Czechia preparing its own version of US Magnitsky Act

Chamber of Deputies of the Czech Republic

Czechia may soon have its own version of the 2012 US Magnitsky Act which would allow the country to impose national sanctions for serious violations of international law on individuals and legal entities who are not on the EU sanctions list. The state could, for example, bar them entry to this country or freeze their assets.

Denis Katsyv is a Russian businessman investigated in the US for large scale money laundering. According to American investigators, he used fictitious companies and Czech banks for his illegal activities. His name is not on the EU list of sanctioned Russian individuals, but the Czech government could soon be able to impose national sanctions against him on the basis of the country’s own version of the US Magnitsky Act.

Jan Lipavský | Photo: Kateřina Cibulka,  Czech Radio

The government-proposed bill passed through its first reading in the lower house on Wednesday and is now being debated by the foreign affairs and constitutional law committees in the Chamber of Deputies.

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky defended the need to pass such a legislation in the lower house on Wednesday:

“This is a perfectly legitimate legal tool which will give the authorities the possibility to respond to such cases quickly –not just to point them out, but to take unilateral action against such people and companies.”

Denis Katsyv is not an isolated case. The people on the EU sanctions list include only a few Russian entrepreneurs active in this country. Yet according to statistics, there are over 12,000 companies with Russian owners operating on Czech territory – many of whom are not physically present and merely conduct financial transactions from third countries.

Under the proposed law, Czechia will be able to “impose sanctions against individuals in the interest of national security, protection of fundamental human rights and combatting terrorism”. The bill should also create a legal basis for the inclusion of entities on the EU sanctions list at the initiative of the Czech Republic.

The government originally aimed to have such a bill approved by the end of next year, but the Russian aggression in Ukraine has underscored the need for action. However, its proposal to have the bill approved in a fast-track procedure in view of the international situation was vetoed by the opposition parties. Opposition ANO party deputy chair Alena Schillerová  stressed that the veto was not a political protest.

“We are ready to support this bill, but we want to have a part in it. We want to table our own proposals and help make it better.”

France, The Netherlands, Latvia and Estonia already have similar legislation in place and its approval in this country only appears to be a matter of time.

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