French and Belgian authorities have raided cement-making company LafargeHolcim and its shareholder GBL as part of an investigation into payments allegedly made to terrorist groups in Syria (including sanctioned entities). Click here for a press release issued by GBL.
The French Public Prosecutor’s Office began investigating the allegations in June 2016. In March 2017, an internal investigation at LafargeHolcim revealed evidence that its employees had paid third parties to arrange security with armed groups, including sanctioned parties, in order to protect the company’s plant in Northern Syria. In June 2017, France launched a judicial inquiry into LafargeHolcim’s activities in Syria (see previous blog here).
Last week 3 people pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud and exporting prohibited articles to Syria in violation of US export control laws, in the District Court for the Southern District of Florida. Aviation parts and equipment are alleged to have been exported without a licence to Syrian Arab Airlines (Syrian Air), the Syrian Government’s airline, which had been listed as an SDN by OFAC for transporting weapons and ammunition to Syria in conjunction with Hizballah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. The defendants are to be sentenced on 19 December. For the US Department of Justice press release, click here.
Australia has added 40 people and 14 entities to its sanctions against Syria, which impose asset freezes and travel bans. The new listings target those said to be linked to the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons programme by association with Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC), the government body responsible for developing and producing chemical and biological weapons. The US targeted people associated with the SSRC in April (see previous blog).
A total of 142 people and 42 entities are now sanctioned under Australia’s autonomous sanctions on Syria. The Australian foreign ministry’s press release is here, and a full list of people and entities subject to the sanctions is here.
The EU has sanctioned 16 more people on its Syria regime, for their role in the development and use of chemical weapons against the civilian population. The new listings are of 8 high-ranking military officials and 8 scientists, and bring the total number of people listed under the sanctions, which impose an EU asset freeze and travel ban, to 255. It has also amended the statements of reasons for Saji Darwish and the Centre d’etudes et de recherches syrien (notice here).
See Implementing Regulation 2017/1327 implementing Regulation 36/2012 and Implementing Decision 2017/1341 implementing Decision 2013/255/CFSP. The EU’s notice to the newly listed people is here.
HX was included in the EU’s Syria sanctions in 2014. Advocate General Kokott (the German Advocate General at the Court of Justice) has given her opinion in HX’s EJ appeal. See Opinion in Case C-423/16 P HX v Council and previous blog on the case here.
In the AG’s view, the General Court had been unduly formalistic and should have permitted HX to modify his application at the oral hearing to challenge his 2015 as well as 2014 listing (the Court had refused the modification because he made the application orally and not in a document). However, since all the 2015 listing did was extend the 2014 listing (which had been annulled in any case) by a year, HX had not been disadvantaged by the General Court’s decision.
A judicial inquiry into LafargeHolcim, a Swiss-French cement company, has been opened in France on the basis of suspicions that it entered into transactions with sanctioned groups to keep one of its plants operating in Syria. Lafarge is alleged to have made payments, via intermediaries, to armed groups in return for its operations being left alone and for the release of kidnapped employees.
The EU has renewed its sanctions on Syria for another year, until 1 June 2018. The sanctions impose asset freezes and travel bans against people supporting or associated with the Syrian regime or oppression in the country. In addition, the entries for several listed people and entities have been amended.
See Council Implementing Regulation 2017/907 implementing Council Regulation 36/2012 and Council Decision 2017/917 amending Council Decision 2013/255/CFSP.
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 . 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.