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Violation of Sanctions: EU Recognises as Crime - What You Need to Know

Author: Dr. Angelika Hellweger  24 August 2022

Angelika Hellweger outlines for the Rahman Ravelli Sanctions Monitor the implications of EU moves to extend its list of crimes. 

Due to the ongoing situation in Russia, the EU has a strong incentive to ensure that sanctions imposed for violation of restrictive measures are fully implemented and consistently enforced by all member states. 

However, due to an absence of such harmonisation at EU level, member states currently have very different definitions of what constitutes a violation of restrictive measures and what penalties should be applied in the event of such a violation. This can lead to: 

  • Different degrees of enforcement of sanctions. 
  • A risk of these measures being circumvented - potentially allowing sanctioned persons to continue accessing their assets and supporting regimes targeted by EU measures. 

Thus, on 25 May 2022, the European Commission presented a proposal to extend its list of crimes to include the violation of restrictive measures.  

Under article 83(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU), the Parliament and the Council may establish minimum rules concerning the definition of criminal offences and sanctions in areas of particularly serious crime with a cross-border dimension. The areas of crime currently listed in this article are terrorism, trafficking in human beings and sexual exploitation of women and children, illicit drug trafficking, illicit arms trafficking, money laundering, corruption, counterfeiting of means of payment, computer crime and organised crime. On 30 June 2022, the Council requested the European Parliament’s consent to add the violation of restrictive measures to the list of ‘EU crimes’ included in the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU. 

If the European Parliament gives its consent, it will allow for the adoption of a directive containing minimum rules concerning the definition of criminal offences and penalties for the violation of EU restrictive measures. This will ensure a similar degree of sanctions enforcement throughout the EU and will act as a deterrent to those who may look to circumvent or violate EU measures.  

Criminalizing sanctions violations would bring the EU closer to the US sanctions regime, under which individuals and corporations may each face civil and/or criminal liability for violations of economic sanctions laws and regulations. If the violation of EU sanctions is added to the scope of Article 83(1) TFEU, crimes related to the measures could result in more serious penalties being enforceable in all EU Member States. 

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Dr. Angelika Hellweger

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Angelika is a specialist in international, high-level economic crime investigations and large-scale commercial disputes. She has widely-recognised expertise in representing corporates and conglomerates in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and United States.

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