EU unveils new rules on confiscating assets of oligarchs breaking sanctions

With new proposal, bloc trying to close loopholes that allow restrictive measures to be evaded.

EU unveils new rules on confiscating assets of oligarchs breaking sanctions

The European Commission on Wednesday presented a draft proposal on confiscation of assets of criminals and oligarchs who violate EU sanctions.

“In the current geopolitical context, it’s clear that in this area, there is no time to lose,” Margaritis Schinas, vice president of the European Commission, said at a news conference.

He explained that the existing rules for freezing and confiscating assets “are fragmented and not implemented in a uniform way,” which leads to the paradox that “big sharks find ways to evade” punishment.

The EU executive body has proposed to add the violation of EU restrictive measures to the list of EU crimes, in order to harmonize differences in national legislation and set a common basic standard for criminal offenses and penalties across the bloc.

According to the draft, activities that seek to directly or indirectly circumvent the restrictive measures, including concealing assets, failing to freeze funds or trading banned goods, would be punishable.

As a second step, the commission has proposed amending existing EU legislation on asset recovery and confiscation to expand its scope to a wider set of crimes.

The revised bill would also ensure that assets of individuals and entities that violate EU sanctions can be effectively confiscated in the future, while also guaranteeing more efficient seizure of criminal assets.

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, suggested on Tuesday that frozen Russian assets should be used for Ukraine’s reconstruction if legally possible.

The EU has so far allocated €2 billion ($2.13 billion) in military aid to Ukraine and mobilized more than €4 billion in macro-financial assistance, humanitarian aid and support for EU countries hosting refugees from Ukraine since the war began on Feb. 24.

It has also adopted five sets of sanctions against Russia, targeting individuals including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, as well as banning the export of luxury goods, coal imports, and excluding Russian and Belarusian banks from the SWIFT international payment system.

Hüseyin Demir

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