U.S. Lawmakers Seek Visa Bans In Magnitsky Case

Sep 30 2010 | 12:52pm ET

Nearly 5,000 miles from the scene of the crime, a pair of U.S. lawmakers is hoping to exact some kind of justice for the death of a hedge fund lawyer.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.) have introduced legislation that would bar any Russian official linked to Sergei Magnitsky’s death last year. The bill, if it were to become law, would also freeze any assets held by those officials in the U.S.

Magnitsky died in November in a Moscow prison while awaiting trial on tax fraud charges. He alleged that he was tortured and denied adequate medical care during his time in some of Moscow’s most notorious jails, claims that have been taken up by human rights activists in Russia.

Magnitsky worked for British hedge fund Hermitage Capital Management, once the largest foreign investor in Russia. But Russia has accused Hermitage and founder William Browder of tax evasion; the hedge fund and Browder counter that they were the victim of a huge fraud orchestrated by Russian interior ministry officials.

Under the legislation offered by Cardin and McGovern, any official who “engaged in any act” that helped cause Magnitsky’s death would be barred from receiving a visa. The ban on coming to the U.S. would also apply to those officials’ spouses, children and parents.

“The leading figures in this scheme remain in power in Russia,” Cardin said. “It has become clear that if we expect any measure of justice in this case, we must act in the United States.”

“We can and should block these corrupt individuals from traveling and investing their ill-gotten money in the U.S.,” he added.

The visa ban, which could be waived, would remain in effect until both the U.S. State and Treasury departments certify that Russia has conducted a full investigation into Magnitsky’s death and punished those responsible, and that Russia has made changes to its criminal and penal system to bring them into line with global standards.

The new bill is not the first time Cardin has sought to intervene in the Magnitsky case. In April, the senator sought to ban 60 Russian officials linked to the case from entering the U.S.

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