The 1st Chamber of General Court handed down 4 judgments this week (on 9 December 2014) annulling the designations of 1 person (Vladimir Peftiev) and 4 companies said to be controlled by him, on the EU’s asset freezing targeted sanctions against Belarus.
The EU first imposed restrictive measures on President Lukashenko and some Belarusian officials in May 2006, by Regulation 765/2006. The sanctions were extended in 2012, 2013 and 2014, and consist of an arms embargo, an embargo on equipment for internal repression, and a travel ban and asset freeze on individuals and entities said to be responsible for serious human rights violations, whose activities seriously undermine democracy or the rule of law in Belarus, or who benefit from or support the Lukashenko regime. The current Belarus sanctions are on the ‘sanctions in force’ section of this blog.
In Case T-441/11 Vladimir Peftiev v Council (judgment here), the General Court annulled Mr Peftiev’s designation, on the grounds that the Council could not show from the fact that Mr Peftiev had made legislative proposals to President Lukashenko, had appeared on TV with him, and that he controlled a large export company, that he was an associate or financial supporter of the regime.
BT Telecommunications PUE was designated on the grounds of being “controlled by Mr Peftiev”, and therefore it followed that its designation should be annulled too, in Case T-440/11 BT Telecommunications PUE v Council (judgment here), although the Court confirmed that in principle where someone is listed for supporting a regime, the Council can freeze entities owned or controlled by them in order to avoid the “not insignificant danger that that person may exert pressure on the entities he owns or controls in order to circumvent the effect of the measures applying to him… in order to ensure the effectiveness of the measures adopted and to ensure that those measures are not circumvented”. In Case T-439/11 Sport-pari ZAO v Council (judgment here) the Court held that the Council couldn’t infer in any event from a 27% shareholding in Sport-pari ZAO that Mr Peftiev controlled that company.
The Court annulled the applicant’s listing in Case T-438/11 BelTechExport ZAO v Council (judgment here) on the grounds that its rights of defence had been breached, since the Council had relied on amended grounds that it did not disclose in advance to the applicant.
The Council was ordered to pay the applicants’ costs in all 4 cases, and the Commission (which intervened in the applicant’s favour) bore its own costs.
A curiosity of all 4 cases is that the Court annulled the measures listing the applicants in 2011 and 2012, but not the measures re-listing them in 2013, because the applicants had not applied to amend their applications for annulment within the time limit (which the Court said ran from the date at which the applicant was notified of the amended / renewed measures). However, Sport Pari was de-listed by the Council in May 2013, and Mr Peftiev and BT Telecommunications were de-listed in October 2014. Beltechexport’s listing was maintained in 2014.