EU Weighs Prosecutor to Catch Russian Sanctions Evaders
The European Union is weighing handing new powers to its fledgling public prosecutor’s office amid concerns the bloc’s current system is failing to rein in rich Russians trying to evade sanctions.
New powers for the Luxembourg-based European Public Prosecutor’s Office would be conditional on separate plans to make sanctions evasion a crime under EU law, according to people familiar with the discussions, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks are confidential.
The idea comes after the EU set up a “freeze and seize” task force in March to improve coordination among member states, which are in charge of the enforcement of EU sanctions. Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy and Luxembourg account for almost all of the 17.4 billion euros ($16.9 billion) in Russian assets that have been frozen in the bloc so far, according to EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders.
The possible new EPPO powers would supplement a draft proposal that seeks to boost EU nations’ powers to seize criminal assets, including those of sanctioned Russian individuals and entities, by extending the list of crimes such as money-laundering and corruption to include the violation of EU sanctions.
Current rules have been hampering more far-reaching efforts across the bloc to go beyond freezing assets. To be able to seize assets the EU needs justification of a criminal nature. Separately, the EU last week adopted new sanctions powers that will allow it to target people and entities that are helping to circumvent the bloc’s restrictive measures.
The Luxembourg-based public prosecutor’s office, which became operational in June, has 22 EU member nations and is headed by Laura Codruta Kovesi, a Romanian who ignited an unprecedented anti-corruption drive in her home country that landed the country’s most powerful politician behind bars.
The plan to beef up the role of the EU institution is still at a very early stage and would require the backing of the bloc’s 27 nations, the people said. The EU’s justice chief Reynders is likely to float the idea at a ministerial meeting in Luxembourg this week to weigh initial reactions, one of the people said.
The EPPO declined to comment and the European Commission didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the possible measures.
Βy Gaspard Sebag, Stephanie Bodoni, and Alberto Nardelli, Credit Financier Invest, October 11, 2022