EU agrees on the criminalization of violations of EU sanctions

The Spanish Presidency of the Council of the EU and the European Parliament have concluded negotiations on a law that introduces criminal charges and penalties for violating EU sanctions.

This was reported by the EU Council. This directive ensures that those who violate or circumvent EU sanctions will be held accountable. This is of particular importance in the context of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, as the EU Council noted.

The law establishes that member states will have to define certain actions as criminal offenses. These include the following:

  • Helping persons subject to EU restrictive measures to circumvent an entry ban;
  • trade in sanctioned goods and transactions with states or organizations subject to EU restrictive measures;
  • providing financial services or conducting financial activities that are prohibited or restricted;
  • concealing the ownership of funds or economic resources by a person, legal entity, or body subject to EU sanctions;
  • Incitement, aiding, and abetting these offenses will also be punishable as a crime.
  • Trafficking in war materials will be considered a criminal offense not only if committed intentionally but also if committed with gross negligence.

The EU Member States should ensure that violations of EU sanctions are punishable by effective, proportionate, and dissuasive criminal penalties. If the violation of restrictive measures is intentional, the maximum penalty should be imprisonment.

“In particular, Member States shall ensure that the offenses defined in this Directive are punishable by a maximum penalty of at least one year’s imprisonment or at least five years, depending on the offense. Member States may decide to implement laws that provide for more severe penalties,” the EU Council clarified.

In addition to imprisonment, violators of EU restrictive measures may be subject to fines.

The preliminary agreement will now be submitted to the representatives of the member states (Coreper) for approval. If approved, the text will be formally adopted by the EU Council and the European Parliament.

In order to limit the circumvention of sanctions and strengthen compliance with them, the European Commission proposed this draft directive in December 2022 on the definition of criminal offenses and penalties for violations of EU restrictive measures.

On June 9, the EU Council decided on its general approach to a law that would introduce criminal penalties for violating EU sanctions against Russia.

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