WASHINGTON (AP) — The Treasury Department on Tuesday sanctioned 12 Russians under a U.S. law named after whistle-blowing Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who alleged in 2008 that organized criminals colluded with a Russian government official to claim a fraudulent $230 million tax rebate.
The Magnitsky affair ignited a high-emotion dispute between Russia and Washington that has included U.S. sanctions against Russians deemed to be human rights violators, a ban on the adoption of Russian children by U.S. citizens and calls for the closure of Russian non-governmental organizations receiving American funding.
Magnitsky died in prison in November 2009 of untreated pancreatitis at age 37, allegedly after being beaten and denied medical treatment. His death prompted widespread criticism from human rights activists and spurred efforts in Europe and the U.S. to punish Russian officials who may have been complicit in human rights abuses. The law enacted in 2012 requires that U.S. sanctions be imposed on individuals suspected of being responsible for or financially benefiting from Magnitsky's detention, abuse or death, or were involved in the criminal conspiracy he uncovered. The law also requires sanctions against individuals responsible for killings, torture or other human rights violations committed against individuals trying to defend human rights or expose illegal activity by Russian government officials.
Magnitsky was arrested on tax-evasion charges linked to his work with Hermitage Capital Management, a multibillion-dollar fund headed by U.S.-born British investor William Browder. Hermitage has accused Russian Interior Ministry officers of illegally taking over assets it managed and using them to fraudulently reclaim $230 million in taxes from the Russian government.
Sanctioned were four prison officials, a judge, court official, a law enforcement investigator and alleged co-conspirators in the fraud case.
The sanctions ban U.S. visas for the individuals and freeze any assets they have under U.S. jurisdiction.
On the list is Dr. Dmitry Kratov, the sole person charged in Magnitsky's 2009 death. Kratov, who was acquitted of negligence, is the former chief medical officer of the Butyrka Detention Center Hospital where Magnitsky was held.