MPs' Magnitsky amendment to criminal finances bill would see abusers' assets frozen in the UK

Tracey Boles
Bill Browder, campaigning financier (Source: Getty)

New powers to freeze the UK assets of those suspected of abusing human rights have received the backing of a cross-party group of influential MPs ahead of a parliamentary vote on the latest anti-corruption legislation.

The MPs, led by Dominic Raab, conservative MP for Esher & Walton, have tabled an amendment for the asset freezing legislation to be included in the criminal finances billwhich is going through parliament.

The proposed anti-corruption legislation, known as the Magnitsky amendment, is aimed at those who are involved in or profited from human rights abuse, including those engaged in retaliation against whistleblowers on foreign corruption.

It is named after Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who was tortured and killed in Russian police custody after blowing the whistle on a $230m fraud perpetrated by Russian government officials and organised criminals. Magnitsky had been working for financier William Browder before he was imprisoned.

Raab said: “People with blood on their hands for the worst human rights abuses should not be able to funnel their dirty money into the UK. This change in the law will protect Britain from becoming a safe place for despots and dictators to hide their money.”

The cross-party initiative was also sponsored Dame Margaret Hodge MP (Labour), Tom Brake MP (Liberal Democrat), Ian Blackford MP (SNP), Douglas Carswell MP (UKIP), Caroline Lucas MP (Green), and Sammy Wilson MP (Democratic Unionist). It is supported by an additional 20 MPs.

“For too long the UK has acted as a safe haven for foreign kleptocrats and their ill-gotten gains,” added Dame Margaret Hodge, Labour MP for Barking. “We hope this legislation will help to end this.”

The criminal finances bill will soon be subject to a full vote in the House of Commons, followed by a vote in the House of Lords. If passed, the amendment will enable both the government and private parties to apply for the freezing of UK assets belonging to human rights abusers and their beneficiaries.

“By creating personal consequences for the perpetrators of these crimes, the UK will protect whistleblowers such as Sergei Magnitsky around the world,” said Browder, head of the Global Magnitsky Justice Campaign and author of Red Notice: How I Became Putin’s No 1 Enemy.

Under the amendment, there will be a publicly available "UK Magnitsky list" of people who are subject to asset freezing orders. The proposal coincides with a Global Magnitsky law in the US, which is currently in the final stages of approval in Congress, and a Global Magnitsky law which is also underway in Canada.

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