Cause denial of service became U.S. sanctions, adopted in March 2014. Finnish banks fear that the U.S. government will create obstacles in cooperation with the banking system of the United States and may limit operations with dollars, if they are to work with people under sanctions. Fears are not in vain. In recent years, consultations on the sanctions legislation have become one of the main trends on the market of legal services: all European and even some Chinese companies are afraid to get under sanctions of the USA and prefer to act according to the principles of “measure twice, cut once” and “only if something happens.” The case is also complicated by European sanctions against Russia. And in General, “sanctions law” is not certainty and transparency. No one knows how it will be interpreted by one or the other, sometimes even fairly innocuous, the transaction through a political prism of the sanctions wars. So any advice on sanctions often want to complete the now fashionable phrase: “But it’s not for sure.”
The sensitivity of the situation with a claim to Scandinavian banks is that Boris Rotenberg is not only a citizen of Russia, a member of the Inner Circle (the so-called USA entourage of Vladimir Putin), the individual on the sanctions list, but at the same time a citizen of Finland. That is why, for example, he, unlike Arkady Rotenberg, previously fell under the sanctions of the European Union: its citizens Europe from the sanctions shields.
Thus, the Helsinki court must decide what is more important: sovereignty and immunity for their citizens from the extraterritorial intervention of the third countries or the stability of the banking system. In the first case the court will have the will, but creates risks for the relations between Finnish and American banks. The second may take a more economically comfortable position, but in fact will be forced to admit that not all Finnish citizens are equal.
History knows cases when the European States in varying degrees, did not agree with the sanctions the United States and gave the appropriate response. For example, can now be seen as the European Union consolidates its position regarding the US withdrawal from the deal on Iran. Europe has said it will not easy to ignore the return of the US to the anti-Iranian sanctions, but also willing to actively oppose them, if necessary. But it’s one thing not to accept the decisions of American courts on the territory of the European Union, and another to create the actual risk for interbank dollar transactions on correspondent accounts in the United States. The risk is real: the current Finnish banks have correspondent accounts in American banks, which provide conducting dollar-denominated transactions around the world.
In 2017, the next round of US sanctions against Russia, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker made a statement about what the EU should and is ready to defend their interests in front of US, and also reserves the right to take retaliatory economic measures if they harm the interests of European companies. The long history of sanctions wars have long outlived legal mechanisms to restrict the extraterritorial effect of the United States against sovereign States (at least European). You should also consider the fact that Boris Rotenberg is a citizen of the European Union and, reportedly, blocked the operation was aimed at the performance of public obligations on payment of obligatory payments in the budget, that is, were not in the full sense of the word private. From all this it follows that if this story really stand US sanctions, when there is sufficient political will by the Finnish court may find arguments to meet the claims of a businessman.
However, we should not forget about alternative scenarios that can be selected by the Finnish court. Already, banks that have received the claim of Boris Rotenberg, began to make statements about what the whole story is a manifestation of the active fight against money laundering, as if to imply that it is not U.S. sanctions, and the illegal origin of the money. If the courts decide to reduce everything to a kind of formal measures to combat money laundering and to present it as an ordinary case, such a position can be convenient: no need to make difficult choices, described above, and to occupy one of two positions. However, many can assess this behavior as a good mine at bad game: it is worth remembering that tomorrow the sanctions could affect other European citizens in a situation where to find a neutral position will not succeed.