, London, United Kingdom, Dec 5 – British lawmakers have tabled a change in the law to enable the government to freeze British assets of international human rights abusers, following a campaign in memory of late Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.
The amendment to the Criminal Finances Bill, which became public on Monday and is due to be debated in parliament this month, would give a judge the power to seize property and bank accounts of anyone involved in “gross human rights abuses”.
William Browder, a former Moscow financier turned anti-Kremlin campaigner, said the amendment sent a message to “human rights violators around the world that their blood money is no longer welcome here”.
The US-born British citizen is the founder of the Hermitage Capital hedge fund where Magnitsky worked when he went public with details of massive fraud by state officials.
Shortly afterwards Magnitsky himself was charged with tax evasion. Magnitsky died in detention on November 16, 2009 after having spent 11 months on remand in squalid prisons.
“By creating personal consequences for the perpetrators of these crimes, the UK will protect whistleblowers such as Sergei Magnitsky around the world,” Browder said in a statement.
The statement said the legislation would be known as the “Magnitsky Amendment”, and is so far backed by 27 MPs.
The “Magnitsky Act” in the United States allows the seizure of assets from Russian officials implicated in the lawyer’s death.
The statement also quoted Conservative MP Dominic Raab, who tabled the amendment, as saying: “This change in the law will protect Britain from becoming a safe place for despots and dictators to hide their money.”
Britain has come under pressure from non-governmental organisations to do more to crack down on the flow of proceeds of corruption as well as enforcing transparency in its overseas tax havens.
Former oil tycoon and Kremlin foe Mikhail Khodorkovksy last month urged British MPs to punish corrupt Russian officials with assets in Britain.
“Britain is quite popular with Russian political elites as a place for illegally obtained money,” he told a British parliamentary committee.