28
November 2014

Cameron Gets Tough With a Pick-Up Artist, But Not Putin’s Put-to-Death Artists

Huffington Post

In a show of strength and leadership British Ministers have taken tough action against someone who is clearly a major threat to British national interests. The government has imposed a ban on entering into Britain of an American called Julien Blanc. But as he gets tough with a fellow citizen of President Obama, David Cameron remains resolutely aligned with President Putin’s view that his fellow citizens should not face similar sanctions to that imposed on Julien Blanc.

Blanc is an absurd sexist self-publicist who describes himself as a ‘pick-up artist.’ Britain is probably better off without his presence but in the same week, MPs of all parties gathered to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the killing of a British employed tax lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky. He died in agony on a Moscow prison floor five years after 12 months of being brutally treated by state officials working for President Putin.

The MPs are still waiting for David Cameron to take any action against those named as linked to his death.

Magnitsky was employed by a British firm, Hermitage Capital, to investigate the disappearance of $230 million which Hermitage paid in tax to the Russian equivalent of HMRC. He found the money had been diverted into the accounts of Putin’s tax police who are at the heart of corrupt business-political nexus that enriches politicians and favoured state functionaries.

The young father of two persisted in his demands that the money be accounted for. He was arrested, thrown into prison, and tortured to try and persuade him to drop the case. He refused and was then he was so badly treated he died.

Magnitsky’s employer, Bill Browder, an American born British citizen was so outraged he used his firm’s considerable resources to track down those responsible for his employee’s death and find out where they had bank accounts or assets overseas.

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19
November 2014

Putin Plays Hardball

New York Times

This week marks the fifth anniversary of Sergei Magnitsky’s death in a Russian prison. He was 37 years old, a member of the emerging middle class who worked as a lawyer for a man named Bill Browder, the leader of the largest Russia-only investment firm in the world. Browder’s company, Hermitage Capital Management, started with $25 million during the Wild West-era of early Russian capitalism and had $4.5 billion in assets by the early 2000s.

Over time, Browder became an activist investor of sorts, exposing corruption in Russian companies and trying to make Russian capitalism more transparent. In doing so, he thought, he could both steer Russian companies a little closer to the Western model while also making money for his firm.

But, when Vladimir Putin became the president of Russia in 2000, he and his cronies were not interested in corporate transparency. How could they line their pockets if everything was transacted out in the open? So Browder became persona non grata. After a trip to Britain in 2005, he was refused re-entry. A few fictitious documents later, and Hermitage had $1 billion in “liabilities.” Then, a handful of officials involved in a takeover of Hermitage requested — and received within 24 hours! — a $230 million tax refund. It was a textbook example of the kind of corporate pillaging for which the Putin kleptocracy became infamous.

Browder pleaded with Magnitsky to flee the country, as his other lawyers had done. But Magnitsky insisted on investigating — and speaking out about — the fraud that had taken place. For his troubles, he was imprisoned in 2008. By summer of 2009, he had developed pancreatitis, which went untreated despite his pleas. He died that November. Browder says that when he learned of Magnitsky’s death, it was “the worst news I had ever received in my life.”

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19
November 2014

MEPs to Mogherini: Stop ignoring us on Russia sanctions

EU Observer

A cross-party group of MEPs has urged the EU foreign service to stop ignoring the European Parliament on Magnitsky sanctions.

Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian anti-corruption activist, died in jail in 2009 in what EU Council chief Herman Van Rompuy once called an “emblematic case” for lack of law and order in Russia.

The EU parliament has urged EU diplomats in four resolutions over the past four years to follow the US in blacklisting the Russian officials implicated in the killing.

This week, 23 MEPs from centre-right and liberal groups in the EU assembly urged foreign relations chief Federica Mogherini to “present a proposal to the Council of Ministers to sanction these 32 individuals”.

They said in a letter, seen by EUobserver: “As the new head of the European External Action Service, what nearest actions do you plan to undertake … to make sure there is no further impunity in the Magnitsky case?”.

