Ian Austin MP: We must ban Russian criminals protected by 'thuggish' Putin, from entering the UK
A young lawyer who died in horrible circumstances has become the symbol of all that is rotten, brutal and corrupt in the Russia under Vladimir Putin, says Ian Austin MP.
Sergei Magnitsky was beaten to death eight years ago, after nearly a year in prison because he sought to expose the criminal who defrauded the Russian public. Today, I will introduce a ten minute rule bill in the Commons that honours his memory, and the battle that his friend and former employer Bill Browder has waged to expose his murderers.
The bill, which has substantial cross-party support, would give the Home Secretary the power to refuse the right entry to any non-EEA national who is known to be an abuser of civil rights.
Sergei Magnitsky was a brave and incorruptible accountant and lawyer who was arrested, detained in squalid, often freezing prisons, tortured and denied medical attention.
After a year, on November 16th 2009, he was beaten by eight riot guards with batons as he was chained to a bed. He died from his injuries, at the age of 37, leaving a wife and two children.
He was targeted because he had exposed a $230 million tax fraud involving senior Russian government officials. The money was corporate tax paid by the London-based fund, Hermitage Capital Management, run by Bill Browder, who was the biggest foreign investor in post-communist Russia.
The United States, Canada, Estonia and Lithuania have passed legislation imposing visa bans and asset freezes on those people who were responsible for Sergei Magnitsky’s terrible fate and also on those who are responsible for similarly appalling abuses of human rights and acts of corruption elsewhere.
The American Magnitsky Act, for example, was a bi-partisan bill introduced by Senator John McCain and was passed in 2012 by 92 votes to 4 in the Senate and with 90% of members of the House of Representatives.
Last year, Dominic Raab – who was on the Conservative back benches briefly - introduced a Magnitsky amendment to the Criminal Finances Bill which was passed with cross party support earlier this year.
But there is no legislation that deals with visa bans for human rights violators and so far no assets have been frozen, so my proposals would go much further and give the government powers to sanction individuals who were found guilty of corruption and human rights abuse with visa bans, asset freezes, and public placement on a list of banned foreign criminals.
The gang who had Magnitsky murdered are beyond the reach of justice while they enjoy the protection of Russia’s thuggish President. We in the west cannot call them account, but we can stop his murderers and other of their kind from coming to the UK or spending their gains here. It is easy to boast about our country’s commitment to its values – democracy, freedom fairness and respect for the rule of law - but they must stand for something, and that is why we cannot ignore appalling crimes like the murder of Sergei Magnitsky
Ian Austin is the Labour Member of Parliament for Dudley North