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Corrupt Russian officials to face new UK sanctions – reports

Ministers are in discussions with MPs on the introduction of a British ‘Magnitsky Act’.

Discussions about the move started before the nerve agent attack in Salisbury (Andrew Matthews/PA)
Discussions about the move started before the nerve agent attack in Salisbury (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Russian officials involved in corruption and human rights abuse could be targeted in a tough new sanctions regime in co-ordination with the United States and Canada, it has been reported.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Amber Rudd have agreed to introduce a British version of the US “Magnitsky Act”, The Sunday Telegraph reported.

The American legislation, passed in 2012, was designed to punish Russian officials involved in the death in custody of the lawyer Sergei Magnitsky while he was investigating official corruption.

It has since been extended to apply worldwide, with the US authorities publishing a list of “gross violators of human rights” who are subject to subject to asset freezes and visa bans.

Boris Johnson and Amber Rudd have agreed to introduce a British version of the US “Magnitsky Act”, The Sunday Telegraph reported (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Conservative MPs seeking similar legislation in the UK confirmed discussions were ongoing with ministers about including “Magnitsky amendments” into the Sanctions Bill currently going through Parliament.

However ministers were said to be resisting one key element of the proposals which would ensure the law was actually used.

Tory backbencher Richard Benyon told the Press Association: “We are in negotiations with the Government which I hope will come to fruition in the report stage (of the Bill) which is down for April.”

Former Conservative chief whip Andrew Mitchell told the Telegraph: “We have been making slow but reasonable progress with the Government in trying to reach a mutually acceptable position.”

Andrew Mitchell also backs the move (Isabel Infantes/PA)

Discussions about the move – which is supported by Labour – started before the nerve agent attack in Salisbury, which left former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia fighting for their lives amid widespread suspicion of Kremlin involvement.

Mr Benyon said he believed the incident made the adoption of their amendments more likely. “It has certainly concentrated minds”, he said.

If it is accepted it will almost certainly lead to a further worsening of relations with Russian president Vladimir Putin who reacted furiously to the US legislation, imposing a retaliatory ban on the adoption of Russian children by Americans.

There was no immediate comment from the Foreign Office which is piloting the Sanctions Bill through Parliament.

Marina Litvinenko has criticised the Conservative party (Anthony Devlin/PA)

However a Whitehall source told the Telegraph: “We started the process by putting it into the Criminal Finances Act 2017 and are looking at expanding it across other legislation.

“But we are clear that we will not do anything that can adversely impact the operational effectiveness of our law enforcement agencies.”

Meanwhile the Conservative Party was facing criticism after The Sunday Times reported that it had declared donations of more than £820,000 from “Russian-linked supporters” since Theresa May became Prime Minister in July 2016.

Marina Litvinenko, the widow of the former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko who died in London in 2006 after being given radioactive polonium, said they should not have taken the money.

“These donations are not just from the heart and for charitable reasons. They are all calculated,” she told The Sunday Times.

A Conservative Party spokesman said: “All donations to the Conservative party are properly and transparently declared to the Electoral Commission, published by them, and comply fully with the law.”



From Belfast Telegraph