Newscast Media NEW YORK—As shady Russian businessmen snapped up luxury apartments in New York, lawyer Sergei Magnitsky was confined to the few square meters of a Moscow jail cell. He would die there under suspicious circumstances in 2009 after revealing a scheme by a circle of high-ranking government officials and associates to steal $230 million from the Russian treasury. U.S. prosecutors say the proceeds of that heist paid for the Manhattan properties.
A complaint filed by the U.S. Department of Justice on September 10 seeks the seizure of the four Wall Street-area apartments as well as two commercial spaces. It also details the twists and turns of the fraud scheme. If approved, the seizure would be the first such move in a case that has already seen bank accounts frozen in several European countries.
But perhaps more significantly, at least for U.S.-Russian relations, the complaint names alleged beneficiaries of the fraud that are not included on the “Magnitsky list,” a U.S. blacklist of Russian officials implicated in the case. It appears, then, to offer a potent argument for those members of the U.S. Congress seeking to expand the list and push back against any hesitation by the administration of President Barack Obama over harm that might cause to ties with Moscow.
Informed congressional sources told Radio Free Europe that the naming of names in the complaint had “been noted” and could be used to push the administration ahead of an upcoming deadline.
The U.S. legislation establishing travel and financial sanctions in the Magnitsky case requires that the State and Treasury departments add more names to the blacklist “as new information becomes available.” The Obama administration must add names to the list by a December 14 congressional reporting deadline or justify why it hasn’t done so.
The first version of the list, published in April, implicated 16 individuals in connection with the case (plus another two implicated in other crimes),despite calls by some U.S. lawmakers for a far more extensive list. That was enough to elicit rage — and a retaliatory blacklist — from Moscow.
One congressional source said, “If the Department of Justice has found new money and new names, where is the Treasury Department and Department of State and when will we see the promised update to the list?”
The civil-forfeiture complaint alleges that Cyprus-based real-estate corporation Prevezon Holdings, owned by Russian businessman Denis Katsyv, was one of the companies that cashed in on the fraud scheme unraveled by Magnitsky.
The company and its eight subsidiaries laundered some of that money through the purchase of the real estate, the complaint claims. Prosecutors are also seeking the assets of two “related companies.”
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security also signed off on the 65-page complaint.
Katsyv, whose father is a wealthy former transportation minister in the Moscow region, is one of several individuals not on the Magnitsky list but named in the Justice Department complaint as directly benefiting from, enabling, or overseeing the fraud scheme.
Katsyv, whose Manhattan real estate is frozen pending judgment, maintains his innocence.
Source:Radio Free Europe