The European Commission is working on regulations that will give countries more options to seize the yachts or homes of Russian oligarchs. Currently, in many countries, this is only possible if the owner has committed a crime. Things are now frozen, but that doesn’t take away all rights of the owner.
Since the start of the war in Ukraine, the European Commission has already issued five sanctions packages against Russian companies and public figures. A sixth is under development, but no agreement has yet been reached.
These sanctions also required countries to freeze the assets of a number of particularly wealthy Russians. As a result, owners have fewer options. For example, notaries and brokers are no longer allowed to provide services to owners of frozen real estate or ships cannot be transferred to their owner. Frozen properties are also not allowed to be sold, but in some countries they can still be used.
This freeze is easier said than done, as many oligarchs have transferred assets to relatives in recent months so that they are not subject to sanctions.
Circumvention of sanctions should become a crime
This is why the Commission wants to make deliberate circumvention of sanctions a crime, European Commissioner Didier Reynders (Justice) said on Wednesday. As a result, the transferred property is again examined and may even be confiscated.
When a government seizes something, it becomes the property of that government. They can then do what they want with it and even sell some or all of it. The intention of the European Commission is that the proceeds from any sale of the goods be used for the reconstruction of Ukraine.
The rules would also apply to people sanctioned in previous crises, such as Iran or North Korea.
The plan would be officially presented on May 25, but all member states must first agree. For some countries, it is difficult to implement reforms, which means that their entire legal system must be overhauled.
In the Netherlands, around 20 yachts belonging to Russian celebrities have so far been frozen.