Sanctions Round-Up: April 2021
On 26th April, the United Kingdom launched its new global anti-corruption sanctions regime, giving the treasury “unprecedented power to stop corrupt actors profiting from the UK economy”. Its primary purpose is “to prevent and combat serious corruption” around the world. According to the foreign office, “the measures are deliberately targeted, so the UK can impose sanctions on corrupt individuals and their enablers, rather than entire nations”.
Of the 22 individuals targeted in this first batch of designations, five are related to Africa. These include Gupta brothers Ajay, Atul and Rajesh, as well as their associate Salim Essa, for being “at the heart of a long-running process of corruption” in South Africa. The other is Sudanese businessman Ashraf Seed Ahmed Hussein Ali (widely known as “Al Cardinal”). He is being targeted by the UK for “his involvement in the misappropriation of significant amounts of state assets […] in collusion with South Sudanese elites”.
The Guptas, who are Indian nationals that arrived in South Africa in 1993, were previously sanctioned by the United States Treasury in October 2019, alongside Mr Essa, accused of using their friendship with former president Jacob Zuma to “engage in widespread corruption and bribery, capture government contracts, and misappropriate state assets”. Mr Essa is a South African national and business partner of the brothers. He is also accused of being “involved in serious corruption”.
Meanwhile, Al Cardinal, a Sudanese national, is alleged to have been “involved in serious corruption in South Sudan involving the misappropriation of state property”. He and his financial network were previously targeted by the US for helping “senior South Sudanese” officials evade American sanctions. This includes his UK-based company, Nabah Ltd, which was blacklisted in September 2020.
Reacting to the UK’s measures, both the US State Department and the US Treasury welcomed the introduction of the new regime. It should be noted that the US includes both global human rights and global anti-corruption under the scope of its Global Magnitsky programme, whereas the UK has chosen to create a separate programme for each of these remits.
The European Union’s General Court, a component of the Court of Justice, annulled the Council of the EU’s restrictive measures against Aisha Gaddafi, daughter of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. This ruling concerns her maintenance on the council’s sanctions list, implemented through acts in 2017 and 2020. She previously had her maintenance in a similar 2014 act annulled by the same court in 2017.
Siding with Ms Gaddafi, the court ruled that her retentions on the list in 2017 and 2020 contained no justification for her continued inclusion, besides those submitted for her original listing in 2011. Therefore, it found that the council did not meet its obligation to establish a sufficiently solid factual basis for the retentions. On this, the court deemed that public statements made by Ms Gaddafi in 2011 and 2013 were not sufficient to explain why she continued to pose a risk to international peace and security in the region in 2017 and 2020.
As a result, Ms Gaddafi’s inclusions in the 2017 and 2020 acts have been annulled, although the court ordered the effects of the 2020 act to be maintained until the expiry date for appeal has passed, or until an appeal case has been heard. It is not clear whether the council, which has also been ordered to pay the case’s costs, plans to appeal or not.
Consequently, barring any successful appeal, Ms Gaddafi will no longer be subjected to EU sanctions. It is worth noting that her original 2011 listing has not been annulled, but rather her maintenance in subsequent listings. Additionally, it appears that this judgement does not affect her listing by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), from which the EU listing was derived.
Ms Gaddafi was amongst five members of the family targeted by UNSC sanctions in February 2011, alongside her father and three of her brothers. Later in the year, she and several of her relatives fled to Algeria as rebels began to overrun her father’s regime. In 2013, she was granted asylum by Oman, having been reportedly told to leave by Algerian authorities.
Separately, the UNSC amended two entries on its Libyan sanctions list. The minor administrative amendments, made on 29th April, mean that both individuals are still subject to sanctions. The following day, both the UK’s Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI) and the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) adjusted their listings accordingly.
One of the targets was Muhammad Gaddafi, the eldest of Muammar Gaddafi’s sons, who reportedly escaped from captivity by rebel forces during the First Libyan Civil War, before fleeing to Algeria alongside his sister, Aisha. He was amongst those granted asylum by Oman in 2013. Mr Gaddafi was first listed by the UNSC in 2011.
