UK government seeks to increase sanctions enforcement powers

January 01, 1970

Posted on 23 February, 2016 by Michael O'Kane on

The UK government has introduced legislation to Parliament that, if passed, would increase the available prison sentences for financial sanctions violations and create new powers for the Treasury to impose civil fines on those it believes to have committed a sanctions breach.

Sections 89 and 90 of The Policing and Crime Bill increase the available sentence for most sanctions violations, including new offences, on summary conviction from 6 months to 12 months, and on conviction on indictment from 2 years to 7 years.  Under section 91, it also grants the Treasury the power to impose a civil fine of the greater of £1,000,000 or 50% of the estimated value of the funds or resources involved, where applicable, when it is satisfied on the balance of probabilities that a person has breached sanctions.

The proposed new power to impose civil penalties on violators is redolent of powers already enjoyed by US enforcement agency OFAC, and would represent a substantial increase in the potency of enforcement powers available in the UK.

This article first appeared on European Sanctions Law & Practice (, a blog by Maya Lester (+44 20 7379 3550,, a barrister at Brick Court Chambers, and Michael O'Kane (+44 (0) 20 7822 7777, head of Business Crime at Peters & Peters.