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EU Sanctions : Criminal Penalties for Violation and Circumvention

In a significant move to bolster the enforcement of its sanctions regime, the European Union Council has officially passed legislation that introduces EU-wide minimum rules for criminal prosecution of violation or circumvention of EU sanctions (Directive (EU) 2024/1226). This landmark directive aims to establish a consistent and robust legal framework across member states to ensure that violating EU sanctions is punishable by effective and proportionate criminal penalties.

This legislative step comes in the wake of the EU’s extensive imposition of restrictive measures in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, aimed at undermining Russia’s economic strength and its capacity to sustain military engagements.  It is rooted in the EU’s broader foreign and security policy framework, wherein restrictive measures serve as a critical tool. Enforcement of these measures has been diverse, with penalties ranging from criminal prosecution to administrative sanctions, depending on the member state.

Key Provisions of the New Legislation

The new directive delineates specific actions that constitute criminal offenses throughout the EU. These include, in particular:

  • assisting persons subject to EU restrictive measures in circumventing travel bans,
  • trading in goods subject to sanctions and entering into transactions with states or entities which are subject to EU restrictive measures,
  • engaging in financial transactions which are prohibited or restricted;
  • covering up the ownership of funds or economic resources by a person, entity or body which is sanctioned by the EU.

Inciting, aiding, or abetting such offenses is also punishable.

Member states are mandated to implement effective and proportionate criminal penalties for such breaches of EU sanctions. A notable stipulation is that intentional violations of the offences defined in the new directive must attract a prison sentence as the maximum penalty, reinforcing the severity with which the EU views such contraventions. Monetary fines may also be imposed on offenders, in addition to imprisonment.

Moreover, legal entities, such as companies, will be held accountable when violations are committed by individuals holding significant positions within the organization. Possible sanctions against these entities include the suspension of business activities, as well as the revocation of licenses and permits necessary for economic operations.

Implementation and Impact

The directive was published in the Official Journal of the EU on 29 April 2024 and will enter into force on the twentieth day following its publication. Member states will have twelve months to integrate these rules into their national legislation.

Professional Guidance with LINDEMANNLAW

Our team is dedicated to helping clients navigate through the maze of contractual, transactional, regulatory, and litigation risks associated with the new EU sanctions landscape.

Ensure your business remains compliant and well-prepared for the evolving regulatory environment with expert guidance from LINDEMANNLAW. Protect your interests and stay ahead of legal challenges.

For more information, please feel free to contact us and we will be happy to help you.

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