In recent months, the Federal Government has imposed several autonomous sanctions on Russia and Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine, in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Victorian lawyers should be mindful of their important duty to comply with and uphold these sanctions, consistent with their duties to comply with the law and not engage in conduct that could harm public confidence in the justice system, or bring the profession into disrepute.
Law practices should take positive steps to ensure their employees do not breach Australia’s Russia/Ukraine sanctions regime.
What are the sanctions?
The Russia/Ukraine sanctions regime involves the following six sanctions measures:
- Restrictions on the import and export of certain goods, such as arms or related material, certain mined products, certain luxury goods and items suited for use in certain oil production or oil exploration ventures
- Restrictions on the import, purchase or transport of certain goods that originate in, or are exported from, specified Ukraine regions or Russia
- Restrictions on certain commercial activities, such as providing loans or credits to Russian owned or controlled banks or companies
- Restrictions on the provision of certain services relating to some sanctioned goods and activities
- Restrictions on providing assets to, and dealing with the assets of, certain designated persons or entities or their immediate family members
- Travel bans on declared persons, or their immediate family members.
The sanctions regime applies to activities in Australia and activities performed overseas by Australian citizens and Australian-registered bodies corporate. In some circumstances, it may be possible to be granted a permit to engage in an activity that would otherwise be prohibited by a sanctions measure.
It is important to be aware that if you are holding an asset on behalf of a designated person, in certain circumstances you are required to freeze that asset and ensure the Australian Federal Police is notified as soon as possible.
Consequences of failing to comply
It is a serious criminal offence to breach sanctions measures. Penalties include substantial fines and prison sentences of up to 10 years. VLSB+C may also investigate any alleged failure to comply with the sanctions regime and decide whether regulatory action is warranted.
What should you do to ensure you're complying with the sanctions?
We suggest that all lawyers take steps to review the details of the Ukraine/Russia sanctions regime and consider whether any of their client matters are affected.
We recommend that law practices review their client list and matters in respect of which their legal services are being provided, and (where relevant) arrange to immediately cease providing any services that are in breach of the regime. Where necessary, you should make your staff aware of how sanctions measures may affect their work, and put firm-wide policies and procedures in place to ensure that breaches of the measures do not occur. Finally, it is important to monitor your client list to identify potential compliance risks.
As the situation in Ukraine is evolving rapidly, you should regularly check the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s website for updated information.
You can find more information on the exact restrictions and conditions of these sanctions, as well as exemptions, via the following links: