Increasingly, economic sanctions and export controls are imposed by governments against designated individuals and companies, as a weapon for supporting objectives in foreign policy and fighting international corruption. The UK and US governments, often acting alongside the EU and UN, are active proponents, and the landscape is complicated by the occasional use of countersanctions, where a person’s conformity with a sanction imposed by a hostile government is prohibited.

Where an individual or company breaches a sanction or export control, a serious criminal offence is committed. It is also a criminal offence for a person to plan to circumvent the application of a sanction. In addition, there are reporting obligations placed on an individual or company to declare to government authorities the details of assets held by a sanctioned person. Failure to comply constitutes a criminal offence.

Barristers at Red Lion Chambers can provide advice and representation in all aspects of this area of law.


Depending on the circumstances, it is possible to obtain a licence for a person to deal with an individual or company subject to a sanctions or export control. In this situation, it is vital for the individual or company to operate within the terms of the licence. Otherwise, a serious criminal offence is committed.


There are procedures for challenging the designation of a sanction, domestically and internationally. Sometimes, governments make mistakes in the identification of the individual or company subject to designation. On other occasions, the evidential foundation to support the designation, or the manner in which the designation was made, can be challenged.


In business today, it is essential that care is taken by individuals and companies to ensure that they do not carelessly act in breach of a sanction or export control. Procedures need to be put in place.


A breach of sanction or export control can trigger criminal prosecution, in which case all the usual rules of criminal law and criminal procedure. These are serious cases, and in some instances the maximum punishment is 14 years imprisonment and an unlimited fine. Regulatory fines can also be imposed.

Money laundering

A breach of sanctions or export control can lead to hidden consequences. Commercially, a conviction may adversely impact on an individual’s or company’s ability to borrow funds or undertake public procurement contracts. In addition, there is a legal consequence since benefit obtained from a breach of sanction or export control will constitute criminal property within the meaning of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. Even if the breach is not the subject criminal prosecution, a money laundering problem will still arise.

For More Information or To Instruct Us

With our expert understanding of the criminal justice system we guide our clients through the legal process. Our barristers regularly undertake privately funded, direct access and legal aid work. To discuss your options in more detail, for more information regarding our fee structure or to discuss a specific case please contact our clerking team. If you are a professional client and would like to discuss in-house training and seminar opportunities, please contact Mark Bennett or Nick Parkinson.