Posts Tagged ‘LRB’

January 2013

The £1 Million Visa

LRB Blogs

‘This is like the Cold War,’ a Russian foreign ministry spokesman said in December after President Obama signed the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act. ‘We will retaliate.’ The act allows for the public naming of Russian officials involved in ‘extrajudicial killings, torture or other gross violations of internationally recognised human rights’. It also allows for their US assets to be suspended and for them to be barred entry into the States.

Sergei Magnitsky was a Russian corporate lawyer who was tortured and died in Butyrka Prison in Moscow in 2009 after accusing various Russian bureaucrats of perpetrating a $230 million tax fraud. The law named after him is targeted at the many corrupt Russian officials who act with impunity at home and then spend their ill-gotten gains in the West. But of course the US isn’t the favoured destination of rich Russians. Most prefer to keep their property, wives, mistresses, football teams, newspapers and children in the UK. What would really hurt corrupt Russian officials is a Magnitsky Act here. But will it happen?
A cross-party motion calling on the government to institute a UK version of the Magnistky Act was approved by the Commons last March. Sponsored by the Tory MP Dominic Raab, who calls Magntisky ‘the new Solzhenitsyn’, the British act would apply not just to Russians but internationally: it would allow for the naming, shaming and banning of corrupt officials from any country. The government responded by saying that a devotion to human rights was ‘at the heart of our DNA’, then argued that it already had a mechanism for excluding undesirables by denying them visas. It would not, however, commit to listing publicly the names of those excluded.

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