By Lucy Komisar
Jan 22, 2019
To Sven Giegold, German Green member of the European Parliament who heads the Greens-Left caucus on corporate, financial and offshore corruption <firstname.lastname@example.org>
He is a member of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and Committee of Inquiry into Money Laundering, Tax Avoidance and Tax Evasion investigating the Panama Papers revelations and tax avoidance schemes.
As you know, we met in 2003 at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, when we both were founding members of the Tax Justice Network, set up to fight international tax fraud, with a particular interest in how that is enabled through tax havens.
I was pleased when you were elected to the European Parliament to deal with that issue. I have followed how you have pushed the parliament to adopt some resolutions that target offshore scams. Though of course those resolutions are only recommendations to the European Commission made up of member states. Including offshore tax fraudsters like Luxembourg and the UK.
I have also sent you information about how William Browder, a US born/UK citizen tax cheat has manipulated international politics to protect himself against Russia‘s legitimate efforts to claim $70million in tax evasion and illicit stock purchases. Much was hidden offshore, in the British Virgin Islands and moved via Cyprus, which we know is the mark of financial thieves. You passed my information to your staff.
Now, I am concerned that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), a sister organization to the European Parliament where you serve, has Jan 22 adopted a major resolution to urge member countries to pass “Magnitsky Acts” of the sort the US passed in 2012 that would build higher the barrier to Russia’s attempt to collect on William Browder‘s scams. The resolution is just a recommendation, but nonetheless serious. And as you are a leading member of a sister organization, The European Parliament, I urge you to use your influence to block the adoption of laws who true purpose is to protect Browder, a major offshore tax evader.
The resolution refers to Resolution 1966 (2014) on refusing the impunity of the killers of Sergei Magnitsky, urging the competent Russian authorities to fully investigate the circumstances and background of the death in pretrial detention of Sergei Magnitsky and to hold the perpetrators to account. Mr Magnitsky had denounced a large-scale fraud against the Russian State budget by criminals benefiting from the collusion of corrupt officials.
However, as my investigations show, Magnitsky was not “killed,” he died from medical neglect. This is proved by the report of the Physicians for Human Rights, Cambridge, Mass, to whom Browder sent 44 documents and photos. They still did not conclude Magnitsky had been “killed,” just a victim of bad medical care.
I have also documented that Magnitsky had not denounced the tax refund fraud against the Russian budget before his arrest. The only statements he made to the government are in his 2006 and 2008 testimonies. None make such accusations.
The resolution says the Russian authorities harassed Magnitsky‘s mother, his widow and his former client, William Browder. There is no evidence supplied. And, in fact, Browder was the client of Firestone Duncan, a law and accounting firm of which Magnitsky was an employee.
That the Russian authorities have still not made any progress in prosecuting the perpetrators and beneficiaries of the crime against Sergei Magnitsky, despite his family‘s active engagement in the proceedings.
Yet there is no crime proved. Except perhaps the bad medical care, which alas also occurs in western prisons, including in the US.
The resolution says that Mr Magnitsky‘s former client, Mr William Browder, who is leading a worldwide campaign against impunity, continues to be harassed and persecuted by the Russian authorities, among other things by repeated attempts to abuse Interpol‘s Red Notice and Diffusion procedures.
“Harassed and persecuted” hides the fact there is documented evidence that Browder cheated Russia on $70 million in taxes and illicit stock buys. The document does not mention that. Interpol is supposed to go after convicted criminals like Browder, not give them a pass because a powerful government like the US wants it.
The Assembly notes with regret that, notwithstanding its Resolution 2161 (2017) “Abusive recourse to the Interpol system: the need for more stringent legal safeguards”, Russia again attempted, in January 2019, to misuse Interpol’s procedures against Mr Browder.
The abuse is the US using Interpol for political ends.
- Meanwhile, several member and observer States (including Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States) have adopted legislative and other instruments to enable their governments to impose targeted sanctions on perpetrators and beneficiaries of serious human rights violations.
In the US, which I know most about, there is no due process for the act’s targets.
- The Assembly welcomes the fact that the most recent such instruments (in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom) are not limited to persons from particular countries, or found to be involved in particular crimes, such as the killing of Sergei Magnitsky.
What evidence is there for “the killing” of Magnitsky? In fact, there is none. The PACE report, by Assembly member Andreas Gross, was repudiated by US federal Judge Pauley in New York as based only on Browder‘s claims, no evidence. He called it “a piece of work,” which is US slang for fakery.
They potentially cover any and all perpetrators of serious human rights violations enjoying impunity in their own countries, whichever they may be.
Who defines human rights violations? What gives some countries the right to target acts of people in other countries, especially without due process. I saw recently an attack by a leading Italian official against France for its abuse of African societies. Does that count? How about against European countries that refuse to accept migrants fleeing repression?
- The Assembly also warmly welcomes the initiative by the Netherlands and others in the Council of the European Union to enact a legal instrument allowing for targeted sanctions to be applied to perpetrators of human rights violations without geographical limitations.
Again, this is based on the claim, without evidence, that Magnitsky died for fighting corruption. There is no evidence for that.
- The United Kingdom‘s Criminal Finances Act 2017 defines “gross human rights abuse or violation” as cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of a person who has sought to expose illegal activity carried out by a public official or a person acting in an official capacity, or to defend or promote human rights and fundamental freedoms; when such treatment is carried out by a public official or a person acting in an official capacity or at the instigation or with the consent of such an official. Similar definitions are included in the United States and Canadian Magnitsky Acts.
