Sanctions & Export Controls: Dutch journalists and authorities uncover alleged multi-million circumvention scheme of the EU-Russia sanctions regime

In the Netherlands, journalists have uncovered an alleged circumvention scheme valued in the millions of Euros of the sanctions by the European Union (“EU”) against Russia. At the European level, the approval of the 12th sanctions package has broadened the already extensive EU-Russia sanctions regime. Additionally, the EU has imposed further sanctions on several individuals and entities involved in acts of terrorism, including the leader of Hamas. The General Court of the European Union (the “Court“) dismissed Roman Abramovich’s challenge of his inclusion in the EU sanctions list whereas the Court annulled the listing of Sergei Mndoiants.

In the United Kingdom (“UK“), new sanctions against Russia have been implemented, accompanied by the introduction of two general licenses. Meanwhile, in the United States (“US“), sanctions related to Iran’s UAV network have been imposed, alongside an expansion of sanctions against Russia and the sanctioning of Houthi financiers. For a comprehensive overview of these developments and more, please refer to this newsletter.

All of this and more can be found in this newsletter. 


  • Netherlands – On 16 December 2023, the Dutch news program “Nieuwsuur” reported that a Dutch company owned by a Russian individual had (indirectly) sent millions of euros worth of sanctioned technology to Russia over a period of eighteen (18) months. It has been reported by Nieuwsuur that the company may have violated the EU-Russia sanctions regime by falsely stating that sanctioned technology would be transported to a company in Dubai or Hong Kong. The technology was transported through Russian territory, but Russian customs data indicates that the technology never reached their intended destinations in Hong Kong and Dubai and were halted in Russia instead. Consequently, it is alleged that the sanctioned technology was actually meant for use in Russia, which violates EU sanctions. On 23 January 2024, it was announced that the Dutch investigative authorities made several arrests in relation to this alleged circumvention of the EU-Russia sanctions regime.

  • Netherlands – On 1 January 2024, it was publicly disclosed that in late 2023, Dutch authorities revoked an export licence for the shipment of NXT:2050i and NXT:2100i lithography systems. This decision had repercussions for a limited number of AMSL customers in China. According to undisclosed sources, there were claims that US officials exerted pressure on the Dutch Government to annul these licences related to certain Chinese supplies. Consequently, the Dutch government acceded to this request.


A. European Union 

  • EU (The EU adopts its 12th sanctions package) -On 18 December 2023, the EU published the
    twelfth sanctions package against Russia for its continued illegal war against Ukraine. New
    sanctions have been imposed on Russia, which include:
    • import restrictions on various goods such as diamonds, liquid petroleum, raw materials for steel production, processed aluminium products, and other metal goods.
    • export restrictions on advanced technological and industrial goods that could be used for both civilian and military purposes (dual-use items).
    • an expansion of the list of entities linked to Russia’s military-industrial complex, including entities registered in Uzbekistan and Singapore.
    • in the battle against circumvention, the EU Council has broadened the scope of the transit prohibition through Russia by adding certain economically critical goods for export to third countries. Operators must now prohibit the re-export of certain sensitive goods to Russia, and
    • the introduction of a new measure that will require the notification of certain transfers of funds out of the EU from EU entities directly or indirectly owned over 40% by Russians or entities established in Russia.
    • sixty-one (61) new individuals and eighty-six (86) entities have been added to Annex I of Regulation 269/2014, imposing an asset freeze on these individuals and the assets owned, held or controlled by these individuals. Most of the names include those involved in the military, defence, IT and other important economic sectors in Russia.

  • EU (Listing of Mr Roman Abramovich Upheld) -On 20 December 2023, the Court dismissed the action brought by Mr Roman Abramovich (“Abramovich”), thereby upholding the restrictive measures taken against him. Abramovich had filed a legal challenge against the inclusion and maintenance of his name on the lists of persons and entities subject to an asset freeze. However, the Court dismissed the action brought by Abramovich, thereby upholding the restrictive measures taken against him. The Court concluded that the Council did not err when it decided to include Abramovich in the list of designated persons. Furthermore, the Court finds that the inclusion and maintenance of Abramovich’s name on the lists at issue do not constitute an unjustified and disproportionate infringement of his fundamental rights, which include, in particular, the right to respect for private and family life, the freedom to conduct a business and free movement.

  • EU (Successful appeal by Sergei Mndoiants) – On 20 December 2023, the Court invalidated the inclusion of Mr Sergei Mndoiants (“Mndoiants”) in the EU sanctions list. Mndoiants was added to the sanctions list on 8 April 2022, on the grounds that he held the position of Vice President in the Russian conglomerate AFK Sistema PAO, worked at the Russian consulting company VML Invest, and was a member of the Board of Directors of the Council For Foreign and Defence Policy, which is a think-tank that advises the Russian government on foreign and defence policy. Mr Mndoiants appealed against the decision, and the Court found that “it must be concluded that the Council did not provide a body of evidence that was specific, precise, and consistent enough to demonstrate that the applicant was a powerful businessman who worked in economic sectors that provided a substantial source of income to the Russian government on the date when the initial acts were adopted.”

