A U.S. senator has urged U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to impose a ban on visas for 60 Russian officials and other individuals in a $230 million corruption case that lead to the death of a Moscow anti-corruption lawyer, the U.S. Helsinki Commission website said.
Hermitage Capital lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, 37, who was awaiting trial on tax evasion charges for 358 days, died in a Moscow pretrial detention center in November 2009. The Russian Prosecutor General's office said Magnitsky died of a heart attack.
"I am writing to request the immediate cancellation of U.S. visas held by a number of Russian officials and others who are involved in significant corruption in that country and who are responsible for last year's torture and death in prison of the Russian anti-corruption lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, who testified against them," Senator Benjamin Cardin, the Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) wrote in his letter to Clinton.
"I urge you to immediately cancel and permanently withdraw the U.S visa privileges of all those involved in this crime, along with their dependents and family members," he continued.
"The visa sanctions will send an important message to corrupt officials in Russia and elsewhere that the U.S. is serious about combating foreign corruption and the harm it does. It will also help to protect U.S. companies operating in Russia who risk falling prey to similar schemes in the future," Cardin said.
Russian English-language newspaper the Moscow Times said last week human rights activists had called on authorities to open a murder inquiry into the death of Magnitsky.
"Magnitsky died of systematic torture and not of negligence," Valery Borshchyov, of the Moscow Helsinki Group said.
The Moscow Times cited Lyudmila Alexeyeva, the head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, as saying that the evidence suggested that the abuse was initiated by the same Interior Ministry officials whom Magnitsky had accused of embezzling $230 million of government funds.
Maj. Gen. Anatoly Mikhalkin, head of the tax crimes department in the Interior Ministry's Moscow branch, reported by Russian media to be linked to Magnitsky's death, had been dismissed a month after Magnitsky died.
Russia's Federal Penitentiary Service has admitted its partial guilt in the death of the lawyer.
It was Mikhailkin's department that started proceedings against the lawyer.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has ordered a probe into the lawyer's death. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called it a "tragedy."
Investigators earlier said that Magnitsky had conspired with Hermitage Capital head Bill Browder, who has reportedly been banned from entering Russia, to establish dummy firms to illegally buy and sell Russian energy giant Gazprom's stock.
MOSCOW, April 27 (RIA Novosti)