US renews cyber sanctions

President Trump has renewed US sanctions on people and entities involved in malicious cyber-activities for 1 year, until 1 April 2018.  The sanctions were introduced by President Obama in April 2015 (see previous blog), and were expanded in scope at the end of last year following allegations of Russia’s “aggressive harassment of U.S. officials and cyber operations aimed at the U.S. election” (see previous blog). 6 Russian people and 4 Russian entities are currently designated under these measures.

US designates 7 more people for ties to ISIL

OFAC

OFAC has designated 2 people, Syria-based Muhammad Tamtomo and Syria/Iraq-based Muhammad Jedi, as Specially Designated Global Terrorists for allegedly providing financial and operational support to ISIL.  Specifically, they are said to have supported ISIL recruitment and attack-planning in Indonesia, Malaysia, and elsewhere in Southeast Asia.

OFAC’s press release is here.

State Department

The State Department has designated 5 people as SDGTs for their involvement with ISIL. Among them are British national Anjem Choudary, who was sentenced to imprisonment in September 2016 for acting as a key figure in ISIL’s recruitment drive.

The State Department’s press release is here.

UK Export Control Organisation seeks feedback on new licensing service

The UK’s Export Control Organisation has asked for more volunteers to test its new import/export licensing service.  It is looking for people and businesses working in any sector, but is particularly interested at present in the views of those involved in the export of military or dual-use goods.

The form for signing up to test the new service is available here.  The ECO’s press release is here.

EU extends Bosnia & Herzegovina sanctions

The EU Council has extended its sanctions on Bosnia & Herzegovina for 1 year, until 31 March 2018.  The sanctions impose an asset freeze and travel ban on people and entities, and those associated with them, deemed to be undermining the sovereignty or territorial integrity of Bosnia, seriously threatening its security situation, or undermining the Dayton/Paris peace agreement.

See Council Decision 2017/607 amending Council Decision 2011/173/CFSP.

US charges against Mehmet Atilla for sanctions evasion

US prosecutors have charged Mehmet Atilla, an executive at a state-owned Turkish bank, with conspiring to evade US sanctions on Iran.  He is alleged to have conspired with several others, including Turkish businessman Reza Zarrab who was arrested as part of the same investigation in March 2016 (see previous blog) and is due to stand trial in October 2017.  Mr Atilla is said to have worked with Mr Zarrab to conceal transfers of currency and gold to Iran from 2010 to 2015, including through the use of fraudulent documents to make the transactions appear as though they involved food that qualified for a humanitarian exemption to US sanctions. In the US Department of Justice’s press release, Acting US Attorney Joon Kim stated that the transactions “illegally funnelled millions of dollars to Iran”.

EU court annuls Libya sanctions on Quaddafi’s daughter

The General Court of EU has today held that the re-inclusion of Aisha Quaddafi on the EU’s targeted Libya sanctions in 2014 (implementing UN listings) was unlawful because the EU institutions had not explained why being Colonel Quaddafi’s daughter and alleged closeness to his regime justified her re-inclusion in 2014.  See Case T-681/14. She was out of time to challenge her original 2011 listing.  The Court said that even if it were relevant that supporters of the former regime continued to play “a role in the current situation in Libya and were involved in attacks against civilians”, the EU had not explained her “individual, specific and concrete role” in those events that could have justified her re-listing.

ECJ upholds and clarifies EU’s Russia sanctions in Rosneft judgment

The ECJ has today answered questions the UK High Court referred to it (on which see previous blog) in the EU’s preliminary reference procedure asking for the ECJ to interpret some of the EU’s sanctions on Russia imposed in July 2014.  The ECJ’s judgment is here; Case C-72/15.  The EU Russia sanctions at issue are those imposing restrictions on some financial transactions and on the access of some Russian entities to EU capital markets, and on the export of some goods and technology and services required for oil transactions. The questions were referred to the ECJ in the course of a judicial review brought by Rosneft (the Russian oil and gas company) against the UK Government and Financial Conduct Authority (see previous blog for the background to this case). See previous blog for the Advocate General’s opinion in this case.

The ECJ judgment holds (link to the Court’s summary of its judgment here) that:

  1. It has jurisdiction to answer most of the questions on the validity of these restrictive measures, even though they are EU Common Foreign & Security Policy (CFSP) measures, because the ECJ has jurisdiction to consider whether CFSP measures comply with Article 40 TEU (which concerns institutional competence) and CFSP decisions imposing restrictive measures on natural or legal persons.  The Court commented that the exclusion of jurisdiction for certain CFSP decisions should be “interpreted strictly” given the need to ensure effective judicial protection as part of the rule of law.
  2. The ECJ rejected Rosneft’s argument that the EU Council had encroached on the powers of the Commission and EU High Representative for foreign & security policy in breach of Article 40 by enacting these measures.
  3. These measures were not incompatible with the EU-Russia Partnership agreement because the EU institutions could take the view that they were necessary to protect essential EU security interests and to maintain peace and international security.
  4. The measures gave sufficient reasons and did not breach the principle of equal treatment or misuse the EU’s powers, nor did they amount to a disproportionate interference with Rosneft’s fundamental rights.
  5. Rosneft would have to have challenged the Council’s refusal to give full access to its file in an action for annulment before the General Court, not in a preliminary reference in the ECJ.
  6. The ECJ said the vagueness of some of the measures did not make them invalid for lack of certainty or prevent member states from imposing criminal penalties for breach, and gave interpretations of a few provisions:
    • The power for authorities to grant an authorisation in Article 3(5) of Regulation 833/2014 must be understood as meaning that they had to ensure that the application of the first sub-para of Article 3(5) was without prejudice to the execution of contracts concluded before 1 August 2014.
    • The measures on “financial assistance” in Article 4(3)(b) do not include the processing of a payment by a bank or other financial institution.
    • Article 5(2) prohibits the issuance of Global Depositary Receipts pursuant to a depositary agreement concluded with one of the entities listed in Annex VI where those GDRs represent shares issued by one of those entities before 12 September 2014.

USA and Iran impose sanctions on new people & entities

On Friday, the USA sanctioned 30 people and entities for transferring sensitive technology to Iran for its missile program or for violating export controls on Iran, North Korea and Syria. State Department press release here. The following restrictions apply to them:

  • No department or agency of the U.S. Government may procure or contract for any goods, services, or technology from the designated entities, except to the extent the Secretary of State otherwise may determine;
  • The designated entities are ineligible for any assistance program of the U.S. Government, except to the extent the Secretary of State otherwise may determine;
  • S. Government sales of any item on the U.S. Munitions List to these entities are prohibited, and sales of any defense articles, defense services, or design and construction services controlled under the Arms Export Control Act are terminated; and
  • New licenses will be denied, and any existing licenses suspended, for transfers of export- controlled items.

Iran has in return sanctioned 15 US companies for supporting Israel by providing arms and equipment “for use against the Palestinians”.  The sanctions bar them from entering into dealings with Iranian firms, and bar current and former directors of the companies from being issued visas to Iran. None are known to have been doing business in Iran.