  • EU (Listing of Alrosa and Alekseevich Marinychev) – On 3 January 2024, the EU imposed new restrictions against one person and one company for their involvement in activities that pose a threat to the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence of Ukraine. The targeted company is PJSC Alrosa, the world’s largest diamond-mining corporation, owned by the Russian state and responsible for over 90% of Russia’s diamond production. The sanctions also apply to the CEO of PJSC Alrosa, Pavel Alekseevich Marinychev. The Russian government relies heavily on the revenues generated by the diamond industry, and PJSC Alrosa plays a significant role in this sector.

  • EU (Adoption of Terrorism Sanctions) – On 16 January 2024, the EU adopted Council Implementing Regulation (EU) 2024/329 implementing Article 2(3) of Regulation (EC) No 2580/2001 on specific restrictive measures directed against certain persons and entities with a view to combating terrorism. Pursuant to this Regulation, sixteen (16) individuals and twenty-one groups and entities have been added to the EU’s sanctions list. Amongst these individuals is Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas, who has been added to the EU sanctions list in response to Hamas’ terror attack on Israel on 7 October 2023.

B. United Kingdom  

  • UK (The UK introduces new sanctions against Russia and two general licences) – On December 14, 2023, the UK government passed a law that imposes more sanctions on goods, technology, and funding that could support Russia in its war against Ukraine. The new sanctions expand the list of goods that are subject to export restrictions. The list includes a wide range of items, such as computers and smartphones. Essentially, only low-risk humanitarian, food, and health exports will remain unaffected by the sanctions. Additionally, the UK government is planning to introduce separate legislation to ban the import of diamonds from Russia. They also plan to prohibit ancillary services related to metals once they can do so in conjunction with international partners. The Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation has issued two new general licenses. These licenses allow a UK credit or financial institution to process payments from or via newly designated banks, as well as permit the processing of non-sterling payments from or via Sberbank. Certain persons under specified conditions may also acquire metal warrants directly or indirectly on a global metal exchange.


  • US (Sanctions imposed in relation to Iran’s UAV network) – On 19 December 2023, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) imposed sanctions on ten entities and four individuals based in Iran, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Indonesia supporting Iran’s unmanned aerial vehicle production. This network, led by Iran-based Hossein Hatefi Ardakani, has facilitated the procurement of U.S.- and foreign-origin components worth hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps

  • US (Price cap evaders sanctioned) – On 20 December 2023, OFAC further tightened its enforcement of the price cap on Russian oil by building on previous actions by targeting shipowners and vessels implicated in transporting Russian crude oil above the cap. These parties include United Arab Emirates-based and Hong Kong-based companies. As a result of the sanctions, all property and interests in property of these parties that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. In addition, any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by one or more blocked persons are also blocked. All transactions by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of designated or blocked persons are prohibited unless authorized by a general or specific license issued by OFAC, or exempt.

  • US (Executive Order on Taking Additional Steps With Respect to the Russian Federation’s Harmful Activities) – On 22 December 2023, the United States issued a new Executive Order to further target Russia’s evasion of US sanctions and export controls. This order primarily includes a provision to deter foreign financial institutions from facilitating significant transactions involving Russia’s military-industrial base, by adding a new section 11 that authorizes OFAC to impose sanctions on foreign financial institutions (FFIs) for the following actions:
    • 1. Conducting or facilitating significant transactions on behalf of individuals or entities designated for operating or having operated in key sectors of the Russian economy that support the country’s military-industrial base. These key sectors include technology, defence and related materiel, construction, aerospace, manufacturing, and any additional sectors as determined by the Treasury to be part of the military-industrial base.
    • 2. Conducting or facilitating significant transactions or providing services involving Russia’s military-industrial base, including the sale, supply, or transfer of items identified by the Treasury, either directly or indirectly to Russia.

  • US (Sanctions on Houthi financial facilitators) – On 12 January 2024, OFAC imposed sanctions on four tankers and two companies due to the financing of the Houthi rebels in Yemen. The UAE-based Global Tech Marine Services and Hong Kong-based Cielo Maritime were accused of shipping Iranian commodities on behalf of the Houthi financial facilitator Sa’id al-Jamal, who is backed by the network of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF).

  • US (Likely Higher Penalties for US Export Control Violations) – On 17 January 2024, a top US official announced that businesses should anticipate receiving significantly higher penalties for violating US export controls. The US government has implemented a series of new export controls aimed at preventing Russia from acquiring materials that could be used to support its ongoing war in Ukraine, and also to restrict China’s access to advanced semiconductors that may have potential military applications. Through the implementation of these higher penalties, the US hopes to limit the ability of both Russia and China to obtain certain sensitive technologies.


Should you wish to receive more information about one of the topics described in this newsletter, please contact BenninkAmar Advocaten via e-mail at or via telephone at +31203085918. 

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