MEPs have no formal powers on foreign affairs.

But Mogherini’s spokeswoman, Maja Kocijancic, told EUobserver the letter is “a new opportunity to consider the case”.

She noted that top EU officials, such as Van Rompuy and Mogherini’s predecessor, Catherine Ashton, on several occasions urged Russia to take action on the issue.

“So far we have not seen a satisfactory response”.

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19
November 2014

Statement by OSCE PA human rights chair on the five-year anniversary of the death of Sergei Magnitsky

OSCE PA

On the eve of the 5th anniversary of the death of Sergei Magnistky, the Chair of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s human rights committee, Isabel Santos (MP, Portugal), has called for an end to impunity in Russia and greater attention to the persistent link between corruption and human rights transgressions across the OSCE area.

“The killing of whistleblowing Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky on 16 November 2009 captured the attention of the world, but still, five years later, has not brought the change to his country that its citizens deserve. Let us mark this anniversary by remembering why Magnitsky’s life was taken – that is, for speaking truth to power. Let us renew our call for an end to impunity in Russia, not only for the people who killed this true patriot, but for the systemic corruption, human rights transgressions and lack of rule of law that have led to his and other unacceptable deaths there,” Santos said.

“We must also remember why Magnitsky’s case continues to have meaning far beyond Russia: On an almost weekly basis we hear of instances across the OSCE area and in the wider world in which state authorities abuse their power to silence those who expose lapses in the rule of law. Lawlessness and corruption continue to erode human rights. I applaud the numerous countries that have imposed visa bans and asset freezes on Russian officials implicated in Magnitsky’s killing, but the OSCE and the international community must do more to demand adherence in Russia and beyond to the norms of a civilized and just world,” Santos added.

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19
November 2014

Interpol Said To Eye New Russian Bid For Browder’s Arrest

Radio Free Europe

Britain-based businessman William Browder says the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) will revisit Russia’s request for his arrest on charges linked to whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Moscow jail five years ago this week.

Interpol informed Browder that it will consider the request during a November 20-21 meeting at the organization’s headquarters in Lyon, France, he told RFE/RL.

Interpol has twice rejected earlier Russian requests for a so-called “red notice” against Browder, citing Russia’s “political” goals in the matter.

Russian prosecutors said in June that Interpol had decided to reconsider Russia’s request.

Interpol could not immediately be reached for comment.

Browder has led a global campaign for sanctions against Russian officials implicated in Magnitsky’s death on November 16, 2009.

A Russian court convicted Browder in absentia and Magnitsky posthumously on tax evasion charges last year, decisions slammed by Western governments and rights groups.

Browder told RFE/RL that the basis for Russia’s new push for an Interpol warrant against him is linked to Magnitsky’s posthumous trial, which he called “one of the most scandalous legal proceedings in legal history.”

“It’s surprising that Russia would have the nerve to use this as a basis to have me arrested, and it’s even more surprising that Interpol would even entertain this discussion,” Browder said.

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19
November 2014

U.S. HELSINKI COMMISSION MARKS FIVE-YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF SERGEI MAGNITSKY’S DEATH

US Helsinki Commission

November 16 marked the five-year anniversary of the death of Sergei Magnitsky, who was arrested by the Russian government following his investigation into fraud involving Russian tax officials. He died in prison after being held for 11 months without trial.

U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (MD), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, issued the following statement:

“It is with sadness and respect that we mark the 5th anniversary of the death of Sergei Magnitsky at the hands of Russian government authorities. During the past five years, the crimes that Sergei first exposed have been further documented. Despite credible evidence of criminal conduct resulting in Mr. Magnitsky’s death, Russian government officials have failed to bring those responsible to justice.

“Perhaps worse, the facts of the case – including misappropriation of Russian tax resources and the ensuing cover-up by Russian government officials – have been distorted, to the extent that the Russian government has posthumously prosecuted the late Mr. Magnitsky for the financial crimes perpetrated by those answerable for his death.

