The Central Bank of Iran’s 1st EU sanctions designation was annulled by the General Court (link to previous blog here) on the grounds that the EU had not substantiated the allegation that the Central Bank was engaged in activities to circumvent sanctions. The ECJ has now upheld the General Court’s rejection of the Central Bank’s challenge to its re-listing, which was based instead on it providing support to the Iranian government (see previous blog). The judgment is here; Case C-266/15 P Central Bank of Iran v Council . Maya Lester QC acted for the Central Bank. As is frequently now the case, the ECJ decided the appeal without giving the appellant a right of reply or an oral hearing.
The ECJ upheld the General Court’s interpretation of the listing criterion (as in previous judgments eg NIOC, blog here) as “providing the Government of Iran with financial services which were capable, by their quantitative and qualitative significance, of encouraging nuclear proliferation by providing that Government with support in the form of resources or facilities of a material, financial, or logistical nature allowing it to pursue such proliferation”. The Court said the EU did not need to do more than show that the applicant was the Central Bank in order to show that it provides financial support the Government; it did not need more specific reasons or any evidence. The Court held that listing the Central Bank was not disproportionate, in spite of its impact on the economic life and people of Iran, since (as in almost every judgment in a sanctions case on proportionality) the General Court “took into account the objective of maintaining international peace and security”, the sanctions only targeted only the Bank’s EU assets, and allowed for the release of frozen funds on specified grounds.