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.

EU Court rejects Syria annulment application by Rami Makhlouf

The General Court of the EU has dismissed the annulment application brought by Rami Makhlouf, a cousin of President Assad, in respect of his listing on the EU’s sanctions against Syria. He is listed for being a member of the Makhlouf family, having close ties to and supporting the Assad regime, and being an influential businessman in Syria.  See Case T-410/16 Makhlouf v Council [2017]. His case failed because the EU’s Syria sanctions now include influential businessmen in Syria and members of the Assad or Makhlouf families as criteria on the basis of which the EU can include people for designation.

The EU’s current Syria sanctions (including the listing criteria) and all judgments of this kind in the European Court are on this blog here.

Blogs on Syria Judgments

T-303/15 Barqawi & T-304/15 Abdulkarim

T-35/15 Alkarim

T-231/15 Haswani

T-155/15 Kaddour, T-154/15 Jaber, & T-153/15 Hamcho

T-830/14 Farahat, T-719/14 Tri Ocean Energy, & T-709/14 Tri-Ocean Trading

T-790/14 Hassan

T-723/14 HX

C-193/15 P Akhras

T-443/13 Makhlouf

T-155/15 R Kaddour, T-154/15 R Jaber, & T-153/15 R Hamcho

T-593/11 AlChihabi

C-630/13 P Anbouba & C-605/13 P Anbouba

T-652/11 Sabbagh

T-579/11 Akhras

T-509/11 Makhlouf

T-43/12 Hamcho and Hamcho International, T-654/11 Kaddour, & T-653/11 Jaber

T-307/12 Mayaleh

T-572/11 Hassan

T-329/19 Al-Tabbaa

T-203/12 Alchaar

T-293/12 Syria International Islamic Bank

T-202/12 Al Assad

T-174/12 Syrian Lebanese Commercial Bank

T-592/11 Anbouba, T-563/11 Anbouba, & T-383/11 Makhlouf

US sanctions 8 judges on Venezuela’s Supreme Court

The US has sanctioned the President of Venezuela’s Supreme Court and 7 of its other judges. U.S. officials said the sanctions were a response to an incident in March in which the Supreme Court annulled Venezuela’s democratically elected National Assembly, which is controlled by Venezuela’s opposition party.

The sanctions freeze their assets, and prohibit US persons from doing business with them.  In the US Treasury’s press release, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that “the United States is supporting the Venezuelan people in their efforts to protect and advance democratic governance in their country”.  The details of the listings are here.

US renews JCPOA sanctions relief & adds to ballistic missile sanctions

The US has renewed the sanctions relief on Iran that it agreed to under the JCPOA nuclear deal, which must be renewed every 4-6 months.

It has also imposed new sanctions designations on 2 senior Iranian defence officials, one of whom is said to have facilitated the sale of explosives to Syria, 1 person and 3 entities allegedly involved in a China-based network supporting Iran’s military and ballistic missile programme, and an Iran-based firm supporting SHIG, a designated organisation involved in Iran’s liquid-fuel ballistic missile programme. The details of the new designations are here.

US additions to Syria sanctions list

The US has sanctioned 5 people and 5 entities based in Syria for their connections with the Syrian government.  Among the new designations are a cousin of President Assad and people associated with the Scientific Studies and Research Centre, the Syrian government agency said to be responsible for developing and producing non-conventional weapons. A list of the new designations is here.

EU Court annuls 2 Syrian sanctions listings

The General Court of the EU has just annulled the sanctions listings of Ahmad Barqawi and Mouhamad Abdulkarim from the EU’s sanctions on Syria – Cases T-303/15 Barqawi and T-304/15 Abdulkarim.  Mr Barqawi was listed for supporting and benefitting from the Syrian regime in his capacity as Managing Director of listed entity Pangates, and director of its parent company Al Karim Group. Mr Abdulkarim was included as Executive Director of Pangates International and for his position in the Al Karim Group. Al Karim group’s sanctions listing was annulled by the General Court last month (see previous blog).

As in the case of Al Karim, the Court found that the news articles and US government press releases cited by the Council contained insufficient evidence to establish a connection between Pangates and the Syrian government. Therefore, the applicants’ management positions in Pangates and Al Karim, which was listed solely on the basis that it was the parent company of Pangates and whose listing was previously annulled by the Court, could not justify their inclusion on the EU’s sanctions against Syria.  The Court also found that the applicants could not rely on the fact that Pangates had subsequently gone into liquidation, because the relevant facts were those at the time they were listed.

OFAC designates financial supporters of several terrorist groups

OFAC has sanctioned 3 people and 1 entity, all based in Pakistan, said to be involved in leading or financially supporting the terrorist organisations Jama’at ul Dawa al-Qu’ran, the Taliban, al-Qaida, and ISIL.  They are Hayat Muhammad, Ali Turab, Inayat Rahman, and the Welfare and Development Organisation of Jamaat-Ud-Dawah for Qur’an and Sunnah.

In its press release, the US Treasury said that the individuals are “opportunistic and willing to work with extremist organisations, even those ideologically opposed to one another, to help them deepen their foothold in the region”.

Chatham House paper on sanctions problems for UK NGOs

Chatham House has published a paper investigating the impact of banking restrictions and sanctions on UK-based NGOs.  The paper highlights the “challenging…and deteriorating” problem for NGOs and others involved in humanitarian aid of legal transfers of funds being blocked by banks wary of breaching sanctions. The report deals in particular with NGOs near areas where non-state armed groups are facing increasing restrictions on access to the financial system, including delayed transfers, freezing of funds and closure of bank accounts. It encourages banks and NGOs to cultivate relationships and for the UK Government to “take ownership of this challenge, providing guidance and clear messaging where ambiguity exists as regards sanctions and counterterrorism legislation…”

The UK government’s previous Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation David Anderson QC drew attention to this problem in several of his reports (see previous blog) and the Center for a New American Security discussed this problem in the USA in its paper published in 2016 (see previous blog).

US renews Belarus general licence

The US Treasury has renewed its general licence (which authorises transactions with all entities listed on its Belarus sanctions) for 6 months, until 30 October 2017.  The renewal was made by Belarus General Licence 2C, which replaces and supersedes General Licence 2B under which the authorisation was previously granted. The EU lifted most of its sanctions on Belarus in February 2016 (see previous blog).

The General Licence requires any US person to report any such transactions, or series of transactions, in excess of $50,000 to the US Department of State no later than 30 days after their execution.  No new property has been unblocked by General Licence 2C.