Posts Tagged ‘US’
The Obama administration is considering placing Iran-style banking sanctions on selected Russian financial institutions if Moscow were to send troops into eastern Ukraine.
The banking sanctions are one of a series of measures that the administration has been discussing with Congress in recent days as it seeks to find ways to isolate Moscow diplomatically and economically, according to congressional aides and officials.
Banking sanctions are a powerful tool which take advantage of the US’s central role in the international financial system and which have helped place considerable pressure on the Iranian economy over the past two years. If a Russian bank were targeted, then any bank in the world that continues to do business with it can be cut off from the US financial system.
The banking sanctions are being examined as secondary series of measures, which are aimed more at deterring Russia from taking military action in eastern Ukraine. In response to the immediate crisis in Crimea, the administration is considering placing senior Russian officials on a visa ban and asset freeze list. The idea of broader trade and investment sanctions, which secretary of state John Kerry alluded to at the weekend, is only being analysed as a much more distant prospect.
The debate in Washington over what sort of economic tools to use against Russia comes amid some signs of friction between the US and Europe over how quickly – and how aggressively – to apply economic pressure.
European diplomats have expressed frustration that they are portrayed as dithering while the US is seen as decisive, when the stakes are far higher on their side.
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Russian officials implicated in the prosecution and death of corruption whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky could soon face new European sanctions on their travel and financial assets.
U.S. lawmakers overwhelmingly passed the Magnitsky Act in December 2012, which placed visa and asset bans on 18 Russian officials either involved in Magnitsky’s case or accused of human rights abuses.
Magnitsky died in prison in 2009 after uncovering a $230 million tax fraud by Kremlin authorities and was found guilty of tax evasion last year—a posthumous conviction that was widely condemned by human rights advocates.
European governments are now taking steps toward implementing similar sanctions in their own countries.
The Parliamentary Assembly for the Council of Europe (PACE) passed a resolution by a wide margin last week urging Russian officials to fully investigate Magnitsky’s death. It directed member governments to enact “targeted sanctions” if Russia fails to respond adequately.
Immigration authorities in the United Kingdom have also acknowledged those linked to the Magnitsky case in their visa approval instructions.
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Congress often plays an important corrective role when the Executive Branch puts pragmatism before principle on human rights. Last week, bipartisan pairs of senators did so again by introducing a new bill and pushing the Obama administration on implementing an existing one.
On January 15th, Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and John McCain (R-AZ) introduced the Global Human Rights Accountability Act (S. 1933), which would enact visa and banking bans on the most serious human rights violators around the world. China’s Communist Party would be a prime target of this new bill. Chinese officials responsible for the persecution of the Falun Gong, Uighurs, and Tibetans, and for the Tiananmen massacre of June 4, 1989, for starters, have turned up in the United States, sometimes even on visits to the U.S. Capitol.
The Cardin-McCain bill was inspired by the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act (Public Law 112-208), a Russia-specific law enacted in December 2012, and named after a lawyer who died of abuse in jail after he exposed a massive tax fraud. In December 2013, the Obama administration decided, without explanation, that it would not, for the time being, add names to a list compiled last April of individuals responsible for “gross” human rights abuses against Russians and who are now barred from traveling to the United States or using American financial institutions. That list included 18 mostly low- and mid-level officials associated with Mr. Magnitsky’s persecution and death. Two others are Chechens thought to be linked to political assassinations. Reportedly, a classified list included Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.
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Extending the reach of the 2012 Magnitsky Act, US Senators have introduced a new bill that aims to block human rights abusers from any country, not just Russia, from entering the United States and using its financial institutions, reports RIA Novosti.
The Magnitsky Act, which was signed by US President Barack Obama in December 2012, places visa and financial bans on individuals linked to the 2009 death of Russian lawyer and whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky.
After Magnitsky uncovered and reported a US$230 million tax fraud to Russian authorities, he ended up in prison, charged with having committed the very fraud he reported. He later died in prison.
The newly introduced Global Human Rights Accountability Act expands upon the Magnitsky Act by targeting not only Russian officials but also “human rights abusers from anywhere in the world,” denying them entry into the US and banning them from using American financial institutions.
According to Senator Ben Cardin, who co-introduced the bill with Senator John McCain, the act ensures that “Gross violators of human rights from Zimbabwe to Ukraine, and Honduras to Papua New Guinea, are put on notice that they cannot escape the consequences of their actions even when their home country fails to act.”
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This week, a bipartisan group of US senators introduced a new bill, S.1933 (the Global Human Rights Accountability Act), that would extend across the world the targeted visa and financial sanctions on human rights abusers established by the Magnitsky Act. That law, passed in 2012, bans Russian officials who engage in gross human rights violations from traveling to and keeping assets in the United States. The new bill would extend these sanctions beyond Russia to human rights abusers in every country.
“Visiting the United States and having access to our financial system, including US dollars, are privileges that should not be extended to those who violate basic human rights and the rule of law,” Senator Ben Cardin, a Democrat from Maryland and author of the original Magnitsky Act, said in introducing S.1933. “Gross violators of human rights from Zimbabwe to Ukraine, and Honduras to Papua New Guinea, are put on notice that they cannot escape the consequences of their actions even when their home country fails to act.” “Standing up for the rule of law and establishing clear consequences for abuses of fundamental human rights serves our nation’s interests and reflects our deepest values,” added Senator John McCain, the Republican cosponsor of both measures.