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19
November 2014

Death of Hermitage Capital Management Tax Consultant Sergei Magnitsky

Sputnik International

When a 37-year old auditor Sergei Magnitsky died in a Moscow prison, the incident generated international media attention. This factbox shows a detailed review of the incident and its subsequent development.

MOSCOW, November 16 (Sputnik) — Five years ago, on November 16, 2009, Sergei Magnitsky, a tax and legal consultant of the Hermitage Capital Management investment fund accused of corporate tax evasion, died at the Matrosskaya Tishina pretrial detention facility.

On November 24, 2008, Sergei Magnitsky, also a managing partner at the auditing company Firestone Duncan, was detained by the Moscow Police’s tax crimes division. The Investigative Committee of the Russian Interior Ministry, now the Investigation Department of the Russian Interior Ministry, charged Magnitsky with corporate tax evasion, while investigating the Hermitage Capital criminal case.

On November 26, Moscow’s Tverskoy District Court issued a warrant for Magnitsky’s arrest.

Hermitage Capital Management, a British investment fund, specializes in Russian market operations. In the early 2000s, the fund invested heavily in the Russian market. Hermitage was among the clients of Firestone Duncan, which provides legal services for taxes, auditing and accounting.

Russian law enforcement agencies charged the fund with failure to pay four billion rubles in taxes. In the summer of 2007, investigators conducted the first searches at the Hermitage Capital office and affiliated companies. The fund’s CEO, Bill Browder, claimed that Hermitage Capital had exposed the corruption fraud of the century in Russia, and that the 5.4 billion rubles paid by the fund had been embezzled by raiders.

Magnitsky was charged with committing crimes listed in Articles 33.3, 33.5 and 199.2 of the Russian Criminal Code (organization of and complicity in large-scale corporate tax evasion schemes by a group of persons by prior collusion).

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14
November 2014

Obama Administration Should Enforce Magnitsky Act Properly: US Senator

Sputnick

US Senator Jim Risch, co-sponsor of the Magnitsky Act claims that US President Barack Obama should enforce the Act properly.
WASHINGTON, November 14 (Sputnik) – US President Barack Obama should properly enforce the Magnitsky Act and needs to expand the blacklist of alleged Russian human rights abusers, US Senator Jim Risch, co-sponsor of the Magnitsky Act, has told Sputnik.

“The [Obama] Administration has not made enough progress on the Magnitsky Act. It’s the law of the land, and the Administration should enforce it properly and do much more to review cases and people who should be added to the list,” Risch said.

The administration was criticized by senior US Senators in January for not adding more names to the original list and failing to encourage other countries to impose similar targeted measures.

“They have narrowly applied this law when they should be taking a much broader position on it,” Risch added.

The 2012 Magnitsky Act calls for sanctioning Russian officials allegedly complicit in the 2009 death of whistleblowing lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow prison.

The bill is being assessed just ahead of the five-year anniversary of lawyer’s death on November 16.

In response to the Magnitsky Act, Russia issued its own blacklist of US officials linked to human rights violations at the infamous prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

14
November 2014

MEPs to Mogherini: Stop ignoring us on Russia sanctions

EU Observer

A cross-party group of MEPs has urged the EU foreign service to stop ignoring the European Parliament on Magnitsky sanctions.

Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian anti-corruption activist, died in jail in 2009 in what EU Council chief Herman Van Rompuy once called an “emblematic case” for lack of law and order in Russia.

The EU parliament has urged EU diplomats in four resolutions over the past four years to follow the US in blacklisting the Russian officials implicated in the killing.

This week, 23 MEPs from centre-right and liberal groups in the EU assembly urged foreign relations chief Federica Mogherini to “present a proposal to the Council of Ministers to sanction these 32 individuals”.

They said in a letter, seen by EUobserver: “As the new head of the European External Action Service, what nearest actions do you plan to undertake … to make sure there is no further impunity in the Magnitsky case?”.

MEPs have no formal powers on foreign affairs.

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