About Maya Lester QC

Maya Lester QC has a wide ranging practice in public law, European law, competition law, international law, human rights & civil liberties. She has a particular expertise in sanctions. As the most recent (2016) Chambers & Partners directory put it, she "owns the world of sanctions". She spent 2011-12 in New York at Columbia Law School lecturing and writing on sanctions. She represents and advises hundreds of companies and individuals before the European and English courts and has acted in most of the leading cases, including Kadi, Tay Za, Central Bank of Iran, NITC and IRISL.

Syrian sanctions on George Haswani annulled

The General Court of the EU has just annulled targeted sanctions on George Haswani, because the evidence the EU Council relied on in court did not provide any support for the reasons it had given for including him in the EU’s targeted sanctions on Syria – Case T-231/15 Haswani v Council [2017].  Mr Haswani was included for being an “important Syrian businessman”, co-owner of an engineering and construction company that has ties with the Syrian regime, for being an intermediary with the regime in oil contracts, and enjoying favourable treatment from the regime through Stoytransgaz, a Russian oil company.  The Court, after a detailed analysis of all the evidence put forward by the Council, concluded that the evidence it relied on was vague and general and did not substantiate the reasons given for his inclusion.

The Court rejected Mr Haswani’s claim for damages resulting from his unlawful EU listing because he had not demonstrated that the losses he claimed were caused by the imposition of EU sanctions. The Court also rejected his challenge to subsequent amended sanctions relating to him because he had not properly amended his pleadings to challenge those measures.

EU adds 4 military officials to Syria sanctions

The EU Council has decided to impose an asset freeze and travel ban on 4 high-ranking Syrian military officials, who allegedly played a role in the use of chemical weapons against the civilian population in Syria.  The additions bring the total number of people listed on the sanctions to 239, in addition to 67 entities. See Implementing Regulation (EU) 2017/480 implementing Regulation 36/2012 and Implementing Decision 2017/485 implementing Decision 2013/255/CFSP.

Ukraine to sanction 5 subsidiaries of Russian state-owned banks

Ukraine is reported to have proposed sanctions on 5 Ukrainian subsidiaries of Russian banks in which the Russian state has an interest (Sberbank, VTB, Prominvestbank, VS Bank).  According to an official from Ukraine’s central bank, the sanctions prevent the subsidiaries from removing capital from Ukraine.

EU court rejects Bank Tejarat’s challenge to its re-listing

The General Court of the EU has dismissed another challenge to an EU decision to re-list an Iranian entity that won its challenge to its original sanctions designation.  A link to the judgment is here. The Court regularly now upholds decisions to re-list entities on the revised basis that they provide support for the Government of Iran, in circumstances in which the EU could not sustain the original reasons given for their inclusion (usually on the grounds that they support Iran’s nuclear programme).

Bank Tejarat’s original listing was annulled in January 2015 (see previous blog) then it was re-listed in April 2015 (blog here). The General Court has said its re-listing was not unlawful essentially because it was based (inter alia) on the fact that it supports the Iranian Government by offering financial resources and services for oil and gas development projects which is a significant source of Government funding.

ECJ says actions by armed forces can be terrorist acts for sanctions purposes

The European Court of Justice has just given judgment in the LTTE case, Case C-158/14 A, B, C, D v Minister van Buitenlandse Zaken.  The Court followed the views of Advocate General Sharpston in her opinion (see previous blog). This was a preliminary reference, meaning that the ECJ was answering questions about the interpretation of EU law rather than being asked to invalidate sanctions measures.  The 2 main points in the judgment are that:

  • The preliminary reference was admissible because it was not clear that A, B, C and D would have had standing to bring a direct action in the General Court (since they were not EU-designated) – had they had so they would have had to have brought a direct action not a preliminary reference; and
  • Actions by armed forces during periods of armed conflict within the meaning of international humanitarian law can constitute terrorist offences / terrorist acts for the purposes of the EU’s terrorist asset freezing regime.

EU renews targeted Russia sanctions

The EU has decided to renew its asset freezing measures and travel bans on people and entities said to be involved in undermining Ukraine’s territorial integrity (and related criteria) for a further 6 months, until 15 September 2017.  The EU has also removed 2 deceased people from its listings bringing the total to 150 people and 37 entities listed on these measures.

See Implementing Regulation 2017/437 implementing Regulation 269/2014 and Decision 2017/445 amending Decision 2014/145/CFSP.

EU renews Ukraine misappropriation sanctions

kievThe EU has renewed its asset freezes relating to people identified as being responsible for misappropriating Ukrainian state funds for 1 year, following its annual review.  They were first introduced in March 2014.  See Implementing Regulation 2017/374 implementing Regulation 208/2014 and Decision 2017/381 amending Decision 2014/119/CFSP.

EU calls for further Swiss cooperation on sanctions

swissThe EU Council has published its conclusions on EU relations with Switzerland, in which it notes Switzerland’s voluntary alignment to EU sanctions on a case-by-case basis.  It encourages Switzerland to remain consistent in the application of sanctions, including in preventing their circumvention, and invites Switzerland to align itself further with EU sanctions on Russia over its involvement in the crisis in Ukraine.

The EU’s press release is here.