Five EU countries, in cooperation with European law enforcement agencies, have uncovered a network of Russian export sanctions evasion. The operation led to the arrest of three individuals.
Eurojust and Europol have supported a coordinated action of the Dutch, German, Latvian, Lithuanian, and Canadian police against the violation of export sanctions to Russia, Eurojust reported.
Three people arrested and 14 places searched
The Dutch, German, Latvian, Lithuanian, and Canadian police arrested three suspects and searched 14 places in relation to the investigations into the illegal export of technological and laboratory equipment to Russia, which could be used for military purposes.
Such exports are illegal in the European Union due to the EU-wide sanctions, which were imposed after Russia started its all-out war against Ukraine.
In addition to Eurojust and Europol, representatives of the authorities of the Netherlands, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, and Canada participated in the operation. Authorities suspect the detainees of participating in an international smuggling network.
Dutch-registered trading company and exports to Russia
The Dutch authorities launched the investigation in late 2023, which led to the uncovering of a network of companies that circumvented the ban on exports to Russia. The investigation uncovered a network of companies that evaded the ban on exports to Russia and were connected to a Dutch company established in 2017.
These businesses were centered around a Dutch-registered trading company that was established in 2017 to import, export, and sell electrical and laboratory equipment, as well as other goods.
Two of the suspects were administrators of the company, and the third was an employee of an external contractor who allegedly knew about the export ban violation.
The trading company in question is currently managed by an administrator from Russia, who is also the sole shareholder. The physical and digital administration of the company, registered in the Netherlands, was seized, as well as its bank account and communications equipment.
“The arrested are suspected of involvement in an international smuggling network. The physical and digital management structure of the company, registered in the Netherlands, as well as its bank account and means of communication, were seized,” Eurojust said.
They did not specify the name of the company under investigation or the names of the suspects.
Punishment for helping Russia circumvent sanctions
Russia has learned to circumvent Western sanctions imposed on Moscow for its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. To do so, it uses third countries that covertly support Moscow in trade and front companies.
Russia has largely managed to circumvent sanctions in the technology sector, in particular by importing advanced Western electronics for its missiles and drones. This allows Moscow to produce weapons and continue its war against Ukraine.
Arrests and punishments for helping Russia circumvent sanctions have become more frequent. Earlier in the Netherlands, law enforcement officers detained a 55-year-old man on suspicion of supplying microchips to Russia to circumvent sanctions. Law enforcement officers seized his bank accounts and commercial inventory.
Recently, the United States detained a businessman who supplied semiconductors to Russian companies affiliated with the FSB in order to circumvent sanctions. He faces up to 20 years in prison.
The Dutch prosecutor’s office punished four Dutch companies and eight people in October for assisting Russia in constructing the Kerch Bridge to Crimea.
Helping Russia circumvent sanctions means assisting the invading army in waging war and killing Ukrainians. The participants in these schemes must be aware of this. Authorities must punish the participants in these schemes.