Attorney General Robert McRae said that Jersey’s asset forfeiture laws, which were approved by the States last week, could be used as the basis for freezing cash belonging to overseas individuals accused of crimes against humanity, in a similar manner to the Magnitsky Act in the US.
That legislation, passed in 2012, introduced sanctions, including asset freezes and travel bans, for use against a list of individuals viewed as complicit in the alleged torture and murder of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.
Businessman and author Bill Browder, who lobbied US Congress to pass the Magnitsky Act, is planning to visit the Island to brief politicians on amendments to the asset forfeiture law.
‘Jersey would be able to enact its own Magnitsky Act through the new asset forfeiture law,’ said Mr Browder.
‘The Attorney General made some very helpful representations on how the law could be applied against foreign human rights abusers.There are still a few changes to be made, which could be called the “Magnitsky amendment”. They did a similar thing in the UK with their version of the Magnitsky Act.’
Mr Browder, who wrote the book Red Notice about his experience of working in Russia and his friend Mr Magnitsky’s death, had been due to visit the Island last week to brief politicians on introducing a Magnitsky Act but delayed his visit following the Attorney General’s comments.
He still intends to visit Jersey, however, to advise on the possible addition of a ‘Magnitsky amendment’ to the asset forfeiture law, which could include provisions so that non-cash assets belonging to foreign individuals could be seized also.
‘I am still planning to come over to Jersey to meet the relevant politicians and government officials to propose a Magnitsky amendment for Jersey,’ he said.
‘We will need to extend the asset forfeiture laws so that all the assets, such as shares and property, of human rights abusers can be seized.’
He added that Jersey would need to follow the lead of the UK government if a list of individuals were to be sanctioned because the Island does not have its own foreign policy.
‘For this to work, Jersey law will need to be ready to follow British law. The UK has to pass its own Magnitsky amendment which is going through parliament,’ he said.
Mr Browder said that he thought the UK would create a list of individuals to be sanctioned, in the same way that the US has.
He added that he believed Jersey taking a stance against human rights abusers would enhance the Island’s reputation.
‘I think that Jersey could make a very significant contribution as a reliable offshore centre and as a place where they keep their assets,’ he said.
‘If Jersey adopts a Magnitsky Act, it will beat other offshore jurisdictions to doing this, and I think it will reflect well on Jersey. If it does so, it could encourage other offshore centres to introduce Magnitsky amendments.’
So far, a number of other other countries, including Canada, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, have introduced Magnitsky Acts or tough laws inspired by the US legislation.