Finnish MPs for Sanctions in Magnitsky Case

A group of leading members of the Finnish Parliament, spearheaded by the National Coalition Party’s MP, Pia Kauma, submitted a written question to the government on the question of sanctions against Russian officials involved in the murder of the Russian lawyer, Sergey Magnitsky. So far, the United States and the Netherlands have imposed visa bans on the officials. Moreover, the European Parliament and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have urged member states to freeze the assets of the officials involved and impose international visa bans.

In his response, the Finnish Foreign Minister, Erkki Tuomioja, stated that the case of Sergey Magnitsky had come to symbolise the problems with human rights and the rule of law in Russia, including the conditions in pretrial detention, impunity of those responsible for crimes, length of trials, and corruption. Mr Tuomioja called for a swift and thorough investigation into the case and for those responsible for Mr Magnitsky’s death to be punished. In the question of possible sanctions against the officials involved in Mr Magnitsky’s death, Mr Tuomioja said decisions should be made jointly in the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council.

Meanwhile, Helsingin Sanomat reported that the Finnish fur trader, Saga Furs, may have received funds that were embezzled by the Russian officials involved in Mr Magnitsky’s death. Finnish police was now considering whether to launch an investigation into possible money laundering. A Moldovan company transferred USD 199,500 to Saga Furs in February 2008. Hermitage’s founder, William Browder, noted that the Moldovan company was a shell, and that the reason indicated for the money transfer was “purchase of carpet fibers.” Saga Furs strongly refuted claims that the company would have been involved in money laundering.

Sergey Magnitsky was a lawyer at the Moscow law firm, Firestone Duncan. He helped Hermitage Capital Management, once Russia’s largest foreign portfolio investor, reveal the biggest tax fraud in the country’s history. After testifying about the involvement of Russian police officials in the theft of Russian state funds, he was illegally arrested in November 2008 and imprisoned by those very same officials in order to silence him. Mr Magnitsky died on 16 November 2009 in a Russian prison awaiting trial. Hermitage’s founder, William Browder, has vowed not to rest before those responsible are brought to justice.

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