Hermitage Lobbies For Russian Visa Bans

Nov 12 2010 | 2:15am ET

Hedge fund Hermitage Capital Management is asking the European and North American governments to bar Russian officials it says were involved in the death of its lawyer last year.

The London-based hedge fund, once the largest foreign investor in Russia, wants 60 people barred from the European Union and six individual countries. Those individuals, who work for Russia’s Federal Security Service, Interior Ministry, Prosecutor General, Federal Tax Service and Federal Prison Service, all played a role in Sergei Magnitsky’s death in prison almost one year ago.

Magnitsky, who was charged with tax fraud for his work on behalf of Hermitage, had complained about his conditions and lack of medical care hundreds of times during his year in jail. Russian human rights activists allege that he was tortured.

“We’re hoping for Russia to provide justice for Sergei Magnitsky,” Hermitage founder William Browder, himself accused of tax evasion in Russia, told Bloomberg News. “But in clear absence of that, we’re going to create justice outside of Russia.”

Russia is investigating Magnitsky’s death, and officials, including Russian President Dmitri Medvedev have indicated that, at the very least, something was amiss in the way Magnitsky was treated. But while Browder alleges that Magnitsky was mistreated to pressure him to turn on Hermitage, the head of the Investigative Committee of the Prosecutor General’s Office has said there was “no reason” to believe that Magnitsky’s death had anything to do with the case against him.

Browder and Hermitage have lobbied the European Parliament and lawmakers in six other countries, including the U.S., U.K. and Canada, to impose visa bans on the 60 people it has identified. A proposal to do so may well be included in the European Parliament’s annual human rights report next month.

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