Thursday

27th Apr 2017

Investigation

EU: Magnitsky acquittal will harm Russia's reputation

  • Putin (r) meets EU leaders last month. His remarks on TV saw the courts do a u-turn (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

Russia's acquittal of the only man charged over the death of Sergei Magnitsky will harm its international reputation, the EU has said.

Magnitsky, an accountant who in 2007 exposed the fact that Russian officials and the mafia were stealing hundreds of millions of euros of tax money, later died in jail after being refused medical treatment for pancreatitis and after being beaten by his guards.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

His case became a cause celebre when the US last year passed a law in his name that will see up to 60 Russian officials banned from getting American visas.

But in what amounts to an extraordinary u-turn for the Russian legal system, a Moscow judge on 28 December said there is no evidence that Dmitry Kratov - the former medical chief at the Butyrka jail, where Magnitsky died - helped caused his death by negligence.

A few days earlier the prosecutor himself called for the acquittal despite previously building a case against Kratov.

The sudden change came after Russian leader Vladimir Putin claimed on TV that Magnitsky died of natural causes.

For Magnitsky's former employer, the UK-based investment fund, Hermitage Capital, the developments show that his killers enjoy protection at the highest level of the Russian state.

"Russia normally has a 99 percent conviction rate. In this case, there was overwhelming evidence of Kratov's involvement and his acquittal goes against any logic or concept of justice," the company said last month.

For the EU foreign service, the trial by TV also shows that Russia is not serious about holding anybody to account.

"If the acquittal of Mr Kratov is to be seen as the final decision signifying the end of the investigation, this would be a negative and disappointing signal to all those who see a need for strengthened rule of law in Russia. It would raise questions about selective justice and have a negative impact on Russia's image internationally," the European External Action Service (EEAS) said in a statement to EUobserver on 2 January.

It noted that it is "looking into how to further make clear our expectations that the investigation of this case be taken forward properly."

It is not planning to table US-type EU-level sanctions against Magnitsky's suspected killers.

But in a sign of escalating bad feeling, the EEAS invited individual EU countries to take action. "Any decision on a matter like this would need to be taken by EU member states party to the Schengen agreement," it added.

Under the rules of the EU's passport-free Schengen zone, if one Schengen member red-flags a name in its border control system, all the other Schengen countries are obliged to keep that person out.

Hermitage had in any case said the Kratov prosecution was an attempt to scapegoat a junior official so that high-level figures involved in the conspiracy could get off the hook.

It is currently focusing its energies on a money laundering probe in Cyprus, where Cypriot banks allegedly helped the Magnitsky conspirators to move around €23 million of the stolen tax money out of Russia.

But Putin's recent announcement - at an EU-Russia summit just before Christmas - that he is willing to contribute to an international bailout for Nicosia has caused concerns the Russian money will be used to quash the Cypriot enquiry.

News in Brief

  1. EU parliament moves to lift Le Pen's immunity
  2. EU Commission launches probe into Hungary's university law
  3. Scots slowly losing appetite for independence - poll
  4. Council of Europe puts Turkey on watch list
  5. EU to put parental leave on political agenda
  6. Israel cancels German meeting over human rights groups
  7. Hungary's Orban will participate in EU parliament debate
  8. Malta floats cash-for-refugees plan

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFRace Against Time to Save Millions of Lives in Yemen
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersDeveloping Independent Russian-Language Media in the Baltic Countries
  3. Swedish EnterprisesReform of the European Electricity Market: Lessons from the Nordics, Brussels 2 May
  4. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  5. Counter BalanceCall for EU Commission to Withdraw Support of Trans-Adriatic Pipeline
  6. ACCAEconomic Confidence at Highest Since 2015
  7. European Federation of Allergy and Airways60%-90% of Your Life Is Spent Indoors. How Does Poor Indoor Air Quality Affect You?
  8. European Gaming and Betting AssociationCJEU Confirms Obligation for a Transparent Licensing Process
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region and the US: A Time of Warlike Rhetoric and Militarisation?
  10. European Free AllianceEFA MEPs Vote in Favor of European Parliament's Brexit Mandate
  11. Mission of China to the EUXinhua Insight: China to Open up Like Never Before
  12. World VisionViolence Becomes New Normal for Syrian Children

Latest News

  1. EU starts legal action against Hungary
  2. Brexit is about Europe's future as well
  3. Power struggle in Greenland: Three reasons why the EU should care
  4. Nordic and Baltic countries step up digitalisation efforts
  5. European states still top media freedom list
  6. Let’s not put European public health at risk
  7. Threatened Budapest university calls for EU support
  8. Orban set to face down EU threats