USA & France coordinate sanctions on global procurement network for Syria’s chemical weapons programme

syria flag.jpgYesterday, OFAC designated 8 individuals and 5 entities, pursuant to Executive Order 13382 (imposes asset freezes), for being “key components of a vast network procuring electronics on behalf of Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC), the agency responsible for the development of Syria’s chemical weapons”. In a coordinated action, the French government also renewed asset freezes on 24 entities and individuals from the same procurement network for “providing an array of support to the SSRC”. See OFAC Notice and US Treasury press release.

EU removes Bassam Sabbagh from Syria sanctions list

EU3In May 2018, the EU updated and extended its Syria sanctions until 1 June 2019 by adopting Council Decision (CFSP) 2018/778 and Council Implementing Regulation (EU) 2018/774 (see previous blog).

Today, the EU has corrected both of those legal acts by removing the individual named ‘Bassam Sabbagh’ from its Syria sanction list (no longer subject to an asset freeze). See Corrigendum to the Council Decision and Corrigendum to the Council Implementing Regulation.

Cement company Lafarge SA formally placed under French investigation over subsidiary’s Syrian payments

Lafarge.jpgYesterday, Franco-Swiss cement company LafargeHolcim announced that the examining magistrates in Paris have placed the company’s French component, Lafarge SA, under investigation in relation to payments allegedly made between 2011 and 2014 to sanctioned militant groups, including ISIS, to ensure that its Jalabiya cement plant in Syria continued to operate (the plant had been operated by Lafarge Cement Syria, a subsidiary of Lafarge SA).

In the announcement, Lafarge SA admits that the “system of supervision of its Syrian subsidiary did not allow the company to identify wrongdoings”, but added that the company would “appeal against those charges which do not fairly represent the responsibilities of Lafarge SA”.

EU Court upholds re-listings of Syrian businessman; HX v Council

CJEU1We previously reported that the EU General Court annulled the original designation of HX (court had granted him anonymity), who had been subject to restrictive measures under the EU’s Syria sanctions for supporting and benefitting from the regime as a prominent businessman in the oil and gas sector – he denied that he supported or benefitted from the regime.

The Court has now upheld his 2016 and 2017 re-listings, see judgment: HX v Council T-408/16 (19 June 2018). HX was relisted for being an “influential businessman operating in Syria” who supported or benefitted from the Syrian regime, and for being a member of the Syrian Parliament. The Court rejected HX’s argument that the Council had breached its obligation to state reasons by equating being an influential businessman in Syria with support or benefit from the Syrian regime. The new listing criteria meant that being an “influential businessman operating in Syria” was sufficient.

Rami Makhlouf unsuccessful in EU Syria sanctions appeal

CJEU1The Court of Justice of the EU has dismissed Rami Makhlouf’s appeal against the General Court’s judgment which had dismissed his application to annul his EU Syria sanctions listing, finding no errors in the judgment below. Link to blog on lower court judgment here and appeal judgment here.

5 Russians and 3 Syrians indicted for conspiracy to violate US sanctions on Syria and Crimea/Ukraine

US Department of State.jpgThe US Department of Justice has announced that 8 businessmen – 5 Russian nationals and 3 Syrian nationals – have been indicted on federal charges for conspiracy to violate US sanctions against Syria and Crimea/Ukraine; namely, by sending jet fuel to Syria and making US dollar wires to Syria and to sanctioned entities (in the absence of a US licence).

The indictment involves transactions conducted by Joint Stock Company Sovfracht (Sovfracht), a Russian shipping company and freight forwarder, which was designated by OFAC in September 2016 for Crimean sanctions violations. The 5 Russian nationals – Ivan Okorokov, Ilya Loginov, Karen Stepanyan, Alexey Konkov and Liudmila Shmelkova – are employees of Sovfracht. Yaser Naser is a Syrian national who worked on behalf of Sovfracht in Syria to coordinate its business there. Farid Bitar and Gabriel Bitar are petroleum inspectors at Port Banias, Syria.

Third countries align with EU’s Ukraine and Syria sanctions

EU6On 14 May 2018, the EU adopted Council Decision (CFSP) 2018/706, which added 5 people to its targeted sanctions on those said to be responsible for undermining the territorial integrity of Ukraine, namely, for being involved in the “organisation of the Russian presidential elections of 18 March 2018 in the illegally annexed Crimea and Sevastopol” (previous blog). The EU announced yesterday that Montenegro, Albania, Norway and Ukraine have aligned themselves with that Decision. EU press release here.

On 28 May 2018, the EU adopted Council Decision (CFSP) 2018/778, which extended its Syria sanctions until 1 June 2019 (previous blog). The EU announced yesterday that Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Albania, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Moldova and Georgia have aligned themselves with that Decision. EU press release here.

EU 2nd re-listing of Syrian businessman Kaddour was lawful

CJEU1The EU General Court has upheld Khaled Kaddour’s 2016 re-listing: Kaddour v Council T-461/16.

On 13 November 2014, the EU General Court annulled his original listing on the basis that the Council had failed to provide evidence to support the claim that he had maintained a professional link with Maher Al-Assad or provided financial support to the Syrian regime (previous blog). The Court then upheld his 2015 re-listing (previous blog) (and now his 2016 re-listing too) because the Court said the Council had now provided “a body of precise and consistent evidence” capable of demonstrating that the applicant still had links with certain key figures of the Syrian regime.