Firms should avoid pitfalls of sanctions against Russia

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A YORKSHIRE law firm is warning companies to tread carefully to avoid falling foul of EU sanctions against Russia.

The full extent of the sanctions, imposed in response to the situation in eastern Ukraine, could catch companies unaware.

And with Russia earmarked by observers for economic expansion, many businesses may have long-standing relationships and long-term schemes in the pipeline, which could be affected by the crackdown.

Gareth Yates, a partner in the commercial team at Ward Hadaway, in Leeds, said: “Most people will be aware of sanctions against the export or import of military and defence equipment and expertise to and from Russia following the escalation of the political situation in eastern Ukraine.

“However, the fact that these EU-wide sanctions also cover activities in a wide range of additional fields has been less well publicised and, as such, may have gone unnoticed by some businesses.”

Latest Government guidance is that export licences are required for sending certain energy-related technology and equipment to Russia with licences unlikely to be granted for any projects involving deep water oil exploration and production.

Mr Yates added: “With licences also a prerequisite for providing technical assistance, brokering services, financing and financial assistance related to the sale, supply, transfer or export of these technologies to Russia, or for use in Russia, it is clear that these restrictions have the potential to impact on a wide range of businesses which may not have previously been affected by export control issues.”

The Government recently stressed the importance of UK companies keeping in line with the sanctions regime, which is enforced by HM Revenue and Customs, and the Border Agency.

The unlicensed export of controlled goods is a criminal offence, and “serious and deliberate evasion” of those controls may lead to companies and their directors being prosecuted.

The Government has issued guidelines, but has said businesses needing legal advice should “make their own arrangements”.

Ward Hadaway is hosting a series of seminars organised by defence sector trade industry body NDI in the autumn addressing the issue of export controls.

For details, visit www.ndi.org.uk