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European Council adopts law on criminal offences, penalties for EU sanction violation

by Kateryna Hodunova and The Kyiv Independent news desk April 12, 2024 7:23 PM 2 min read
A European Union (EU) flag next to the European Commission building in Brussels, Belgium, on Nov. 10, 2023. Photo for illustrative purposes. (Simon Wohlfahrt/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
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The European Council has approved a law on the prosecution of violation or circumvention of EU sanctions, mainly concerning the sanctions against Russia, the body's press service reported on April 12.

The corresponding directive, which defines the circumvention of sanctions and ensured that it would be treated as an offense punishable by a prison sentence of up to five years in all member states, was adopted by the European Parliament last month.

The Council listed helping to bypass a travel ban, trading in sanctioned goods, and performing prohibited financial activities among the actions that could be considered as criminal offences. Inciting, aiding, and abetting also can be penalized.

Those who violate EU restrictive measures can be fined further, the newly adopted law said. Legal entities such as private companies, could also be held liable if the offense was committed by a person with a leading position.

"In such cases, sanctions may include the disqualification of business activities and the withdrawal of permits and authorizations to pursue economic activities," the statement read.

The directive will enter the force on the 20th day following publication in the EU's Official Journal. The member states will have 12 months to implement the law into national legislation.

The EU has already passed 13 sanctions packages in response to Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The imposed measures have included trade restrictions, travel bans, freezing of assets, and more.

While the sanctions are imposed on the bloc-wide level, definitions of sanction violations and penalties vary across member states. This has led to a process known as "forum shopping," a situation when violators seek out the member states with the weakest enforcement.

"The Russian invasion benefits from crooks breaking the law in Europe. They must be caught, and forum-shopping must stop," European Parliament member (MEP) Sophie in 't Veld said.

EU preparing 14th sanctions package against Russia this spring
“We have started preparing a 14th sanctions package, which should be adopted in spring,” Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis said at the “Standing with Ukraine: European Parliament’s legacy for the sanctions regime” conference of the Socialists and Democrats parliamentary group in Brussels.
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