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26th Feb 2021

MEPs clarify position on Magnitsky sanctions

  • "It’s important the parliament clarifies where we stand," Brok (l) said (Photo: euoparl.europa.eu)

Senior MEPs from the European Parliament’s main groups have urged diplomats to impose sanctions on Russian officials over the killing of anti-corruption activist Sergei Magnitsky.

The initiative comes after two of the officials, Pavel Karpov and Andrei Pavlov, appeared at an EU parliament event last week and accused Magnitsky of having committed the crime that he reported to authorities - the embezzlement of $230 million (€200 million) from Russian tax authorities.

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  • Magnitsky reported the $230m theft, but was subsequently jailed and killed in pre-trial detention (Photo: Hermitage Capital)

The MEPs said in an appeal on Monday (2 May) to EU foreign relations chief Federica Mogherini that "the presence in the European Parliament of two of these individuals, targeted by international sanctions, shows clearly the need for concerted EU action".

“Mogherini must finally bring the Magnitsky sanctions to the Council [where EU states meet] for adoption,” they said.

Karpov and Pavlov are subject to US travel bans.

The EU parliament in 2014 also put them on a list of 32 people deemed guilty of the $230 million plot.

But the parliament list is non-binding on EU states, which meant that Finnish Green MEP Heidi Hautala was free to organise their EU entry visas and EU parliament access badges.

Elmar Brok, a German centre-right deputy who chairs the parliament’s foreign affairs committee and who signed the Mogherini appeal, told EUobserver he had little faith that she would take action.

“It’s not a priority [for the EU foreign service] but it’s important that the parliament clarifies where we stand on this issue,” he said.

“I think it’s proved that Mr Magnitsky was the victim and so I think we should fight to hold to account the people responsible for his death.”

Other signatories included Rebecca Harms, the leader of Hautala’s own Green group, and Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the liberal Alde group.

They also included deputies from the centre-left S&D and the conservative ECR groups.

Hautala had invited Karpov and Pavlov for the showing of a film on Magnitsky and his former employer, British businessman Bill Browder.

The film blamed Magnitsky and Browder for the $230 million plot. But the German broadcaster behind the movie, ZDF, cancelled the showing at the last minute citing technical and legal issues.

The film was due to be aired on the Franco-German Arte channel on Tuesday. But it remains uncertain if Arte will go ahead.

EU money trail

Browder is to testify in the British parliament on Tuesday to say that some of the Magnitsky conspirators used the stolen money to buy luxury properties in London.

Another Russian whistleblower, Alexander Perepilichny, who helped Browder to expose the money trail, died in what British police have said were suspicious circumstances outside his UK home in 2012.

Authorities in France, Luxembourg, Monaco, Switzerland and the US have frozen $43 million related to the case.

The OCCRP, a club of European investigative reporters working on the Panama Papers leak, have linked $800,000 of the money to Sergei Rudolgin, a close friend of Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

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