Today’s Sunday Telegraph newspaper reported that 45 UK Parliamentarians have called on the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, to ensure that a new law named after the Russian lawyer – Sergei Magnitsky – imposes sanctions on corrupt oligarchs as well as on those who violate human rights.
Those who signed the letter are concerned that the Government’s proposed sanctions regime – Magnitsky Law – will not include those who profit from human rights abuse through corruption.
This would be a major omission and would place the UK at odds with what other countries have enacted.
It is proposed to name the new law after Sergei Magnistsky who died in a Russian prison while investigating allegations against Russian officials. He was working on behalf of Bill Browder who powerfully tells his story in the book Red Notice.
This is the text of the letter to the Foreign Secretary:
Dear Foreign Secretary,
We are delighted by the commitment of the government to implement Magnitsky Sanctions.
This legislation will go a long way towards addressing impunity and human rights abuse and will put Britain in a leadership position globally.
As you know, the current Magnitsky Amendment to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act (2017) applies only to human rights abusers. While this is progress, we are writing to make you aware of an issue that may emerge surrounding corruption and kleptocracy.
You will be aware that other countries, including the United States and Canada, apply their Magnitsky Sanctions to highly corrupt individuals as well as human rights abusers.
Failing to harmonise our sanctions measures with those of our allies may have far reaching unintended consequences, sending all the wrong signals to those involved in such crimes.
The inclusion of corruption would allow the UK government to designate not only those that maintain power through repression, but also the key financial backers who benefit from abusive rule.
Given how attractive the United Kingdom is for many corrupt individuals who seek to buy property and invest money in the UK, it is crucial for our legislation harmonises with the U.S and Canadian Magnitsky legislation and includes corruption.
We would strongly urge you to lay before both Houses Magnitsky legislation which addresses this issue, in order to prevent the UK from becoming a magnet for the corrupt.
Corrupt oligarchs must be banned from UK and their assets frozen under post-Brexit sanctions regime
Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, is being urged by 45 MPs and peers to tighten sanctions on kleptocrats and corrupt oligarchs
By Edward Malnick, Sunday Political Editor21 March 2020 • 9:00pm
Dominic Raab is being urged to use Britain’s post-Brexit sanctions regime to target kleptocrats and corrupt oligarchs who prop up authoritarian regimes.
In a letter to the Foreign Secretary, 45 MPs and peers warned that the Government’s current suite of sanctions sends “the wrong signal” to those involved in corruption because it fails to mirror so-called Magnitsky laws introduced in the US and Canada.
The parliamentarians, including Boris Johnson’s anti-corruption tsar, a former High Court judge and an ex-Archbishop of Canterbury, urge ministers to introduce legislation aimed at preventing the UK from “becoming a magnet for individuals engaged in corruption”.
The intervention comes after Mr Raab said that so-called Magnitsky clauses in the Sanctions Act would allow UK authorities to target human rights abusers in a coordinated move along with the US and Canada. The move was first announced by Theresa May in the wake of the Salisbury attack, and insiders have said the powers are likely to be used to sanction citizens of Russia, Libya and North Korea.
The US and Canada have both introduced visa bans and asset freezes under specific schemes drawn up in the name of Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who died in a Moscow prison while investigating an alleged tax fraud involving state officials.
But the peers and MPs, led by Lord Alton, a former Liberal Democrat chief whip, state that the version introduced as part of the UK’s post-Brexit sanctions regime fails to cover corrupt individuals who prop the human rights abusers that it does target.
The group includes Baroness Butler-Sloss, the former High Court judge, John Penrose, Mr Johnson’s corruption champion, and Lord Williams of Oystermouth, the ex Archbishop of Canterbury. It is also signed by Andrew Mitchell, Bob Seely, and Andrew Selous, the Conservative MPs.
They state: “You will be aware that other countries, including the United States and Canada, apply their Magnitsky sanctions to highly corrupt individuals as well as human rights abusers. Failing to harmonise our sanctions measures with those of our allies may have far reaching unintended consequences, sending all the wrong signals to those involved in such crimes.
“The inclusion of corruption would allow the UK government to designate not only those that maintain power through repression, but also the key financial backers who benefit from abusive rule.
“Given how attractive the United Kingdom is for many corrupt individuals who seek to buy property and invest money here, it is crucial that our legislation harmonises with the US and Canadian Magnitsky efforts and includes corruption.
“We would strongly urge you to lay before both Houses Magnitsky legislation which addresses this issue, in order to prevent the UK from becoming a magnet for individuals engaged in corruption.”
Bill Browder, a financier on whose behalf Magnitsky was working in Russia, and who has since led a global campaign for sanctions in his name, said: “It is particularly important for the UK to sanction kleptocrats under the Magnitsky act because so many of them keep homes and investments here.
“If they are excluded when the US and Canada sanction them, even more of them will come here.”
Mr Penrose added: “Britain can do without kleptocrats and organised criminals whose dirty money comes from abusing human rights while they loot foreign countries, or from people, drug or gun-smuggling.
“We need to hit them where it hurts – in the wallet – so they can’t do business or live off their ill-gotten gains in the UK, and so everybody knows they aren’t welcome here.”