Recently members of the “yellow vests” in France have been beaten and arrested. Are they covered by these rules? Suppose these European Parliament marchers in Porto Alegre had been beaten and arrested. There was a left government then, now a rightist is in power. Is there a political test for the Magnitsky Act?
- The Assembly considers targeted (“smart”) sanctions against individuals and affiliated companies as preferable to general economic or other sanctions against entire countries:
11.1. targeted sanctions send a clear message to individual perpetrators of serious human rights violations that they are not welcome in the countries adopting the sanctions and that these countries will not allow them to use their financial institutions to aid and abet their reprehensible actions or enjoy the proceeds of their crimes;
11.2. general sanctions, by contrast, hurt mostly ordinary people but least of all the ruling elites who are responsible for the actions that gave rise to the sanctions.
That is true. Does that apply to France? Or to the US when it beats and arrests members of the Occupy Movement targeting the corrupt elites of Wall Street?
- The Assembly also recalls its Resolution 1597 (2008) on UN Security Council and EU anti-terrorism blacklists and insists that the requirements of procedural fairness and transparency laid down in this resolution shall also apply to those accused of serious human rights violations other than terrorism.
Nice about that, since the US law does not include due process. See former Ambassador Michael McFaul’s comments in his recent book.
- The Assembly therefore calls on all member States of the Council of Europe, the European Union and States having observer or any other co-operative status with the Council of Europe and its Parliamentary Assembly to:
13.1. consider enacting legislation or other legal instruments enabling their executive, under the general supervision of parliament, to impose targeted sanctions such as visa bans and account freezes on individuals reasonably believed to be personally responsible for serious human rights violations for which they enjoy impunity on political or corrupt grounds;
13.2. ensure that such legislation or legal instrument lays down a fair and transparent procedure for the imposition of targeted sanctions as indicated in respect of terrorist offences in Resolution 1597 (2008), in particular by making sure that:
13.2.1. targeted persons are informed of the imposition of sanctions and of the full and specific reasons for their imposition, and that they are given the opportunity to respond within a reasonable time to the case made in support of the sanctions;
Again, nice about that. But can other countries, such as Russia, make such charges about people in the West? Including those who attacked the Occupy protestors. Or “Black Lives Matter” protestors?
13.2.2. the instance taking the decision on imposing sanctions is independent of that collecting information and proposing to include a person in the sanctions list;
13.2.3. the initial decision to impose sanctions may be challenged before a court of law or an appeals body that enjoys sufficient independence and decision-making powers, including the power to delist a targeted person and to provide him or her with adequate compensation in case of erroneous sanctions;
13.3. co-operate with one another in identifying appropriate target persons, including the use of relevant European Union mechanisms and by sharing information on persons included in sanctions lists and the grounds for their reasonable belief that these persons are responsible for serious human rights violations and benefit from impunity on political or corrupt grounds;
13.4. make use of the vast pool of information and evidence on serious human rights violations whose perpetrators enjoy impunity collected and documented by local, national and international non-governmental human rights organisations, and, amongst others, the “Natalya Estemirova Documentation Centre” in Oslo (Norway);
13.5. refrain from co-operating with any politically motivated prosecutions relating to the Magnitsky case, such as the ones focusing on his former client, Mr William Browder.
OKAY, now we know the purpose of the whole charade, which was kept to the last. It is to protect William Browder from facing the consequences of his Russian tax evasion, which used offshore shells in Cyprus and the British Virgin Islands to cheat on $70million of taxes and illicit stock buys.
SVEN, YOU KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS. YOU KNOW THAT THIS IS THE REASON FOR THE WHOLE SCAM.
Sven, do you remember this mass meeting at the end of the Porto Alegre World Social Forum? It was a challenge to the corruption of the West. If your participation in the Tax Justice Network for so many years means anything, you will not allow a major tax cheat to be protected by European governments.
- In addition, the Assembly encourages its member parliamentarians to:
14.1. follow the precedent set by fellow parliamentarians in a number of those countries which have already taken action in this field by seeking to persuade their governments to adopt similar proposals and, where appropriate, to take legislative initiatives themselves;
More laws to protect Browder from answering to his tax evasion.
14.2. maintain close liaison with the Assembly on any such initiatives they propose or have taken and seek relevant advice and assistance from the Assembly if needed.
Advise about the rule of law as corrupted by Europe against its perceived enemies? OK for western tax fraudsters to cheat Russia because western neocons don’t like them? No evidence required?
Sven, I remember you and follow you as a very honorable person, not someone to allow the governments of Europe to protect a conman and offshore tax evader such as Browder. I urge you to take a leading role in Europe to block this!
Here more details of my investigation into Browder’s tax fraud.
With fond memories of the years we worked together in the Tax Justice Network.
Postscript: Guenter Schirmer of PACE, who took over from Andreas Gross pushing the discredited Magnitsky Report, appeared at a European Parliament Tax3 committee hearing Jan 29, just a week after the PACE resolution. If Sven Giegold, who is a Tax3 committee member was present, he did not ask Schirmer any questions about the report or the Browder hoax.
Postscript: March 11, the European Parliament, including the Greens, voted 146-134 against a proposal by the EPP Group to modify the plenary agenda by renaming the debate concerning “a European human rights violations sanctions regime” to “towards a EU Magnitsky Act.” The EPP comprises mostly Christian Democratic, conservative and liberal-conservative politicians. Liberal in the neo-liberal right-wing economic sense, not the US liberal sense. Browder called it a defeat of our motion.