Council and Parliament reach political agreement to criminalise violation of EU sanctions
The Spanish presidency of the Council and the European Parliament concluded their negotiations for an EU law which introduces criminal offences and penalties for the violation of EU sanctions. This directive ensures that those who violate or circumvent EU sanctions will be prosecuted. This gains particular importance in the context of the Russian war of aggresion against Ukraine.
The law lays down that member states will need to define certain actions as criminal offences. These include:
helping persons subject to EU restrictive measures to bypass a travel ban
Trade with war material would constitute a criminal offence not only when committed intentionally but also if committed with serious negligence.
When the violation of a restrictive measure happens intentionally the maximum penalty must provide for a prison sentence. Concretely, member states must ensure that the crimes defined under this directive are punishable by a maximum penalty of at least one year of imprisonment or at least five years of imprisonment, depending on the offence. Member states can decide to implement laws which foresee higher sentences.
In addition to imprisonment, those who have violated EU restrictive measures may be subject to fines.
Liability and sanctions for legal persons
Legal persons who violate restrictive measures would have to face sanctions which include the disqualification of business activities and the withdrawal of permits and authorisations to pursue their economic activities.
The enforcement of EU sanctions is a member state responsibility. But the types and levels of penalties in member states can vary because – so far – national systems that deal with the violation of EU sanctions differ significantly. Currently, member states are not required to criminalise violations and may thus apply administrative sanctions instead.
In order to limit sanctions circumvention and tighten their enforcement, on 5 December 2022 the Commission proposed the present directive on the definition of criminal offences and penalties for the violation of Union restrictive measures.