LONDON (TrustLaw) - Russian President Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy goal of stopping U.S. sanctions against Russian individuals and companies shows that his government is “working in the interests of corrupt officials”, UK-based investment fund Hermitage Capital said on Wednesday.
Hermitage Capital has campaigned in the United States and Europe for sanctions to be imposed on more than 60 Russian officials who the company says were complicit in the death of its tax lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, or a cover-up of how it occurred.
Magnitsky died in a Russian prison almost a year after he was arrested on tax evasion charges. He had previously claimed that Moscow tax and police officials had embezzled $230 million in tax levied on Hermitage Capital profits.
“Putin’s executive order (to prevent sanctions) shows clearly that the entire Russian government is now working in the interests of corrupt officials who have committed grave crimes,” an unnamed representative of Hermitage Capital said in a statement.
“President Putin is ready to use the full resources of the state to fight sanctions but is not ready to do anything at all to prosecute his own corrupt officials who stole $230 million and who then tortured the whistle-blower Sergei Magnitsky who discovered the theft,” the statement added.
Putin’s May 7 executive order instructed the Russian Foreign Ministry to work actively “on preventing unilateral extraterritorial sanctions by the USA against Russian legal entities and individuals”.
It came less than a month after the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012 was introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill aims to impose sanctions on those linked to the death of Sergei Magnitsky “and for other gross violations of human rights, in the Russian Federation”.
Hermitage has also lobbied the European Parliament to enact sanctions against Russian officials linked to Magnitsky’s death.
In a May 8 opinion piece published in the New York Times, former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt wrote it was time for an end to the “polite appeasement” of Russia by the United States and Europe.
“The adoption of similar laws on both sides of the Atlantic to block visas and freeze the assets of those Russian officials... complicit in the murder of Sergei Magnitsky... would have a sobering effect,” said Verhofstadt, leader of the group of Liberals and Democrats in the European Parliament.