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Violation of sanctions has become a criminal offense in the EU

Apr 12, 2024

The European Council has finally approved a directive on common European minimum rules for the prosecution of violations or circumvention of EU sanctions in the member states.

This is reported with reference to the Council's announcement.


The Directive stipulates that member states must define certain actions as criminal offenses. These include:

  • helping persons subject to EU restrictive measures to bypass a travel ban
  • trading sanctioned goods and running transactions with states or entities which are hit by EU restrictive measures
  • providing financial services or performing financial activities which are prohibited or restricted
  • covering up the ownership of funds or economic resources by a person, entity or body which is sanctioned by the EU

Inciting, aiding and abetting these offences will also be punishable as a crime.

Trafficking in war materials will be a criminal offense if committed intentionally, but also in case of serious negligence.

Member states should ensure that violations of EU sanctions are punishable by effective and proportionate criminal penalties that vary according to the offense. However, intentional violation of sanctions should result in imprisonment as a maximum penalty. Violators of EU restrictive measures may be additionally fined.

Legal entities (i.e. companies) can also be held liable if the crime is committed by a person holding a senior position in the organization. In such cases, sanctions may include disqualification from business activities and revocation of permits and authorizations to conduct economic activities.

The Directive will enter into force on the twentieth day after publication in the Official Journal of the EU. Member states have 12 months to transpose the provisions of the Directive into their national law.

Author – Anastasiya Glotova, 12/04/2024

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