In April 2021, the United Kingdom announced the introduction of the Global Anti-Corruption Sanctions Regime as part of the Magnitsky legislation. As part of the announcement, 22 individuals were sanctioned for their involvement in “notorious corruption cases” in Russia, South Africa, South Sudan and throughout Latin America.

Those individuals now face asset freezing, including a ban against channelling their money through UK banks or entering the country.

What is the Magnitsky legislation?

Sergei Magnitsky was a Russian lawyer who discovered a large-scale tax fraud whilst employed by Hermitage Capital, a firm run by financier Bill Browder. The fraud involved millions of dollars of Hermitage Capital tax payments being syphoned off to Russian officials. Magnitsky was arrested and died in prison after mistreatment and a lack of medical attention. Magnitsky was never tried for any crime during his 358-day imprisonment.

As a result, Bill Browder began campaigning to have sanctions imposed on the officials involved – to get the officials banned from visiting the US and using the US financial system.[1]

In 2012, the US Congress passed the Magnitsky Act intending to punish Russian officials responsible for the death of Sergei Magnitsky. In 2016, Congress enacted the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act which provides authorisation to the US government to sanction individuals for human rights or significant corruption offences. Sanctions include a freeze on assets and travel bans.

What countries have adopted the Magnitsky legislation?

The United States, Canada and the UK have adopted the Magnitsky human rights and corruption sanctions. The European Union has only adopted the Magnitsky human rights sanctions. After the UK announced the establishment of the Global Anti-Corruption Sanctions Regime, the Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin and Ranking Member Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) issued the following statement:

“I applaud the UK for moving forward with the establishment of a new Global Anti-Corruption Sanctions Regime. Our Magnitsky sanctions can now be harmonized one-for-one – denying corrupt officials access to the two biggest financial hubs in the world,” said Chairman Cardin. “I urge the EU to adopt Magnitsky corruption sanctions, as well. Together, we can deny human rights abusers and kleptocrats safe haven and protect our own political systems from the taint of authoritarian corruption. Otherwise, this corruption will always flee to those democratic allies without sanctions laws.”[2]


The implementation of the global anti-corruption tool builds on the UK’s serious corruption framework. The tool will “promote effective governance, robust democratic institutions and the rule of law”.[3]




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