The European Commission’s ‘Freeze and Seize’ Task Force, set up to ensure EU-level coordination to implement sanctions against listed Russian and Belarussian oligarchs, has now stepped up its action at international level. It will work alongside the newly established ‘Russian Elites, Proxies, and Oligarchs (REPO)’ Task Force, under which the EU operates together with the G7 countries Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as Australia. Cooperation between the European ‘Freeze and Seize’ Task Force and the international ‘REPO’ Task Force is essential to guarantee the efficiency of the sanctions taken on both sides of the Atlantic. The Commission is committed to work closely and coordinate with its partners to ensure effective cooperation on a global level.
Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, said: “This coordination will make the prosecution of the listed Russian and Belarussian oligarchs in the Union a concrete possibility. Such initiatives are vital to achieve the rapid freezing and confiscation of the assets owned by individuals and entities targeted by the sanctions. We must therefore continue to step up our work together to identify oligarchs who help finance or organise actions in Ukraine, or who pursue illegal activities on the territory of the Union. Our joint action can make a difference globally. It truly shows solidarity and unity in the face of war”.
Commissioner for Financial Services, Financial Stability and Capital Markets Union, Mairead McGuinness, emphasised that: “Our combined measures are having a significant impact – the Russian economy is in free fall. G7 Justice and Finance Ministers committed to the important task of identifying entities and individuals listed across jurisdictions. We need to ensure that those who provide services – financial, legal and others – to oligarchs to facilitate sanctions evasion are fully aware of the risks they run. We will investigate any and all efforts to breach our sanctions legislation and there will be consequences for violations. The focus of our work is to stop money flowing to the Russian war machine. Wealthy oligarchs supporting the Russian war machine need to know that they will not find any safe haven in the EU or elsewhere”.
The ‘Freeze and Seize’ Task Force was set up by the European Commission to ensure the efficient implementation of the EU sanctions against listed Russian and Belarussian oligarch across the EU.
The ‘Freeze and Seize’ Task Force is composed of the Commission, national contact points from each Member State, Eurojust and Europol as well as other EU agencies and bodies as necessary. It will coordinate actions by EU Member States, Eurojust, Europol and other agencies to seize and, where national law allows provides for it, confiscate assets of Russian and Belarussian oligarchs. While the Commission provides strategic coordination, Eurojust and Europol are best placed to ensure operational coordination. The first meeting of the ‘Freeze and Seize’ Task Force took place on 11 March and was chaired by Commissioner Reynders.
Member States explained the measures already taken, the situation on ongoing judicial proceedings and the possibilities for the confiscation of assets under the appropriate legal bases. The first meeting was welcomed by all EU Member States. On 18 March, a second meeting will take place where the participating parties will further discuss their coordination. The Task Force is set to meet weekly. However, the Task Force will reassess this need and will convene other meetings as necessary.
Within the remit of EU sanctions, all assets belonging or controlled by listed persons must be frozen. Today 877 individuals and 62 entities are subject to an asset freeze under EU sanctions in the context of the Russian aggression to Ukraine.
The ‘Freeze and Seize’ Task Force will play an important role in information sharing within the EU and it aims to go one step further: it will coordinate actions by Member States to seize and, where the national law calls for it, confiscate assets of the listed Russian and Belarussian oligarchs. For this purpose, the Task Force will seek coordinated actions between Member States, Eurojust, Europol and other agencies as necessary.
In addition to the European Task Force, there is also the ‘Russian Elites, Proxies, and Oligarchs (REPO)’ Task Force. On Wednesday, 16 March, a ministerial meeting decided on the creation of this international Task Force to ensure the effective implementation of the sanctions, to assist other cooperating nations to locate and freeze assets and to determine the possibility to forfeiture the frozen assets. The participants are the G7 countries, Australia and the European Union.