Belgium freezes more than 50 billion euros in Russian funds

Our country is blocking a much larger amount of money and other financial assets belonging to sanctioned Russians and companies than has been previously known.

In Belgium, €50.5 billion in funds belonging to individuals, companies and other legal entities that have been subject to financial sanctions following the Russian invasion of Ukraine have been frozen. This is a significantly higher amount than previously known. The last time our country published figures on this, in April, it was 3.5 billion euros, or almost 15 times less. This confirms Francis Adyns, the spokesman of the Federal Public Service Finance, with whom the Ministry of Finance monitors the correct application of the sanctions in our country.

The 50.5 billion EUR in frozen funds includes all types of financial assets, such as cash and shares, located in our country and owned by the 1,229 individuals and 110 other entities – such as Russian politicians, oligarchs, banks and companies – that have imposed financial sanctions. Some have been sanctioned since Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014, but most were imposed after the invasion of Ukraine in February.

As an important international financial hub, our country has already blocked 217.1 billion euros in transactions that have been prohibited since the war in Ukraine.

The Ministry of Finance’s spokesman declined to clarify which sanctioned persons or companies have had the largest sums frozen. Adyns: ‘All we can say about it is
that in the latest wave of sanctions we have found names whose assets have been frozen in large quantities.’

It is according to Adyn’s names that have been added to the sixth and seventh sanctions package.

After the invasion of Ukraine, the sanctions list quickly included the names of Russian President Vladimir Putin, his Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, all 336 members of the Russian Duma, and numerous senior military figures, as well as oligarchs and business leaders from Putin’s entourage. The latest sanctions packages have added several banks to the list, such as Sberbank, the largest Russian bank, and VTB Bank, one of the largest banks in Russia with the state as the largest shareholder. In addition to high-ranking Russian military officers, these packages also contained the names of wives of Russian oligarchs and companies linked to the Russian army and military sector.

The more than 50 billion euros that Belgium has frozen is a surprisingly high amount. Three weeks ago, EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders announced that at that time €13.8 billion in assets had been frozen across the EU. Reynders then indicated that more than 12 billion had been frozen by five member states, without specifying which countries they were. In our country, however, the amount has now turned out to be considerably higher.

In addition, our country, as an important international financial hub, with institutions such as the securities giant Euroclear in Brussels, has blocked 217.1 billion euros in transactions that have been prohibited since the war in Ukraine.

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In addition to the freezing measures, the economic sanctions may also consist of prohibitions on investing in certain sectors, granting loans or insurance, or financing the import or export of certain goods. The financial sanctions must be complied with by everyone in Belgium as soon as they are published in the Official Journal of the European Union.

The administrative processing of these financial sanctions in our country is a competence under the general administration of the Ministry of Finance, which is part of the federal public service Finance. The Ministry of Finance must answer all questions about the financial sanctions, clarify cases of similarities, process requests for the release of frozen assets and ensure that the financial sanctions are respected in our country. The fate of the fertilizer factory EuroChem in Antwerp, for example, fell entirely into the hands of the treasury after the Russian EuroChem Group founder Andrei Melnichenko was put on the European sanctions list in March.

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