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UK launches new unit to intensify pressure on Russian sanction evaders

The Office of Trade Sanctions Implementation is set to bolster enforcement of trade sanctions against Russia. Announced by Minister Nusrat Ghani, this unit will focus on civil enforcement, aiding compliance, and cracking down on sanction evasion.
Credit: King’s College London

The UK Government has announced the formation of a new unit, the Office of Trade Sanctions Implementation (OTSI), designed to intensify the enforcement of trade sanctions against Russia, targeting companies attempting to circumvent these measures. UK Industry and Economic Security Minister Nusrat Ghani announced this on 11 December.

The OTSI’s primary focus will be the civil enforcement of trade sanctions. It will aid businesses in adhering to these sanctions, investigating violations, issuing civil penalties, and referring cases to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) for criminal enforcement when necessary. The unit’s scope includes monitoring activities where companies might avoid sanctions by routing products through other countries.

Minister Ghani emphasized the effectiveness of the UK’s sanction regime, citing a significant 94% reduction in goods imports from Russia to the UK since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

“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%,” Ghani stated.

She stressed the government’s unwavering commitment to “stopping Putin’s war machine” by clamping down on those who evade sanctions, thus depriving Russia of the technologies and revenues needed to sustain its military actions in Ukraine.

This announcement aligns with the UK’s plan to introduce new sanctions targeting items recently found on Ukrainian battlefields and products that contribute financially to Russia’s military efforts. Sanctions Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan reinforced this commitment, stating, “Today’s announcement will further strengthen the UK’s sanctions system and allow us to maximize the impact that trade sanctions have on those who continue to flout the global rules.

Trevelyan also highlighted the significant economic impact of these sanctions, estimating that without them, Russia would have had access to an additional $400 billion to fund the war. “We are hitting Russia where it hurts and starving Putin of the resources he needs to fund his illegal war on Ukraine,” she added.

The OTSI is scheduled to launch in early 2024 once the necessary legal frameworks are in place. It will augment the UK government’s ongoing efforts to ensure compliance with trade sanctions, demonstrating a robust response to international law violations.

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