June 24, 2024

General Court upholds EU sanctions on Russian billionaire Igor Rotenberg

On June 19, 2024, the European Union’s General Court upheld sanctions on billionaire Igor Rotenberg, a Russian businessman whose family reportedly has close ties to President Putin.  Rotenberg had sought to annul the EU economic sanctions against him; he was designated by the Council of the European Union in April 2022 for “benefitting from Russian decision-makers or the Government of the Russian Federation,” in their efforts to undermine the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine.  Rotenberg was also designated for his association with his father, Arkady Rotenberg, and with President Putin, both of whom were designated for supporting actions that undermined Ukraine’s independence and territorial integrity.

In his challenge to the sanctions, Rotenberg argued that there was insufficient evidence to support that he “benefitted” from Russian decision-makers or the Russian government because he had sold his shares in his father’s companies and no longer exercised control over other leading Russian enterprises, including JSC Stroygazontash (“SGM”), a Russian construction company in liquidation proceedings since 2022.  Because of this, Rotenberg alleged that he was no longer “associated” with his father and President Putin according to the criteria set out in Council Decision 2014/145 under which he had been designated.  He also argued that while he had been involved in certain companies that received state contracts, he had not obtained any undue benefit or advantage when compared with other entrepreneurs in Russia.

In its judgment, the General Court acknowledged that Rotenberg’s diminished interest in his father’s enterprises was not enough to justify a finding that he benefitted from Russian decision-makers or the Russian government.  However, the General Court ruled that Rotenberg’s position within other companies such as Platon or RT-Invest Transport System (“RTITS”) sufficiently demonstrated that he benefitted from the Russian government.  RTITS was reportedly awarded a contract, without a call for tender, to manage an electronic toll-collection system in Russia that paid RUB 10.6 billion (approximately EUR 108 million) annually.  The court determined that Rotenberg’s 23.5 percent share in RTITS entitled him to receive considerable funds from the government each year, valued at more than EUR 7 million from 2017 to 2020.  Based on this evidence, the court upheld the sanctions against Rotenberg, dismissed the action in its entirety, and ordered him to pay the court costs sought by the Council.  Because there was sufficient evidence to support the imposition of sanctions, the court found it unnecessary to examine Rotenberg’s association with his father or President Putin.

General Court Judgment