Companies circumvent Russia sanctions by exporting to third countries: 45 criminal investigations

It’s been a year since Russia attacked Ukraine. Since then, the EU has imposed sanctions against Russia, but according to the Public Prosecution Service (OM), an increasing number of companies and stakeholders have been able to successfully circumvent the sanctions. In the first year of sanctions against Russia alone, about 45 criminal investigations have been initiated, reported RTL Nieuws.

Of the 45 ongoing criminal investigations, 29 involve violations of import and export sanctions. The remaining investigations relate to violations of financial sanctions.

For example, in 375 cases, Dutch customs discovered various military goods and helicopter parts in addition to luxury goods when transporting goods to Belarus and Russia. This was noticed during additional checks during the first year of sanctions against Russia, according to the news program.

So far, however, only one complaint could result from the criminal investigation, as in the case of Dutch-Russian Dimitry K., who was suspected of exporting microchips and drones to Russia, and managed to circumvent the European sanctions against the country by exporting the illicit goods through third countries, such as Kazakhstan.

According to the OM, the key to circumventing the sanctions is to transport goods to countries that are close to Russia. This is because even though exports from EU countries to Russia have fallen sharply since the sanctions, the same is not true for exports to countries close to Russia. Indeed, there is an increase in exports there, as shown by the trade figures of the United Nations. Between March and November 2022 alone, there was a 142 percent increase in exports from the Netherlands compared to 2021, with Kyrgyzstan as the export destination. Interestingly, since then, the increase in exports from Kyrgyzstan to Russia has also increased by 233 percent. This could indicate that sanctions regulations are being circumvented, according to RTL Nieuws.

In general, the Public Prosecution Service suspects that there will be more companies circumventing the sanctions. “It is to be expected that the circumvention of the sanctions will increase the longer the sanctions last,” press officer Els Martens told RTL Nieuws.

One problem with combating these violations is that it is difficult to prove these fraudulent schemes. Press officer Martens told RTL Nieuws that “It is complicated to prove that goods are destined for Russia if the consignment notes state that they are going to another country. Then we have to demonstrate that it is actually a sham construction. And that those things are ultimately destined for Russia are intended. It is complex to find out.”

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