Commission proposes EU-wide ‘criminalisation’ of sanctions evasion and asset confiscation plans

The European Commission has announced that it is to introduce proposals which, say observers, could radically tighten sanctions enforcement in the EU, including by adding the violation of sanctions rules to the list of ‘EU crimes’ – currently Member States have the discretion to treat violations as administrative breaches, criminal acts, or both – and by putting forward a proposal for a Directive on Asset Recovery and Confiscation.

As regards an EU-wide criminalisation of sanctions evasion, the Commission says that adding the offence to the list of EU crimes would create a ‘common basic standard on criminal offences and penalties across the EU,’ making it easier to ‘investigate, prosecute and punish violations of restrictive measures in all Member States alike.’

It points out that the violation of restrictive measures ‘meets the criteria set out in Article 83(1) TFEU, as it is a crime in a majority of Member States. It is also a particularly serious crime, since it may perpetuate threats to international peace and security, and has a clear cross-bordercontext, which requires a uniform response at EU level and global level.’

As regards the proposal on asset recovery, the Commission says that under the new rules it would:

  • Extend the mandate of Asset Recovery Offices ‘to swiftly trace and identify assets of individuals and entities subject to EU restrictive measures,’ adding,‘These powers will also apply to criminal assets, including by urgently freezing property when there is a risk that assets could disappear.’
  • Expand the possibilities to confiscate assets ‘from a wider set of crimes, including the violation of EU restrictive measures, once the Commission proposal on extending the list of EU crimes is adopted.’

It also intends to establish ‘Asset Management Offices’ in all EU Member States, ‘to ensure that frozen property does not lose value, enabling the sale of frozen assets that could easily depreciate or are costly to maintain.’

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Commission proposes EU-wide ‘criminalisation’ of sanctions evasion and asset confiscation plans