Today, the ‘Freeze and Seize Task Force’ is meeting with US and Ukrainian representatives to discuss international cooperation on the enforcement of sanctions.
The Task Force, set up by the Commission last month, has been meeting on a regular basis to ensure better coordination of the enforcement of EU sanctions against Russian and Belarusian individuals and companies. During this week’s meeting, the Task Force will be joined by the Head of US ‘KleptoCapture Task Force’ Andrew Adams, and the Deputy Assistant Attorney General and Counselor for International Affairs at the US Department of Justice Bruce Swartz as well as representatives of the Ukrainian authorities.
Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders said: ”In light of the atrocities committed by the Russian army, it is more urgent than ever to strengthen our cooperation within the EU and with our international partners, including the U.S. and Ukraine, and step up our efforts to stop the financing of the Kremlin’s war machine. But let me remind you that adopting sanctions is not enough. It is also important to track our progress and enforce our sanctions policy in practice. I urge all Member States to take all the necessary measures to enforce sanctions and those who have not done so yet to report to the Commission without delay”.
Commissioner for Financial Services, Financial Stability and Capital Markets Union, Mairead McGuinness said: “Sanctions are crucial for imposing economic pain on Putin’s regime and those complicit in the war. In the face of the Kremlin’s continued brutal aggression our determination to act decisively in support of Ukraine is a strong as ever. Through the Freeze and Seize Task Force and other fora we are coordinating our sanctions with international partners, not least with the US. But implementation is essential for sanctions to be effective on the ground –that is my key priority. We are working hand in hand with Member States to further increase reporting on assets frozen across the EU and sharing best practices, including with international partners. Unity is our strength, both within the EU and with our partners across the world. Together, we stand with Ukraine.”
Almost €30 billion of assets frozen so far
One of the aims of the Task Force is to explore the links between assets belonging to persons listed under EU sanctions and criminal activities. In this context, the Task Force requested all Member States to share information on the assets’ frozen so far in their respective jurisdictions. While work is ongoing and Member States are still in the process of compiling and sharing the information: so far, more than half of the Member States have reported to the Commission the measures taken to freeze assets. They informed about frozen assets worth €29.5 billion, including assets such as boats, helicopters, real estate and artwork, worth almost €6.7 billion. In addition, about €196 billion of transactions have been blocked.
The Task Force will continue to meet regularly, the next meeting will take place on Friday 22 April 2022.
Restrictive measures against listed individuals and companies are part of EU sanctions and decided by the Council and enacted by the Member States. Within the remit of EU sanctions, all assets belonging or controlled by listed persons must be frozen as a temporary administrative measure, without favour or prejudice.
Upon request of Member States’ authorities, Eurojust can coordinate the freezing of assets in an ongoing cross-border case. If assets affect the EU’s financial interests, the European Public Prosecutor’s Office would be competent to investigate and order the freezing of assets.
The Commission set up a ‘Freeze and Seize Task Force’ in March 2022 to ensure coordination among Member States in the enforcement of the Union sanctions against Russian and Belarussian listed individuals and companies, and to explore the interplay between sanctions and criminal law measures. The Task Force aims to provide a platform where Member States can explore whether any of the listed individuals or companies have been involved in criminal proceedings. It will coordinate actions by Member States to freeze and, where the law calls for it, confiscate assets of Russian and Belarussian oligarchs. Member States can also discuss within the Task Force whether any changes to EU legislation on sanctions and confiscation need to be considered.