Nine years ago, Russian lawyer and tax accountant Sergei Magnitsky uncovered a 5.4 billion ruble [$230 million] tax fraud scheme while auditing the Russia-based Hermitage Fund. He also found that a number of Russian Interior Ministry officials were deeply involved. For exposing this fraud, Magnitsky was arrested by Russian authorities and subjected to organized physical and psychological pressures while detained.
On November 16, 2009, he died in a pre-trial detention center in Moscow. Initially, Russian officials said his death was caused by cramped conditions and failure to provide adequate healthcare, but they later changed their story. Investigations were initiated, but all those implicated were acquitted and the charges were dropped.
In 2012, the U.S. Congress passed the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012, which provides for the sanctioning of persons determined to have been involved in the criminal conspiracy uncovered by Sergei Magnitsky. In addition, the Act provides for the sanctioning of individuals determined to be responsible for or to have profited from Magnitsky’s detention, abuse, and death. The Magnitsky Act also provides for the sanctioning of persons determined to be responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, or other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights against individuals who seek to expose illegal activity by Russian officials.
On December 20, 2017, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC, designated five individuals pursuant to the Magnitsky Act. Significantly, among those sanctioned are head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov and Captain in the Chechen Ministry of Internal Affairs Ayub Kataev, who are responsible for extrajudicial killings, or other gross human rights violations against activists working to expose illegal activity by Russian government officials or individuals seeking to obtain, exercise, defend, or promote their internationally recognized human rights and freedoms
Also sanctioned are Alexei Sheshenya, Yulia Mayorova and Andrei Pavlov, who were involved in the fraud scheme originally uncovered by Sergei Magnitsky.
This brings the number of individuals sanctioned under the Magnitsky Act to total of 49 since the legislation was enacted. Sanctioned persons may be ineligible to receive visas to the United States. Any property or interests in property of sanctioned persons within U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and transactions by U.S. persons involving sanctioned persons are generally prohibited.
“Treasury remains committed to holding accountable those involved in the Sergei Magnitsky affair,” said OFAC Director John E. Smith. “We will continue to use the Magnitsky Act to aggressively target gross violators of human rights in Russia, including individuals responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, and other despicable acts.”