Not complying with sanctions a criminal offence in all EU countries

European Commission headquarters.

The European Commission has proposed to harmonise criminal offences and penalties for the violation of EU sanctions. Before this turns into legislation, takes a closer look at what this could mean for a logistics company.

While an eighth round of sanctions on Russia has been implemented by the EU, as a company you may find that the impact of these sanctions in practice is limited. There are workarounds and legal loopholes that allow for certain transactions to continue, and the chance that an illegal transaction is intercepted is small.

Hidden assets

This is what the European Commission wants to change. Assets owned by sanctioned persons are sometimes hidden across different jurisdictions through elaborate legal and financial structures, and it can be complex to identify them, it explains. “While the Russian aggression on Ukraine is ongoing, it is paramount that EU restrictive measures are fully implemented and the violation of those measures does not pay off.”

It has proposed a directive that will establish the same level of penalties in all member states. “This means that an endeavour is made to penalise the breach of sanctions in all EU member states”, explains Sebastiaan Bennink, sanction lawyer at BenninkAmar, a Dutch lawyer office.

“In the Netherlands, a breach of sanctions was already considered a criminal offence, but this is not the same everywhere. The aim of this directive is to harmonise the way sanctions are penalised.”

Sanctions and logistics

For the logistics industry, one of the sanctions to be aware of is the one on Russian Railways. The rail company is not fully targeted by the sanctions, it is mainly a financial limitation. As a result, the company has limited access to the financial markets, you can no longer trade in their shares, for example. This is however not a complete asset freeze, so it is still possible to do business with Russian Railways.

Moreover, several banks are blocked from using the SWIFT payment. This means that money transfers to those banks are not permitted. If you are doing business with a company that uses a sanctioned bank, you are in violation of the sanction law.

Read this article for an interview with Sebastiaan Bennink in which he explains more about the sanctions on Russia.

More awareness

In general, the awareness about sanctions has increased, says Bennink. Although sanctions were always there, since the war in Ukraine they have been on the radar of most companies.

“Sanctions on Russia were in the news, people started to get more acquainted with sanction law. Many companies started realising that this could impact them.

“At the same time, sanctions are complicated, and it is not easy to understand when you do or don’t comply with the sanction law of your country”, he emphasises. Therefore, a lot of companies sought legal advice, and turned to the office of BenninkAmar.

Author: Majorie van Leijen

Majorie van Leijen is the editor-in-chief of, the online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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