Its proposal sets out common EU rules, which will make it easier to investigate, prosecute and punish breaches of the restrictive measures in all member states.
The European Commission proposed today to criminalize the violation of European Union sanctions in all its member states.
“While Russian aggression in Ukraine continues, it is of primary importance that the restrictive measures of the EU are fully implementedAnd the violation of these measures should not bear fruit”, the Commission points out in its announcement. Its proposal sets out common EU rules, which will make it easier to investigate, prosecute and punish breaches of the restrictive measures in all member states.
Since the start of the war in Ukraine, the EU has adopted a series of sanctions against Russian and Belarusian individuals and companies. However, tracing the assets of oligarchs on whom the EU has imposed restrictive measures is complicated because they hide their assets in different jurisdictions by, for example, transferring ownership of sanctioned property to an unsanctioned third party . They are aided by existing legal loopholes, as criminal law provisions on breaches of EU sanctions differ between member states. That is why the Commission proposes to set the same level of penalties in all Member States in order to close the existing legal loopholes. “The inconsistent enforcement of restrictive measures undermines the Union’s ability to speak with one voice,” the Commission stresses.
In particular, the list of criminal offenses in breach of EU sanctions includes the following:
• Allocation of funds or financial resources to or for the benefit of a specified person, entity or body.
• Failure to commit these funds.
• Possibility of entry of the sanctioned persons into the territory of a Member State or their passage through the territory of a Member State.
• Entering into transactions with third countries, which are prohibited or restricted by EU restrictive measures.
• Trading in goods or services the importation, exportation, sale, purchase, transport, transit or carriage of which is prohibited or restricted
• Providing prohibited or restricted financial activities or providing other prohibited or restricted services, such as legal advisory services, trust services and tax advisory services.
The offenses will cover the circumvention of an EU restrictive measure: this means circumventing or attempting to circumvent the restrictive measures by concealing funds or concealing the fact that a person is the ultimate owner of the funds.
The Commission also proposes common core standards for penalties. Depending on the offence, a person may be subject to a maximum sentence of at least five years. Companies may be subject to fines of at least 5% of the total global turnover of the legal entity (company) in the financial year preceding the decision to impose a fine.
The proposal will be discussed by the European Parliament and the Council under the normal co-legislative procedure.
It is recalled that in May 2022, the Commission proposed to add the violation of EU restrictive measures to the list of EU crimes. At the same time, the Commission proposed new strengthened rules on the recovery and confiscation of assets, which will also contribute to the implementation of EU restrictive measures. The proposals are part of the ‘Freeze and Seize’ Task Force, set up by the Commission in March.
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