American sanctions against such counties as Iran, North Korea, and Libya.
Magnitsky, a 37-year-old lawyer who worked for a major foreign investment fund, died from heart failure in November 2009 while in a Moscow pre-trial detention center. He was being investigated in a major tax evasion case.
The lawyer’s death caused outrage among the top managers of Hermitage Capital Management Fund where he worked. The investors launched a major public campaign in Russia and abroad, accusing certain Russian officials along with the police, the Justice Ministry and the Tax Ministry of corruption and embezzlement.
Due to the public interest, the Russian president had to intervene, ordering an additional probe into the case. As a result, several top officials from the Justice Ministry were sacked and Russian legislation was amended so that people suspected of economic crimes cannot be incarcerated prior to standing trial.