Sanctions & Export Controls: A Peek Behind the Scenes of the Dutch Customs

Each year Dutch governmental organisations publish their annual reports. In April 2020 and June 2020, the Dutch Military Intelligence & Security Service and the Dutch Customs, published theirs. In the US, Secretary of State Pompeo announced the latest round of US sanctions against Syria. This, and more, in this newsletter.

The Netherlands: Annual Reports MIVD & Dutch Customs

In a Notice about the “Geopolitical Consequences of the Corona Crisis” (published on 15 June 2020), Dutch professor Rob de Wijk and founder of the The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (“HCSS”) says that countries like China are expecting to take advantage of the fact that the Western world, is weakening. On 30 April 2020, the Dutch Military Intelligence & Security Service (“MIVD”) published its annual report of the year 2019. In its report the MIVD says Russia, China, Iran, Syria, Pakistan and North Korea are looking for knowledge and goods in the Netherlands and other Western countries, so they can use this knowledge and goods in their own weapon programs. According to the annual report, the MIVD, together with the Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service (“AIVD”), is currently investigating, how these countries are attempting to obtain this knowledge and goods.

Also, the Dutch Customs published its annual report of the year 2019. On 9 June 2020, the Dutch Customs sheds a light, on how it enforces sanctions legislation. The Dutch Customs use risk profiles. If a customs officer comes across goods destined for a sanctioned country all signals [quote] “will turn red” [unquote]. Next, a specialized “source of information” within his region will be informed, who will in turn notify the Central Import and Export Service (“CDIU”). The CDIU will suspend such a shipment if suspicious cargo is suspected, and will send someone from Team Precursors, Origin, Strategic goods and Sanctions legislation (“POSS”) to the market party that has declared or wants to export the goods as soon as possible. The findings of this visit will be discussed with an account manager of the Dutch Customs. After that, there are various options. In case of serious violations, the Dutch Customs can, in consultation with the public prosecutor, have the load seized and start a criminal investigation.

Luxury Goods

In public and private circles, it is less known, that all kinds of luxury goods are often subject to sanctions and export controls legislation. “This is about depriving the top layer within such a society of certain things”, the annual report of the Dutch Customs states (p. 13). These luxury goods are listed on a list, which can differ greatly per country. For example, for North Korea the European Union (“EU”) has an extensive list, with items on it, like, horses, caviar, truffles, wines, beers, spirits, cigars, perfumes, and carpets (EU Council Regulation 2017/2062 of 13 November 2017). Also, for North Korea, products like electronic items for domestic use of a value exceeding EURO 50, are labelled as a “luxery good”.

Finance & (Crypto) Currencies

In 2014, the International Chamber of Commerce (“ICC”) published a guidance paper on the use of sanctions clauses in trade finance-related instruments, which are subject to the rules of the ICC. In May 2020, the ICC issued an addendum to this guidance paper. On 4 May 2020, the Dutch National Bank (“DNB”) published a news article stating that on 21 April 2020, a law was passed under which crypto service providers are subject to the supervision of DNB. According to the explanation of the registration form for crypto service providers, for a successful registration, adequate internal measures and controls to ensure compliance with relevant legislation must be demonstrated.


The European Commission (“EC”) lifted the export restrictions on personal protective equipment (“PPE”) that were introduced in March 2020, when the EU was struggling with shortages as it fought to control the COVID-19-pandemic. The EC said the temporary restrictions “ceased to apply” after they expired on 26 May 2020. On 28 May 2020, Advocate General (“AG”) Hogan gave his Opinion in an appeal concerning the jurisdiction of the European court to grant damages against EU institutions for unlawful sanctions listings (C-134/19 P, Bank Refah Kargaran v Council). AG Hogan looked into the jurisdiction of the EU-Court to hear an action seeking compensation. In this case, the compensation for the damage was suffered by the applicant as a result of the inclusion of its name in various lists of restrictive measures. On 11 June 2020, the European Commission (“EC”) recommended to its Member States to lift internal border controls by 15 June 2020 and to prolong the temporary restriction on non-essential travel into the European Union until 30 June 2020, and sets out an approach to progressively lifting the restriction afterwards.

Maritime Sector: Global Shipping

On 1 June 2020, news agency Reuters published an article stating that Panama’s Maritime Authority said it will impose sanctions on vessels, including fines of up to $10,000 and withdrawing its flag from the ship, if these ships deliberately deactivate, tamper or alter the operation of their tracking transponders. On 2 June 2020 the Department of the Treasury of the United States of America (“US”) targeted several maritime entities for supporting the Maduro regime in the oil trade of Venezuela. The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) designated four companies for operating in the oil sector of the Venezuelan economy. Additionally, OFAC identified four vessels as blocked property. According to a 12 June 2020 news article of Reuters, the US is currently investigating a Venezuelan shipping magnate for the possible violation of US sanctions by bringing fuel to Venezuela. That same week – on 8 June 2020 – US-sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (“IRISL”) and its Shanghai-based subsidiary, E-Sail Shipping Company Ltd (“E-Sail”) came into effect. Six months earlier, on 11 December 2019, the sanctions were announced by the US Department of State and the US Department of the Treasury and target a total of 121 tankers, containerships, and other vessels. On 5 June 2020, the United Nations Security Council (“UNSC”) announced it had unanimously decided to extend for one year a series of authorizations for Member States to inspect vessels on the seas off the coast of Libya suspected of violating that country’s arms embargo.

Around the globe

On 4 June 2020, OFAC published Syria sanctions regulations. In June 2020, OFAC issued FAQs on sanctions on different sectors of the Iranian economy, such as the construction, mining, manufacturing, and textiles sectors. On 5 June 2020, UNICEF received permission from the UNSC to bypass global sanctions and bring otherwise banned supplies into North Korea for aid projects in the country. On 4 June 2020, five US senators introduced the “Protecting Europe’s Energy Security Clarification Act”. This bipartisan group introduced a bill that would expand sanctions on Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which has been the subject of international controversy since it was first announced in 2015, according to the Financial Times (press release 5 June 2020). On 11 June 2020, the US renewed is Belarus sanctions for one year. That same day (11 June 2020) US President Trump signed an Executive Order on blocking property of certain persons associated with the International Criminal Court (“ICC”). On 16 June 2020 US Secretary of State Pompeo announced the latest round of US sanctions against Syria. The sanctions target President Assad’s family, Syrian government officials and third-party entities aiding the Assad government.

If you want more information about one of the topics of this newsletter, such as the annual reports of the MIVD and the Dutch Customs, or the fact that luxury goods are often subject to sanctions and export controls legislation, you can contact BenninkAmar Advocaten at:

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