Officials working on Czech Magnitsky Act to bolster Russia sanctions

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský

The Czech government is preparing new legislation, inspired by the so called Magnitsky Act, to better implement its sanctions on Russia, Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský said on Wednesday. Ministries are also coordinating on creating an updated sanctions list. Expropriating Russian-owned property is on the table too.

Sergei Magnitsky was a Russian lawyer who died in a Moscow prison in 2009 after investigating a USD 230 million fraud case involving Russian tax officials. His death led to an international campaign for legislation that would allow the sanctioning of Moscow for alleged human rights violations. The law, which was subsequently passed by the US Congress, has come to be known as the Magnitsky Act.

Now it looks as though the Czech Republic may be getting its own version of the Magnitsky Act soon. Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský announced on Wednesday that his ministry has been working with several other government departments on developing similar legislation in the Czech Republic.

“Currently, there exists no real legal tool with which the Czech Republic could sanction a foreign entity on the basis of domestic demand. This is why we are preparing our own Magnitsky Act. It is also the reason why the government gave us this task, so that we can prepare more technical legislation in order to be able to react to the current situation.”

Jozef Síkela | Photo: Office of Czech Government

Czechia’s foreign minister has been a proponent of adopting similar legislation already since he was a backbencher. In 2019, he said that the passing of such a law would help the Czech Republic regain its Havel legacy of being a country engaged in the defence of human rights.

At the same time, the government is also working on legislation that will cut off sanctioned companies from public procurement, subsidies and state investment incentives, Industry and Trade Minister Jozef Síkela said on Wednesday, adding that relevant ministries are also constantly updating the country’s sanctions list.

“In the first round our lists are concerned with entities where legal ownership of the sanctioned property is demonstrable. However, there is also a wide range of wealth that is held either via various offshore companies or through fictitious owners.”

Once the lists and necessary legislation are ready, the Czech Foreign Ministry will pass this information on to the European Union where packages of sanctions are being prepared, Mr Lipavský said.

The government is also looking into the possibility of expropriating Russian-owned property, a task that has been given to Legislation Minister Michal Šalomoun. According to news site Seznam Zprávy, the responsible government council has already ruled against expropriating property without compensation. However, the vice-chairman of the government’s legislative council, Aleš Gerloch, said that once the government sends a concrete proposal the matter will be discussed again.