Image by Nikolay Vorobyev

THE MAGNITSKY ACT & THE MAN IT HONOURS

16/11/2020
Kendall Scarpa

The Magnitsky Act first introduced into the USA in 2012 during the Obama administration, is an act that freezes the assets and entrance into the country of human-rights violators. The act aims to instate the consequences to those who deem themselves to be above the law and morality, so that their actions may finally reap repercussions. Initially, the Act was individual-specific, targeting 18 Russians, but upon reevaluation, it has been expanded to include other countries' human-rights violators as well. Nowadays, 7 countries have passed the same or similar acts. 


This vital act was first lobbied and supported by Bill Bowder in honor of his lawyer Sergei Magnitsky. For 10 years Bill Bowder had been conducting business in Russia for London-based investment fund Hermitage Capital. This earned him the title of the largest foreign investor in Russia up until 2005 when he was blacklisted and had his visa revoked. Today, nowadays his dealings in Russia have earned him another title, ‘Russia’s Most Wanted Man.’ 


Bill Bowder’s dealings in Russia were completely lawful, but upon unearthing one of Russia’s largest tax frauds he became their number one target. Bowder allocated his lawyer Sergei Magnitksy to investigate the fraud that concerned $230 million, which involved tax payments from Hermitage being diverted to Russian officials. Magnitsky due to his investigation was subsequently detained by the Russian government and sentenced to year imprisonment before his trial was carried out. Magnitsky never made it to trial. Under the dire conditions in which he was held Magnitsky developed several medical conditions, was refused medical treatment, and was subsequently tortured before his death. His was the first trial to be conducted posthumously in Russia, where he was convicted of tax evasion. 
This week marked the 11th anniversary since Magnitsky’s murder in police custody. Although, Russia still fails to acknowledge the situation surrounding his death. In the Magnitsky Act, Sergie’s contribution and bravery live on, as a legal monument in honor of his attempt to stand up to a corrupt government. 


Despite many attempts of the Russian government to revoke the actions and threats against Bill Bowder’s safety, Bill Bowder continues to this day to lobby for more countries to implement the Magnitsky Act. In addition to this, they have additionally implemented The Magnitsky Human Rights Awards. During these awards they commemorate various individuals who are actively following the suit of Magnitsky, to fight against unjust systems that would seek to commit unconstitutional human-rights violations. 


To learn more about Bill Bowder, Sergei Magnitsky, and the involvement of the Russian government you can read Bill Bowder’s book he published on the subject, ‘Red Notice.’