Polish Foreign Minister for visa ban on implicated Russian officials

`Poland would be willing to support ban on 60 officials in Magnitsky’s death’
16th September 2010: In a move likely will show increasing levels of international support for the campaign to get justice for murdered Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, Poland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Radoslaw Sikorski said Poland would be willing to support a visa ban on the 60 Russian officials implicated in Magnitsky’s death.

If visa bans are adopted in Poland, it will effectively ban anyone on the list from travelling in Europe according to the 1985 Schengen Agreement. Currently 25 European nations are members of the Schengen accord.

According to a letter sent by Sikorski to Ryszard Kalisz MP, Chairman of the Justice and Human Rights Committee of the Polish Parliament, Foreign Minister Sikorski said should international institutions establish a visa sanctions list, Poland would consider introducing them as well.

In the letter, Sikorski wrote: "In the event of international institutions establishing a list of persons, who were involved in the death of the advocate, a consideration will be made
to issue appropriate visa sanctions against them."

William Browder, CEO of Hermitage Capital said, "The noose is tightening on the people who killed Sergei Magnitsky. They may be able to avoid justice in Russia, but they won’t be able to travel and enjoy their ill-gotten gains in countries that value human rights and the rule of law."

Sergei Magnitsky, the anti-corruption lawyer working for Hermitage Capital in Moscow, then the largest foreign portfolio investor in Russia, was arrested and kept in custody for nearly 12 months after he testified about Russian police involvement in the embezzlement of US$230 million of state taxes. Magnitsky was subjected to horrifying pressure in detention to force him to change his testimony, and despite a drastic deterioration in his health, he was denied any medical attention and died as a result of his treatment, aged 37.

Polish Foreign Minister Sikorski stated his concern and apprehension in relation to the death of Sergei Magnitsky in custody. He said, "Unlawful acts and abuse of human rights cannot go without a reaction from the international community." He also commented that the: "Effective modernization of Russia cannot be reached without strengthening the fundamentals of a lawful country, democratic values and respect for human rights."

In his notes to court, prepared five days before his death, Sergei Magnitsky said: "I have been detained in prison for a year as a hostage in the interests of the persons, whose intention it is to ensure that the criminals actually guilty in the theft of 5.4 billion rubles [$230 million] from the state budget will never be found…

Investigator Silchenko does not want to identify the .persons, who made this fraud possible. He instead wants the lawyers of the Hermitage Fund, who pursued and continue to pursue attempts for this case to be investigated, be forced to emigrate from their country in which criminal cases were filed against them, or like me be detained in prison. My imprisonment has nothing in common with the legal purposes of criminal proceedings., but this is a punishment for my merely defending the interests of my client, and ultimately the interests of the state."

Moves to put visa bans in place against those Russians involved in Magnitsky’s death have already begun in the USA. Senator Benjamin Cardin requested US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to issue a visa ban on all those officials involved in the Magnitsky case from entering the USA. Secretary Clinton publicly demanded from the Russian authorities that "justice be delivered".

The developments in Poland relating to "Cardin’s list" come hot on the heels of the recent black listing of the same 60 Russian officials from international banking following their exposure by World-Check.

World-Check is the database used by 49 of the top 50 banks to identify high-risk individuals and businesses worthy of ‘enhanced scrutiny’. It has listed all the members of the Cardin list as ‘Politically Exposed Persons’, which will prevent them from opening bank accounts with most major banking organisations around the world.

Foreign Minister Sikorski also pledged to bring up the human rights violations in the Magnitsky case through talks on the EU-Russia partnership and the EU-Russia Justice and Home Affairs Committee framework.

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