Magnitsky Sanctions, Aivars Lembergs, & ventspils Freeport


Aivars Lembergs is a Latvian politician who has been the mayor of Ventspils since 1988. Lembergs has controlled several Latvian transit and transport companies. His interests included a large stake in Ventspils Freeport.

Since 2008 Lembergs has faced a long-running investigation for bribery, money laundering, and abuse of office. On December 9, 2019, the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) blocked Lembergs's US assets under a special sanctions law applied to individuals and related companies, known as the Magnitsky Act. On December 10, 2019, the US State Department declared him, his wife and children ineligible for entry into the US.

After OFAC's actions, the Latvian government decided to assume control of the ports of Ventspils and Riga. On December 18, Saeima passed a law transferring the functions of the Freeport of Ventspils to a new state-owned joint stock company Ventas Osta.


Magnitsky Act Documents


From a U.S. State Department press release:

Building upon the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act of 2016, on December 20, 2017, the President signed E.O. 13818 “Blocking the Property of Persons Involved in Serious Human Rights Abuse or Corruption,” in which the President found that the prevalence of human rights abuse and corruption that have their source, in whole or in part, outside the United States, had reached such scope and gravity that it threatens the stability of international political and economic systems. Human rights abuse and corruption undermine the values that form an essential foundation of stable, secure, and functioning societies; have devastating impacts on individuals; weaken democratic institutions; degrade the rule of law; perpetuate violent conflicts; facilitate the activities of dangerous persons; and undermine economic markets. The United States seeks to impose tangible and significant consequences on those who commit serious human rights abuse or engage in corruption, as well as to protect the financial system of the United States from abuse by these same persons.


Text of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act of 2016.

Executive Order 13,818, Blocking the Property of Persons Involved in Serious Human Rights Abuse or Corruption (21 Dec. 2017).

Since the US Congress's enactment of the original Magnitsky Act, several other countries have enacted similar laws which are also known as "Magnitsky" legislation.

Questions for Thought and Discussion

  1. What are the practical impacts of being placed on the Magnitsky list?
  2. How does an allegedly "bad actor" come to the attention of the US government in order to be placed on the Magnitsky list?
  3. Is it fair for the US President to place a person on the Magnitsky list without a trial?
  4. What legal actions can one take after being blocked under the Magnitsky Act?
  5. Why does the US (and now many other countries) take these kinds of actions against foreign citizens?