The other individual was Abd al-Rahman al-Milad, the former commander of the coast guard in the Libyan town of Zawiya. He was first sanctioned alongside five others in June 2018, having been accused by the UNSC of being “directly involved in the sinking of migrants boats using firearms” and committing other abuses against migrants at a detention centre in Zawiya. In October 2020, it emerged that he had been detained in Tripoli by Libyan authorities.
Elsewhere, on 16th April the UNSC extended measures against illicit petroleum exports – including crude oil – from Libya, as well as the mandate of the panel of experts overseeing the process. The ban and the panel’s mandate are now set to expire respectively on 30th July 2022 and 15th August 2022. The restrictive measures were first introduced in UNSC Resolution 2146 (2014), which came in support of the country’s government against “criminals embezzling Libya’s natural resources”.
On 16th April, the US State Department imposed visa restrictions on unnamed individuals accused of “undermining the democratic process in Uganda”. This is with regards to the country’s January general election and its preceding campaign period. According to the department, Ugandan security forces “were responsible for the deaths and injuries of dozens of innocent bystanders and opposition supporters, as well as violence against journalists” during this period.
The election, which saw long-serving President Yoweri Museveni controversially re-elected for a sixth term in office, was characterised by “widespread violence and human rights abuses”, according to NGOs. Accusations of “widespread fraud” were made by the president’s main opponent, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu (better known as Bobi Wine), amid concerns raised by the international community.
In announcing the measures, the State Department called on the Ugandan government to “significantly improve its record and hold accountable those responsible for flawed election conduct, violence, and intimidation”. It will also evaluate “additional restrictions” against those it deems “complicit in undermining democracy and human rights” in the country.
International Criminal Court
President Joe Biden issued Executive Order 14022 on 1st April, reversing the US’s sanctions regime against the International Criminal Court (ICC). The White House explained that, while the administration still objects to the court’s “assertations of jurisdiction” over the US and its allies, financial sanctions are “not an effective or appropriate strategy” to address those concerns. Accordingly, the national emergency declared by President Donald Trump in EO 13928 of June 2020 has been terminated.
As a result of this policy reversal, the listings of Fatou Bensouda and Phakiso Mochochoko have been removed. The US had designated both individuals in September 2020, following a prolonged dispute over the court’s intention to investigate American personnel. On 2nd April, the State Department also lifted a separate 2019 policy that imposed visa restrictions on certain ICC personnel.
Central African Republic
On 5th April, the UNSC removed an entry from its Central African Republic (CAR) sanctions list. The company, Bureau d’achat de Diamant en Centrafrique (Badica), a diamond trader, was jointly listed alongside its Belgian sister company, Kardiam. The delisting was replicated by both OFSI and SECO the following day. Consequently, both Badica and Kardiam are no longer subject to UNSC, UK or Swiss sanctions.
The company was first blacklisted in August 2015, after the UNSC accused it of providing support to armed groups in CAR through illegal diamond and gold trading. The same month, the US’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) added both entities to its own CAR sanctions list. It accused Badica of buying rough diamonds from mines under Séléka control and smuggling them out of the country to Kardiam. OFAC also alleged that Badica and its affiliates “made illicit payments” to the Séléka in order to fulfil this process. It appears that the US sanctions are still in force.
In July 2017, the EU’s General Court upheld their inclusion in the EU’s CAR sanctions regime, rejecting the companies’ view that the accusations against them had not been sufficiently proven. It remains unclear as to why the UNSC approved last month’s delisting.
OFSI has amended its listing of Noureddine Ben Ali Ben Belkassem al-Drissi, a Tunisian national. This individual was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment in Italy for international terrorism in 2008, before being deported to Tunisia in 2013. The amendment was made on 1st April to correct his Italian address. As a result, he is still subject to an asset freeze.
Mr al-Drissi was first listed by the UNSC and OFSI in November 2003. In his UNSC designation, he was accused of being a member of an al-Qaida-linked terror cell based in Milan, in which he allegedly played a role in “obtaining forged documents to allow terrorists to travel in Europe and the Middle East”. He was also accused of associating with Ansar al-Islam in Iraqi Kurdistan during the early 2000s.
On 1st April, President Biden continued the US’s national emergency with respect to Somalia by 12 months. In notifying Congress of this action, the president reasoned that the emergency must be extended because the situation in Somalia “continues to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy” of the US. It was first declared in 2010 and then expanded in 2012 by President Barack Obama.