Amsterdam Dean: Lawyers should be careful about sanctions against Russia

Lawyers in Amsterdam should be very careful in the coming period for requests from Russian sources that may aim to evade sanctions against Russia. Amsterdam Dean Evert Jan Henrix wrote this on Monday in a letter to all 6,000 lawyers in his district.

According to Henrix, the (economic) sanctions imposed by the European Union, the United States and the United Kingdom on Russia after the invasion of Ukraine require “significantly increased vigilance on the part of all lawyers”. After all, sanctions affect not only the Russian Federation, but also “affiliated parties”, such as “a number of Russian persons, banks and organizations”.

Zuidas is a popular place to store Russian (financial) interests. In the Netherlands, at least, Houthoff is known to have several important Russian customers, including the Russian Federation, Gazprom and Vimpelcom. Last year, Follow The Money wrote an extensive article about Houthoff’s Russian clients titled “The Kremlin on the Zuids”† One of the prominent issues in which Hothov has been defending Russian interests since the years is the multibillion-dollar dispute over the Russian energy company Yukos, which was confiscated by the state. Three former shareholders are claiming a total of about 50 billion euros from the Dutch court.

But in his letter, Henrichs wants to keep all lawyers in his area on alert. “Lawyers should be aware that attempts to circumvent the sanctions will be made in the coming days and they will be required to do so,” the dean wrote. “This can include transactions that involve a shift in interests, appointments that are changed or cancelled, and payments that are being transferred.”

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Accurate identity checks

However you have to at least be careful, the blanket wants to say. Therefore lawyers and their offices (Zuidas) must be more vigilant than usual when accepting assignments or continuing existing assignments. Lawyers will have to conduct extensive identity checks in new cases, as usual, as provided by Wwft and the Legal Profession (Voda) regulations.

In current cases, changing circumstances – such as a change in sanctions legislation – can suddenly lead to more or stricter due diligence towards clients, for example in the validity of the data provided, the identity of clients or intermediaries and, Last but not leastwhether the requested service is acceptable at all.

Circumvention is illegal

Henrichs cautions that Voda is clear about the lawyers’ involvement in illegal activities. If there is evidence that the attorney’s services help prepare for or protect against illegal activities, the service should be refused or immediately terminated. If this does not happen, the attorney risks at least serious disciplinary consequences.

“Sanction evasion is definitely an illegal activity,” Henrix said. “And because the presence of indications is sufficient to refuse or terminate the assignment, great restraint is required in accepting or continuing the assignments.” The President also urgently calls on the legal profession to monitor the current situation regarding sanctions against Russia, and promptly report unusual transactions to the Financial Unit of the Netherlands (FIU) in cases subject to Wwft.

thick sandwich

There is also one direct call from the managing partner to the corporate legal profession: Jan Padberg (HVG Law) He writes on LinkedIn It is a “fact” that the Zuids family “deserves a big sandwich” from the Russian state’s advice. “I make an urgent appeal to the legal profession, the documentation profession and other providers of business services to immediately cease their activities for clients directly or indirectly connected with the Russian state. The time for an opportunistic approach is really over! What are you doing?”

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Baker McKenzie has the answer from its Chicago headquarters: One of the world’s largest international offices (more than three billion in annual turnover) is preparing to cut ties with some high-profile Russian clients, Bloomberg Law reports. Among these customers are Gazprom and the Russian State Bank VTB.

Megan Vasquez

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