Denmark – investigation into importation of aviation fuel from India in potential breach of Russian sanctions

It has been reported that the Danish Business Authority is currently investigating the Danish shipping company Hafnia for possible breaches of the EU’s Russian sanctions.

The allegations relate to the importation in October of 30 million litres of aviation fuel from a refinery in India which may be owned or controlled by designated persons.

Hafnia is reported to have denied the allegations and stated that it acts in full compliance with all relevant laws and regulations.

Germany – prosecution into alleged timber imports from Belarus

Comments by a United Nations rapporteur have revealed an ongoing criminal investigation into  imports of timber products from Belarus allegedly in breach of EU sanctions.

The case was referred to prosecutors by the German customs authorities and raids were conducted in March 2023, and further investigatory steps have taken place this month.

The individual charged is Alena Bekker and the importing company was Texforum-Interhandel e.K.

Both appear to deny the allegations in part on the basis that the imports were done in accordance with grand-fathering provisions when the Belarus timber ban was introduced.

Latvia – sanctions raids and inspections into Russian timber imports

The Latvian State Security Service has today announced multiple raids and inspections took place last week in relation to an ongoing criminal investigation into plywood imports into Latvia where counterfeit documents mask the Russian or Belarusian origin of the products in favour of false origins in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

The importation of many timber products is prohibited under the EU’s Russian sanctions.

The report notes that the criminal proceedings were commenced in November 2023.

It is unclear whether this investigation in Latvia is related to a similar investigation into plywood imports being undertaken in Lithuania. See our earlier post.

Switzerland – updated enforcement statistics including 9 fines

Sanctions enforcement statistics for Switzerland’s SECO have been reported today. These are an update on those previously published in May last year.

    • 230 reports to SECO of potential sanctions breaches:
    • 47 proceedings commenced, of which:
      • 18 cases remain active;
      • 9 fines imposed; and
      • 20 cases discontinued.

SECO also stated that new cases are being added all the time, and that most relate to trade sanctions.

No information was published as to the level of the fines imposed (other than “varying severity”), or the identities of those fined or being investigated or prosecuted.

France – €120 million villa allegedly owned or controlled by GazpromNeft seized by French prosecutors

The Parquet de Paris (Paris Prosecutor’s Office) has seized a villa valued at €120 million in the south of France, and the shares of the company that is the registered owner of the villa.

The Paris Prosecutors allege that the villa is really owned or controlled by GazpromNeft, the Russian state-owned gas company which is designated in the EU and so subject to an asset freeze.

The seizure forms part of a ongoing investigation.

Finland – 700 Russian trade sanctions investigations of which 70 are large and complex

In September 2023, the Finnish Customs authorities announced they had 600 ongoing criminal investigations of which 60 were “aggravated”.

As reported in Wirtschaft Woche Sari Knaapi , the Chief Economic Crimes Investigator at Finnish Customs has now given details of the current figures, stating that there are now 700 ongoing investigations, with around 70 that are described as “large, complex cases”.

 

Switzerland – SECO refers two cases of breaching Russian sanctions for prosecution

It has been reported today that Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) has referred two of its investigations into commodity trading companies to the Attorney General’s Office for criminal prosecution.

A third, allegedly similar, case is still being investigated and has not been referred.

It is reported that the allegations relate to the attempt to use of foreign subsidiaries to undertake trade in breach of the relevant Swiss sanctions against Russia.

France – Anti-Terrorism Prosecutor advances sanctions charges against Lafarge and individuals

On Friday France’s National Anti-Terrorism Prosecutor’s Office applied to the Paris court to have charges of terrorist financing, and breach of the relevant EU sanctions heard against Lafarge Holcim and nine individuals.

This criminal trial would go ahead before the trial of Lafarge on allegations of crimes against humanity after the Court of Cassation ruled last month that those charges should proceed.

For our earlier posts on the Lafarge matter see here.

Latvia – further sanctions enforcement statistics including seven convictions

The Latvian authorities have provided a further update to their enforcement efforts. As reported:

    • 281 sanctions-related suspicious activity reports in 2022
    • 510 sanctions-related suspicious activity reports in 2023
    • 310 criminal cases commenced
    • 22 prosecutions in which the trial has started
    • 7 convictions to date.

Of the convictions, all involved guilty pleas and all involved Latvian nationals. The highest penalty related to the export of a luxury car, and the fine was €170,000.

The conduct prosecuted included in relation to the sale of a professional footballer to a club owned by a company designated under Belarus sanctions, and the provision of content to the Russian Federal News Agency.

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The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and are not to be construed as legal advice.

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