21st Oct 2016

Belarus oligarch wins EU sanction case in Lithuania court

  • A court in Lithuania allows Belarus oligarch to access personal bank accounts despite EU sanctions. (Photo: Joachim Quandt)

A court in Vilnius ruled on Tuesday (28 August) to allow a Belarus oligarch and weapons tycoon currently under EU sanctions to pay his lawyer's fees in Lithuania.

The court found insufficient grounds by Lithuania’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to block Belarus billionaire Vladimir Peftiev from using the money to pay his lawyers’ fees.

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The Lithuania lawfirm Lawin are representing Peftiev at the EU court in Luxembourg in his attempt to lift the asset freeze and visa ban imposed by the EU in June of last year.

Lithuania’s ministry of foreign affairs spokeswomen told AFP that the court failed to assess “many important circumstances” and that it would appeal the ruling.

Vytis Jurkonis, an analyst from the Eastern Europe Studies Centre, a non-profit based in Lithuania that promotes civil society, told Radio Free Europe that the court had considered two cases, reports opposition website Charter ’97.

“A decision was taken only in one of them having relation to the company that defends Peftiev's interests. The decision related to the possibility of using the money transferred to company's account by Peftiev. It does not influence Brussels sanctions. Of course, a Lithuanian court cannot annul a decision of Brussels,” said Jurkonis.

Jurkonis claims the money belonged to Lawin and was specifically allocated to defend Peftiev’s case.

“The question was to allow them to use this money. It will have no impact on Brussels sanctions or Lithuania’s foreign policy,” noted Jurkonis.

The EU also froze three of Peftiev companies, including weapons company Beltechexport, telecoms operator Beltelcom and marketing business Sport-Pari.

Beltechexport is the country’s largest weapon’s manufacturer and produces aircraft, small arms, and armoured vehicles. The company acts as a middleman between Russian arms firms and dictators in Africa, Central Asia, south-east Asia and South America.

The EU, for its part, is considering extending the EU sanctions to other individuals close to Lukashenko this autumn.

The review follows a decision by Belarus to kick out Sweden’s ambassador earlier this month after a Swedish-piloted private plane on 4 July dropped teddy bears in protest against Lukashenko's regime. The stunt deeply embarrassed Minsk.

“We will be reviewing sanctions on Belarus later on in the next few months ... the situation with the Swedish embassy will have an effect on this,” Olof Skoog, the Swedish-origin chairman of the Political and Security Committee (PSC), a high-level EU diplomatic forum, said after meeting EU ambassadors in Brussels on Friday (10 August).

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