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U.S. Sanctions 52 People For Abuses Related To Global Magnitsky Act


One of those included on the list of sanctioned persons is Gulnara Karimova, the eldest daughter of the late longtime Uzbek President Islam Karimov

WASHINGTON -- The United States has imposed financial and travel restrictions on 52 government-linked people from Uzbekistan, Russia, Ukraine, and elsewhere, under a U.S. law aimed at human rights abusers and corrupt officials worldwide.

The list, released December 21, included the eldest daughter of the late Uzbek President Islam Karimov; the son of Russian Prosecutor General Yury Chaika; a Ukrainian riot police commander; a Burmese Army general; and others.

"We must lead by example, and today's announcement of sanctions demonstrates the United States will continue to pursue tangible and significant consequences for those who commit serious human rights abuse and engage in corruption," the State Department said in a statement.

The sanctions were the first to be imposed under the Global Magnitsky Act, a 2016 law that was modeled on another law passed four years earlier that specifically targeted Russians. It was named for a Russian whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky, who died in prison in 2009 after being accused of involvement in a massive tax-fraud scheme that he first discovered.

The announcement comes one day after the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned five Russian individuals under the earlier law, also called the Magnitsky Act, including the leader of Russia's Chechnya region.

Moscow Slams 'Grotesque' Move

Russia condemned both sanctions announcements. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova promised an unspecified response.

"This all really looks grotesque now, since it's not based on any kind of reality," Zakharova said.

Gulnara Karimova, the elder daughter of the late Uzbek president, was among the most prominent people on the list, accused by the Treasury Department of heading a "powerful organized crime syndicate that leveraged state actors to expropriate businesses, monopolize markets, solicit bribes, and administer extortion rackets."

For years, Karimova was widely seen as the heir to her father until reporters and European prosecutors uncovered a wide-reaching bribery and extortion scheme involving major international telecom companies.

She has not been seen publicly in several years, reportedly kept under house arrest, and she was not seen at her father's funeral last year.

Earlier this year, she was reportedly charged by the Uzbek Prosecutor General's Office with "directly abetting the criminal activities of an organized crime group whose assets were worth over $1.3 billion."

The bribery scheme has led to billions in criminal fines paid by telecom companies in the United States and Europe.

Artyom Chaika, the son of Russia's chief prosecutor,Yury Chaika (file photo)
Artyom Chaika, the son of Russia's chief prosecutor,Yury Chaika (file photo)

Artyom Chaika, the son of Russia's prosecutor-general, is the most prominent Russian to be targeted. He has long been dogged by accusations of influence-peddling stemming from his father's prominence.

Chaika "leveraged his father's position and ability to award his subordinates to unfairly win state-owned assets and contracts and put pressure on business competitors," the Treasury Department said.

When it was passed in 2012, the first Magnitsky Act infuriated Moscow, and Russian President Vladimir Putin responded a few months later by signing a law banning all adoptions of Russian children by American parents.

Secretive Lobbying

In 2016, as efforts to create a global version of the Magnitsky Act were building, a secretive lobbying campaign was started in Washington that sought to undermine the narrative behind Magnitsky's discovery and death.

That effort was funded in part by Denis Katsyv, a businessman with connections to Chaika, and involved lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, who met with President Donald Trump's eldest son in June 2016, as Trump's presidential election campaign was gaining momentum.

Veselnitskaya also served as Katsyv's Russian lawyer in a U.S. legal case that charged one of Katsyv's companies with laundering some of the proceeds of the tax fraud uncovered by Magnitsky to buy Manhattan real estate.

Russian lawyer Natalya Veselnitskaya (file photo)
Russian lawyer Natalya Veselnitskaya (file photo)

That case was settled in May, with the company, Prevezon Holdings, admitting no wrong doing and paying a $6 million fine.

Also included on the new Global Magnitsky List was Sergei Kusyuk, identified as a commander of an elite Ukrainian police unit, the Berkut. It said Kusyuk has been named by the Ukrainian General Prosecutor's Office as taking part in the February 2014 killings of activists on Kyiv's Maidan square. The violence led to President Viktor Yanukovych fleeing the country to Russia.

Kusyuk also fled Ukraine and is now in hiding in Moscow where, the Treasury said, he was identified dispersing protesters as part of a Russian riot police unit in June 2017.

The Treasury also sanctioned Mukhtar Hamid Shah of Pakistan, believed by Pakistani police believe to be involved in kidnapping, wrongful confinement, and the removal of and trafficking in human organs. Burmese military officer Maung Maung Soe was hit for matters related to a "brutal" crackdown against the Rohingya Muslim minority.

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    Mark Najarian

    Mark Najarian is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL based in Washington.

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    Mike Eckel

    Mike Eckel is a senior correspondent in Prague, where he reports on developments in Russia, Ukraine, and around the former Soviet Union, as well as news involving cybercrime and money laundering. Before joining RFE/RL in 2015, he worked for the Associated Press in Moscow. He has also reported and edited for The Christian Science Monitor, Al Jazeera America, Voice of America, and the Vladivostok News.