On 23 November 2017, a Dutch court fined Dutch transporting company U-Freight Holland B.V. EUR 50,000 for transiting military items to Russia. The director of the company was also prosecuted, but was acquitted as he was unaware of the transactions. On 17 March 2017, the Dutch company forwarded 2 defect radar systems from the Malaysian military via the Netherlands to Russia for repair. The freight was stopped at Dutch customs because, under the current European sanctions, which contain an arms embargo, it is prohibited to transit or export military items to Russia. The defence held up several arguments, mainly relating to the classification of the goods and the fact that the goods were ultimately not transited to Russia, as the were stopped prior to the transit. The court, however, rejects these arguments and holds the company liable for violation of the embargo. Interestingly, the court states that no transit license was available, whereas under the current embargo, a general prohibition of the export or transit of military items to Russia exists, so no license can be obtained at all. In a simultaneous case against the manager of the company, the manager was acquitted as he was unaware of the transit and e-mails related thereto has not reached the manager. As a result, he cannot be held criminally liable. The respective court cases can be found here and here.
This court case is one of many in the last year. In fact, three other transporting companies, including KLM, have been fined for violation of similar clauses. As we indicated before in our newsletters, the Dutch public prosecutor has become much more active in enforcement of export controls and sanctions regulations. B&A Law has represented successfully several companies in criminal cases last year, but was not involved in this case. It is important to have specialised knowledge of sanctions and export controls regulations in criminal cases like these in order to effectively address the indictment of the public prosecutor and to precisely guide the Dutch courts through the complex landscape of sanctions. Many of the recent Dutch judgements contain legal errors made by the courts. For companies subject to prosecution, addressing these possible errors in time can be crucial for the outcome of the case, but also for the quality of the Dutch case law on this subject.
Should you require further information about the case or wish to discuss any possible court case your company may face, please do not hesitate to contact us at + 020 260 0082 or at firstname.lastname@example.org