Lawyers in Amsterdam should be especially vigilant in the coming period against requests from Russian sources that may be intended to evade sanctions imposed on Russia. The dean of Amsterdam Evert-Jan Henrichs wrote this Monday in a message to all 6,000 lawyers in his district.
According to Henrichs, the (economic) sanctions imposed by the European Union, the US and the UK on Russia following the invasion of Ukraine require ‘greater vigilance on the part of all lawyers’. Moreover, sanctions affect not only the Russian federation, but also ‘affiliated parties’, such as ‘a number of Russians, banks and other organizations’.
Zuidas is a popular place to keep Russian (financial) interests. In the Netherlands, at least, Houthoff is known to have several important Russian clients, including the Russian Federation, Gazprom, and Vimpelcom. Last year, Follow The Money wrote an extensive article about the Russian client Houthoff, entitled ‘Kremlin in Zuidas’A high-profile case in which Houthoff has defended Russian interests for years is the multi-billion dollar dispute over Russian energy company Yukos, which was taken over by the state. Three former shareholders are demanding a total of around 50 billion euros from a Dutch court.
However, with his letter, Henrichs wanted to alert all the attorneys in his district. “Lawyers should be aware that efforts to evade sanctions will be made in the coming days and they will be required to do so,” the dean wrote. “This can include transactions involving a change of interest, appointments being changed or cancelled, and payments being transferred.”
Comprehensive identity check
And with that you have to be careful at least, the blanket wants to say. Therefore, lawyers and their offices (Zuidas) must be more vigilant than usual when accepting assignments or continuing with existing assignments. Lawyers must conduct thorough identity checks in new cases, as usual, as prescribed by Wwft and the Regulations on the Legal Profession (Voda).
In the current case, changing circumstances – such as changes to sanctions laws – could suddenly give rise to stricter or more stringent customer due diligence, for example the correctness of the data provided, the identity of the customer or intermediary and, the last but not the lastwhether the requested service is at all acceptable.
Avoiding illegal sanctions
Henrichs warned that Voda was clear about the involvement of lawyers in illegal activities. Even if there is evidence that the services of a lawyer are helping to prepare for or protect against illegal activities, the services should be immediately denied or terminated. If this does not happen, an attorney risks at least serious disciplinary consequences.
“Sanction evasion is clearly an illegal activity,” Henrichs said. “And because there are sufficient indications for the rejection or termination of the assignment, a great deal of control is needed in accepting or continuing the assignment.” The President also urged the legal profession to monitor the current state of affairs related to sanctions against Russia, and to immediately report unusual transactions to the Dutch Financial Unit (FIU) in cases subject to Wwft.
There is also a single direct call from the managing partner to the corporate legal profession: Jan Padberg (HVG Law) write on LinkedIn that it is a ‘fact’ that Zuidas ‘deserves a big sandwich’ from advising the Russian State. “I urge the legal profession, the notary profession and other business service providers to immediately stop their activities for clients who are directly or indirectly connected to the Russian state. The time for opportunistic approaches is really over! What are you doing now?”
Baker McKenzie has the answer from its headquarters in Chicago: One of the world’s largest international offices (over three billion annual turnover) is preparing to cut ties with some of its leading Russian clients, Bloomberg Law reports. Among these clients are Gazprom and the Russian state bank VTB.
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