On 09/01/2024, the official hearing, yet unprecedented in the practice of challenging of restrictive measures of the European Union, took place in the Federal Public Service Finance (Treasury) of the Kingdom of Belgium. The regulator held an online hearing on the application of the credit institution, an L&P client, to “unfreeze” assets belonging to its private customers, citizens of Russia and Belarus, blocked in the account of a broker designated for EU restrictive measures with the Euroclear Bank.
During the hearing, Russian and Belgian attorneys productively used the opportunity to provide detailed oral explanations of their reasoning stated in the application to lift restrictions on the disposal of assets and authorize their transfer outside the “perimeter” of the European Union.
In her presentation, the official of the Treasury made a number of substantial points relevant to the resolution on a particular application, which should also be taken into account in future work on preparation of similar “unfreezing” applications.
First, according to the Belgian regulator, the lawful owners of blocked assets must present conclusive proof of termination of their business relationships with parties subject to the EU restrictive measures.
Second, credit institutions and other financial intermediaries are entitled to the right to file a single application to unfreeze assets for the benefit of multiple customers, provided that they disclose full and accurate information on identities and sanctions status of these customers to the regulator.
Third, the Treasury confirmed the possibility of transferring unblocked assets to accounts outside the territory of the EU Member States, subject to guarantees of the receiving credit institutions or brokers that these assets will not be made available to or otherwise benefit designated persons.
Four, multiple instances of unjustified association or confusion by the Treasury of different entities with similar names (both, applicants and other participants of asset ownership chains) having different standing in the context of applicability of restrictive measures were revealed, which often causes factual errors affecting the regulator’s decisions.