PETROPAVLOVSK KAMCHATSKY, April 27 (Itar-Tass) - The investigation into the death of Hermitage Capital lawyer Sergei Magnitsky “has been brought to completion”, President Vladimir Putin said.
“Investigative bodies have come to the conclusion that there was no malicious intent or negligence. It was a tragedy…,” Putin told Vesti v Subbotu (News on Saturday) television programme with Sergei Brilev on April 27.
“As if no one died in American prisons and there were no tortures, as people said, or other things for which officials had to face criminal penalties,” he went on to say.
“But the case of Mr Browder, whose interests were defended by Magnitsky, is not closed. Our law enforcement agencies think that he broke the laws that were in effect in Russia at that time when he was working here and that he made a fortune unlawfully. And this is a different question,” Putin said.
Hermitage Capital Management Head William Browder has been put on the international wanted list.
Earlier this week, Moscow’s Tverskoy Court issued an arrest warrant for Browder in his absentia on charges of tax evasion in the amount of more than 522 million roubles.
During his Direct Line televised conference on April 25, Putin touched upon the Magnitsky issue, mainly in the wake of the U.S. Magnitsky Act, which he described as a manifestation of “imperial behaviour” in foreign policy.
“Why on earth did they do this? No one can explain or say why,” he said.
The president stressed that Russia “did not provoke anything” that could have caused relations with the United States to worsen and thinks that bilateral relations could develop positively if American partners had simply scrapped the Jackson-Vanik amendment. “But no, they had to drag in another anti-Russian [act], specifically Magnitsky Act,” he said.
Putin believes that this was done with the mere intention “to puff up to show that we are the toughest guys here. It’s an imperial behavior in the foreign policy field. Who is going to like that?”
The head of state admitted that Russia’s response to the Magnitsky Act was not flawless. “We warned that we would respond. Apparently [the Americans] expected a feeble reply. Good or bad, probably it has its bad sides, but our MPs got certain emotions filling them,” the president said.
In his opinion, it would be wrong to think that while in the United States the parliament “is absolutely uncontrollable”, ours “is a pocket one”. “Nothing of the kind. This is contrary to the practice of our political life,” he said.
On April 12, U.S. Department of State officials said that the Magnitsky list had a classified section but did not say how many persons were on the list or who they were.
They only said that this section is shorter than the public one. Since American legislation does not allow anyone’s assets to be frozen secretly, the persons in the second part of the list can only be subjected to visa restrictions.
The U.S. administration said both parts of the list had been made known to Congress, both in writing and orally.
The “list of persons who have been determined, based on credible information, to meet the criteria described in that [Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability] Act. Such criteria include responsibility for the detention, abuse, or death of Sergei Magnitsky, or involvement in certain other gross human rights violations in Russia, as defined by the law,” the Department of State said.
“Persons on this list are banned from receiving or holding visas to enter the United States. Their property and interests in property subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and transactions in such property or interests in property are prohibited,” it said.
The Magnitsky list is named after Sergei Magnitsky, a Hermitage Capital lawyer who was reportedly investigating corruption among some high-ranking Russian officials.
Magnitsky, a 37-year-old attorney of the British investment fund Hermitage Capital Management, was charged with assisting in tax evasion. He died at the intensive care unit of the Matrosskaya Tishina prison infirmary on November 16, 2009, eleven months after he was taken into custody and seven days after he was indicted.