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Canada Sanctions 30 Russians, Top Investigative Official Linked To Magnitsky Case


A woman wears a badge bearing a portrait of Sergei Magnitsky during a commemorative event for him in Moscow in April 2013.

Canada has announced financial sanctions and other restrictions on 30 Russians, including the country's top investigative officer, in connection with a whistle-blowing Russian lawyer whose 2009 death and the crimes he uncovered have been a persistent thorn in the Kremlin's side.

The list, released on November 3 by Canada's Foreign Ministry, largely mirrors a similar list compiled by the United States after it passed the Magnitsky Act in 2012, which punished individuals alleged to be connected to Sergei Magnitsky's death and a massive tax-fraud scheme he helped uncover.

Canada earlier this year passed its own version of the law, which, as with the U.S. law, prompted vocal criticism from Russia.

Investigative Committee Chairman Aleksandr Bastrykin is one of the most prominent names on the Canadian list, but it also includes several Interior Ministry and tax-agency officials. A group of Venezuelan officials, including President Nicolas Maduro, were also named.

Russian officials have warned repeatedly Moscow would retaliate if Canada went ahead with the sanctions.

In a statement posted on the Foreign Ministry's website after the list was released, spokeswoman Maria Zakharova issued a vague threat to Ottawa.

"This begs the question: what did Ottawa hope to get from this? Did they really think they could 'pressure' Russia? Or were they just indulging their political ambitions?" she said.

"If our Canadian partners like playing sanctions games, then we will be forced to respond. Although we without question prefer the path of constructive cooperation on issues important to the peoples of both our countries," she said.

Magnitsky was employed by British-American financier William Browder when he was arrested and charged with the $230 million tax-fraud scheme that he helped uncover.

He died in Moscow jail in 2009, and the fallout from his death, as well as the original fraud, have rippled through U.S., and now Canadian, foreign policy, helping to send Moscow's relations with Washington plummeting.

In the wake of the 2012 U.S. law, Moscow banned American parents from adopting Russian children. Congress later passed an expanded version of the Magnitsky law, amid a secretive lobbying campaign in Washington aimed at undermining the facts of the Magnitsky case.

Some of the funds from the stolen $230 million were allegedly laundered by a Russian businessman to buy Manhattan real estate. The Russian lawyer who represented him was involved in the lobbying campaign and met with President Donald Trump's son in June 2016.

Russia has also gone after Browder, accusing him of financial crimes and asking the United States for help in prosecuting him, pleas that Washington has ignored.

Like the United States and other Western countries, Canada imposed sanctions on Russia after its annexation of Ukraine's Crimea Peninsula in 2014.

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