The extension of sanctions makes perfect sense—human rights are universal, and so should be the accountability for their abuses. No doubt, S.1933 will enjoy broad bipartisan support in Congress—just like the Magnitsky Act, which passed the House of Representatives by 365–43, and the Senate by 92–4, almost unthinkable numbers in the current political environment in Washington.
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U.S. Senators Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Bob Corker, R-Tenn., Ben Cardin, D-Md., and John McCain, R-Ariz., all members of the Foreign Relations Committee, today requested the Obama administration add individuals to a U.S. government list of Russian human rights abusers who are subject to U.S. sanctions and travel restrictions. Enacted in 2012, the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law and Accountability Act, requires the U.S. government to maintain a list of individuals involved in human rights violations committed in Russia. Despite reports indicating the administration would make additions to the list at the end of 2013, the annual report on enforcement of the act that was sent to Congress in December contained no new names.
“On December 20, 2013, we received the Department of State’s first annual report. Disappointingly and contrary to repeated assurances and expectations, this report indicates that no persons have been added to the Magnitsky list since April 2013 and does not provide adequate details on the administration’s efforts to encourage other governments to impose similar targeted sanctions,” said the senators in their request of Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew. “We look forward to your response to our request and hope you will also clarify when we can expect additional names to be added to the Magnitsky list as well as specific administration efforts to encourage other governments to adopt legislation similar to the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012.”
Rep. Jim McGovern sends a letter to Secretary Kerry regarding the implementation of the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act
Today, Congressman Jim McGovern sent a letter to Secretary Kerry, urging him to encourage his European counterparts to adopt legislation and/or measures similar to the ones outlined in the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012. The letter comes in anticipation of a new report from the State Department and Treasury on the implementation of the Magnitsky Act.
Preet Bharara is the new “Sheriff of Wall Street”. The US district attorney for the southern district of New York has taken down 60 insider dealers, including former McKinsey boss Rajat Gupta and Raj Rajaratnam over the Galleon scandal.
Currently, he has SAC Capital in his sights. He’s charged the giant hedge fund itself with allowing insider trading. Not for nothing has he inherited the populist monicker last claimed by Eliot Spitzer during his post-dotcom crackdown on white-collar crime.
Bharara even claims to eat “raw meat” for breakfast. If true, he’ll need it.
His latest target is far from white collar. Bharara is going after the Russian mafia – an organised crime group whose tentacles stretch throughout the state and, apparently, right into the Kremlin. At least two people connected to the crimes he’s pursuing have died in suspicious circumstances.
Last week, Bharara froze $24m (£15m) of property assets in Manhattan and Brooklyn, including “four luxury residential units and two high-end commercial spaces”, on charges of money-laundering. One 35-storey block boasts a pool, roof terrace, Turkish bath and indoor golf.
“As alleged, a Russian criminal enterprise sought to launder some of its billions in ill-gotten rubles through the purchase of pricey Manhattan real estate,” he said. “While New York is a world financial capital, it is not a safe haven for criminals seeking to hide their loot.”
If the court upholds the “civil forfeiture” complaint, the government will seize the assets.
Bharara’s case is the latest instalment in the tragic saga of Sergei Magnitsky, the Russian lawyer who uncovered a $230m tax refund fraud against the Russian people in 2007 while working for UK-based hedge fund Hermitage Capital Management.
Magnitsky blew the whistle hard. He named police officers involved in the crime group, identified tax officials who authorised the illegal payments and had begun tracking the money when he was thrown in jail on trumped-up tax-evasion charges in late 2008.
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U.S. prosecutors are trying to seize millions of dollars in ritzy New York City real estate they say are laundered rubles linked to the death of Moscow lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.
Federal prosecutors last week sought the forfeiture of $24 million worth of Manhattan real estate they say was purchased in part with funds connected to the notorious theft of $230 million from Russia’s Treasury in 2007. The crime assumed international importance later when lawyer Sergei Magnitsky died in the custody of Russian police he’d accused of complicity in the theft. Magnitsky was representing a Western-backed hedge fund that was victimized in the massive tax fraud.
“A Russian criminal enterprise sought to launder some of its billions in ill-gotten rubles through the purchase of pricey Manhattan real estate,” said Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, in a statement. “While New York is a world financial capital, it is not a safe haven for criminals seeking to hide their loot.” An order freezing the properties and related bank accounts was signed on Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Thomas P. Griesa.
The government’s civil complaint is the first U.S. law-enforcement response to the 2007 seizure of the Russian subsidiaries of Hermitage Capital, once the largest foreign investor in Russia. The complaint states that back then criminals stole the corporate identities of the money manager and used them to falsely claim the refund of $230 million for taxes that Hermitage had paid in prior years. When Moscow attorney Magnitsky presented evidence that he believed showed the involvement of police and tax officials, the complaint continues, he was arrested and died in prison a year later under suspicious circumstances. Barron’s reported on the case in detail in “Crime and Punishment in Putin’s Russia,” in our edition of April 18, 2011.
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