Browder May Win EU Version Of Magnitsky Law

Feb 11 2013 | 2:32pm ET

Hermitage Capital Management founder Bill Browder seems to have convinced the EU to join the U.S. in making life difficult for Russians linked to the death in prison of Browder's colleague, Serge Magnitsky.

Magnitsky, a 37-year-old lawyer who represented Browder's hedge fund in a tax fraud case and who accused Russian Interior Ministry officials of defrauding Hermitage, was charged with tax fraud in 2009 and spent almost a year in Moscow's most notorious prisons where Russian human rights activists allege he was tortured to death.

Serge Magnitsky's graveSerge Magnitsky's graveOnly two people were ever charged in Magnitsky's death, both doctors. The doctor who treated Magnitsky during his last weeks, Larisa Litvinova, had charges against her dropped last year; officials said that statute of limitations had run out. Other officials linked to Magnitsky's death have been cleared, and some have been promoted.

But Browder, not satisfied with these outcomes, successfully lobbied the U.S. government to pass the Magnitsky law, barring Russian officials tied to his death from entering the country and freezing their assets.

In October, the European Parliament adopted a recommendation to the European Council to establish common visa restrictions for Russian officials involved in the Magnitsky case and freezing their assets in Europe.

In December, the parliament adopted Austrian Parliamentarian Hannes Swoboda's recommendations on the negotiation of a new EU-Russia agreement. The issue is now on the agenda.

And on February 6, reports Forbes, parliamentary officials asked whether the Commissioner and eight vice presidents believed the EU should establish a list of Russian officials responsible for Magnitsky's death.

Meanwhile, reports the EU Observer, Moldova has become the latest country to launch a money-laundering investigation based on a complaint from Hermitage, which provided a Moldovan prosecutor with documents allegedly showing the transfer of $53 million by a Russian organized crime group known as the Kluyev Group to Moldova’s Banca de Economii. The money was then said to have been transferred to accounts in Austria, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Switzerland and Hong Kong.

Prior to his death, Magnitsky claimed that Russian tax officials had stolen $230 million from Hermitage company and laundered the funds through various European banks—accusations Russia denies.

"Moldova is a key transit point for the money laundered from the Magnitsky case,” Browder told the EU Observer, “so a genuine investigation will exponentially increase the ability of European law enforcement agencies to make arrests and expose the people behind this network.”


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