Moldova plans its own take on Magnitsky Act as UK sanctions opposition politicians

Moldova plans its own take on Magnitsky Act as UK sanctions opposition politicians
/ bne IntelliNews
By Iulian Ernst in Bucharest December 12, 2022

Moldova’s Ministry of Justice has drawn up its own version of the Magnitsky Act as part of efforts to tackle corruption.

News of the draft law comes as the British embassy in Chisinau announced on December 10 that fugitive Moldovan businessmen and politicians Shor Party leader Ilan Shor and Vlad Plahotniuc, former leader of the Democratic Party, have been sanctioned by the UK government under the UK’s Anti-Corruption Sanctions Regulations.

The Shor Party has organised regular mass protests against the government in Chisinau, addressed by Shor from outside the country. Meanwhile Plahotnuic has announced he plans a political comeback.

The Ministry of Justice published a draft law aimed “to consolidate and protect the democracy and rule of law”, introduced as ‘The Magnitsky Act (Moldova)’.

Unlike the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, passed by the US “to impose sanctions with respect to foreign persons responsible for gross violations of internationally recognized human rights, and for other purposes”, the Moldovan version published by the government would be (if enacted under this form) equally enforceable against nationals of Moldova.

Furthermore, the bill published by the Ministry of Justice defines its focus quite differently from its original source of inspiration, to include those acting against the interest of the Moldovan state.

Finally, the enforcement mechanism described in the text includes a special committee under the control of the government -- with no parliamentary control and the final decision being made by the presidency -- which is also entitled to take other steps such as changing the structure of the special committee.

Such a law can not substitute the judiciary system of Moldova, constitutional expert Teodor Cirnat argued, quoted by Deschide.md, pointing to one of the weakest points of the draft. The original Magnitsky Act regards foreign persons (very carefully defined in the text) and the sanctions consist of either not extending rights (which is a right of any sovereign state, starting with the right to expel any non-resident from its own territory) to freezing assets on very specific, pre-existing legislation such as the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.

Expanded powers

In addition to banning entry into the country for those named on the list, or freezing the assets of these persons and those who supported them, Moldova's Magnitsky bill would expand its power much further. For instance, the media watchdog would be entitled to cancel the licence of any TV station found to make propaganda for the subjects on the list (such as fugitive businessman and politician Ilan Shor).

While the Moldovan Magnitsky Act may serve to keep foreign people on the international Magnitsky lists, such as former president Igor Dodon’s business partner Sergey Chaika, out of the country, attempts to use it against Shor or fellow fugitive Vlad Plahotniuc would generate immense legal complications and would most likely be ineffective.

For the two or any other Moldovan nationals, there are laws and the constitution to prosecute them.

Notably, another draft law with the same name (Magnitsky Act), but totally different content, was compiled in 2018 by a consortium of human rights and good governance NGOs, with the aim of transposing the Global Magnitsky Act provisions into Moldovan law to crackdown on money laundering and impose restrictions on people who commit acts of corruption and abuses of human rights.

Fugitive politicians sanctioned

Fugitive Moldovan businessmen and politicians Shor Party leader Ilan Shor and Vlad Plahotniuc, former leader of the Democratic Party, have been sanctioned by the UK government under the UK’s Anti-Corruption Sanctions Regulations, the British embassy in Chisinau announced on December 10.

Under the decision announced by the UK embassy, any assets owned by Plahotniuc or Shor in the UK, or in any of the UK’s Overseas Territories such as the British Virgin Islands or the Cayman Islands, will be frozen.

UK citizens will be barred from all economic transactions with either of the sanctioned individuals who are henceforth denied entry to the UK.

“These sanctions designations provide further evidence of our commitment to tackle high level corruption in all parts of the world. It is also evidence of our ongoing commitment to making the United Kingdom a hostile territory for illicit finance,” the statement reads.

On October 26, the US Treasury through its Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed sanctions on nine individuals including Plahotniuc and Shor, the visible beneficiary of the $1bn bank theft, according to Kroll Report.

While the US sanctions against Plahotnuic relate to his time in power, OFAC said Shor and seven others have been involved in the Kremlin’s attempts to interfere in Moldovan politics.

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