Latest EU Belarus Sanctions Target Aviation Industry
On 2 December 2021, the Council of the European Union (the Council) adopted its fifth sanctions package targeting individuals and entities in Belarus in response to human rights abuses and the orchestration of a migrant crisis at the Belarusian border with the EU1. In total, EU restrictive measures are currently applied to 183 individuals and 26 entities connected with the regime of Alexander Lukashenko, President of Belarus.
These latest measures have been adopted following a Council conclusion of October 2021, which had declared that the EU would respond to all attempts by third countries to instrumentalise migrants for political purposes. A further Council decision of 15 November 2021 enabled the European Commission (the Commission) to amend designation criteria and expand targeted restrictive measures to include individuals and entities that facilitate the illegal crossing of the EU's borders.
The legal foundation for restrictive measures against Belarus is Regulation 765/2006 (the Regulation) which;
- freezes all economic resources within the territory of the EU owned by designated persons and entities;
- prohibits EU citizens and companies from making available economic resources to these persons and entities; and
- prohibits the intentional circumvention of these restrictive measures.2
Article 8(a) of the Regulation empowers the Commission to amend the list of designated persons and entities on the basis of decisions taken by the Council, in line with the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy.
The latest measures target individuals and companies "that have helped incite and organise illegal border crossings through Belarus to the EU, and in this way participated in the instrumentalisation of migration for political purposes."3 Among the 17 individuals recently designated are judges, border guard officials and a senior state prosecutor.
In addition to the 17 individuals targeted, the EU has also designated two airlines which are alleged to have taken part in manufacturing the migrant crisis by assisting migrants to reach the EU-Belarusian border. These two airlines are Belavia Belarusian Airlines, the national flag carrier of Belarus, and Cham Wings Airlines, a charter airline which operates flights between Syria and Belarus.
It has been reported that up to 50% of the Belavia fleet of airplanes is managed through Irish aircraft leasing companies.4 This latest round of sanctions serves as a timely reminder to all Irish companies in the aircraft leasing sector to have robust policies and controls in place to manage their AML, ABC and international sanctions risks.
The United States (US), the United Kingdom (UK) and Canada have all joined the EU in imposing sanctions on Belarus. Of these, only the US has sanctioned entities in the aviation industry, adding one cargo airline (Transavia Export Airlines) and three individual aircraft to its SDN lists.5
In response to the European sanctions, Belarus announced on 6 December that it plans to retaliate by imposing restrictive measures of its own against air carriers from the EU and the UK, illustrating that this dispute could continue for some time and impact the aviation industry even further.
For further information on this topic, please contact Louise Byrne, Kate Harnett or any member of ALG's White Collar Crime team.
Date publishedL 9 December 2021