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New unit to crack down on firms dodging Russian sanctions

  • Minister Ghani announces new Office of Trade Sanctions Implementation to strengthen enforcement and clamp down on companies dodging Russian sanctions
  • Unit will increase power to issue penalties for trade sanctions breaches and refer cases for criminal enforcement to HMRC
  • Goods imports from Russia already down 94% in the year following the full-scale invasion of Ukraine

Companies who are found to be dodging strict trade sanctions, including those imposed since the war in Ukraine, will face tougher penalties with the creation of a new Office of Trade Sanctions Implementation (OTSI).

Industry and Economic Security Minister Nusrat Ghani is today [11 December 2023] announcing the creation of a new unit to crack down on companies dodging Russian sanctions.

The OTSI will be responsible for the civil enforcement of trade sanctions, including those against Russia. The unit will help businesses comply with sanctions and investigate potential breaches, issuing civil penalties and referring cases to HMRC for criminal enforcement where needed.

Its remit will involve activity by companies who may be avoiding sanctions by sending products through other countries.

The news comes as the UK is expected to announce fresh sanctions targeting the latest items Ukraine has found on the battlefield such as machine parts and electronics, as well as products that raise revenue to fund Putin’s war machine.

Industry and Economic Security Minister Nusrat Ghani said:

Our package of sanctions, the most severe ever imposed on a major economy, is working – goods imports from Russia to the UK have already plummeted by 94%.

But we are leaving no stone unturned in our commitment to stopping Putin’s war machine. That means clamping down on sanctions evaders and starving Russia of the technologies and revenues it needs to continue its illegal invasion.

Today’s announcement will help us do that, and send a clear message to those breaking the rules that there is nowhere to hide.

The UK and our international partners have implemented the most severe package of sanctions ever imposed on a major economy, with an unprecedented £20 billion of UK-Russia goods trade now sanctioned. The evidence shows the sanctions are working, with UK-Russia trade falling to historic lows.

Sanctions Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said:

Today’s announcement will further strengthen the UK’s sanctions system and allow us to maximise the impact that trade sanctions have on those who continue to flout the global rules.

Without international sanctions, we estimate Russia would have over $400 billion more to fund the war, enough to fund the invasion for a further four years. We are hitting Russia where it hurts and starving Putin of the resources he needs to fund his illegal war on Ukraine.

OTSI will launch in early 2024 once the new legal requirements are in place and will reinforce existing work the government does to ensure UK trade sanctions are adhered to.

Background

  • reductions in UK goods imports from Russia calculated comparing March 2021 to February 2022 to March 2022 to February 2023