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 November–December 2012, intending to punish Russian officials responsible for the death of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow prison in 2009.
In 2009, Russian lawyer and auditor Sergei Magnitsky died in a Moscow prison after investigating fraud involving Russian tax officials. 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.
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). 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. 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.
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. On December 6, 2012, the U.S. Senate passed the House version of the law. The law was signed by President Barack Obama on December 14, 2012.
The Obama administration made public a list of 18 individuals affected by the Act in April 2013. The people included on the list are:
- 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, 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
- Dmitriy Komnov
- Aleksey Krivoruchko, Tverskoy District Court judge
- Oleg Logunov
- Sergei G. Podoprigorov, Tverskoy District Court judge
- Ivan Pavlovitch Prokopenko
- Dmitri M. Tolchinskiy
- Svetlana Ukhnalyova
- Natalya V. Vinogradova
- Kazbek Dukuzov, Chechen acquitted of the murder of Paul Klebnikov
- Lecha Bogatyrov, implicated by Austrian authorities as the murderer of Umar Israilov
The Magnitsky Act with connection to money given by Russia government to about 10,000 Russian human right abusers was adressed on Fareed Zakaria GPS by CNN
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. In addition, the Russian government reportedly lobbied against the legislation acting through a public relations company led by Kenneth Duberstein.
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 died in 2008 of heat stroke after neglect from his adoptive American father. Other recent developments include the proposition of a law to prevent US citizens from working with political NGOs in Russia and a proposition of a law, recently abandoned, preventing any foreigner from speaking on state television if they discredited the state.
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. The people banned from Russia are listed below:
US officials involved in legalizing torture and indefinite detention of prisoners:
- David Addington, Chief of Staff to Vice President Dick Cheney (2005–2009)
- John Yoo, Assistant US Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel, Department of Justice (2001–2003)
- Geoffrey D. Miller, retired US Army Major General, commandant of Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO), the organization that runs the Guantanamo Bay detention camps(2002–2003)
- Jeffrey Harbeson, US Navy officer, commandant of JTF-GTMO (2010–2012)
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:
- 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
In June 2016, Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, set up a meeting with Donald Trump, Jr. to discuss the embargoed adoption of Russian children to the US as a response to the implementation of the Magnitsky Act. Emails came to light in July 2017 which indicated that Trump Jr. expected the meeting to be about the transfer of damaging information against Hillary Clinton. The emergence of the emails set off a major controversy.
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”.
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.
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.
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 over 1,000 people”.
In March 2015, the parliament of Canada passed an initial motion towards passing such a law.
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.
The Washington Post published an opinion piece on February 9, 2017, arguing that Congress should preserve the act. President Donald Trump gave a memorandum to Congress on the implementation of the act on April 21, 2017.
In May 2017 US authorities came to an agreement with Prevezon, one of companies used for laundering the money exfiltrated from Russia as result of the fraud discovered by Sergey Magnitsky, based on which the real-estate company agreed to pay $5.8 million fine.
Also in May 2016 an investigation was started on £6.6m that was allegedly transferred from the fraud scheme into a banking firm in the UK.