August 22, 2023

UK High Court rejects attempt by British citizen to overturn Russia-related sanctions against him

On August 18, 2023, the UK High Court of Justice rejected British citizen Eugene Shvidler’s attempt to overturn sanctions imposed against him on March 24, 2022 pursuant to reg 5 of the Russia (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (“ the 2019 Regulations) for his association with Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich.  Abramovich, the former owner of Chelsea Football Club and former partial-owner of Evraz plc (a UK-listed steel and mining group), was designated on March 10, 2022 under the 2019 Regulations for his association with President Vladimir Putin.  Shvidler, who is also a UK-US dual national, was officially designated in the UK as an “involved person” for his association with Abramovich and for personally obtaining a benefit from the Government of Russia in his former role as a non-executive director of Evraz, an entity of strategic significance to the Government of Russia.

Shvidler appealed to the High Court to challenge the designation on the grounds that it constituted a disproportionate interference with his rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (“ECHR”).  He also accused the Secretary of State of exercising his discretion in a discriminatory manner in breach of Article 14 of the ECHR.  In his appeal, Shvidler also discussed the hardships that he and his family had suffered since the designation, including his inability to conduct business or access financial institutions that he had used for many years. Two private aircraft belonging to him had also been grounded, and he was no longer able to keep his private yacht safe and seaworthy.  Shvidler also indicated that his children had been excluded from their schools in the UK following his designation, and he had moved to the US where his children could attend school and he could be supported by friends.

Shvidler argued that the designation was disproportionate because he and his family have suffered significantly despite the fact that he has never had a relationship with President Putin, has never been involved in politics, and has no ability to influence the Russian government or compel it to withdraw from Ukraine.  Shvidler also claimed that, while he has had a long-standing personal and business relationship with Abramovich, he has not received a benefit from him and is, therefore, not associated with him within the meaning of the 2019 Regulations.  However, the court disagreed and rejected this claim, finding that there was sufficient evidence that he was an “involved person” under the 2019 Regulations.  The court also held that the Secretary of State is given a broad margin of discretion to impose significant sanctions in order to pursue UK foreign policy objectives.  While careful consideration had been given to the substantial impact of sanctions on Shvidler and his family, the court held that the Secretary was justified in his determination that their hardships did not sufficiently outweigh the community interest in maintaining the sanctions.  The court also acknowledged that, while the family had suffered “an enormous inconvenience and no little financial loss,” the sanctions are “temporary and reversible” and “do not threaten his life or liberty.”

Shvidler also argued that the designation was discriminatory because, until November 2, 2022, he was the only former Evraz board member that had been designated in connection with his role with Evraz and remained the only non-Russian Evraz board member to be designated.  However, the court dismissed this claim finding instead that the Secretary was justified in designating Shvidler based on both his former role on Evraz’s board and his long-standing relationship with Abramovich.  The court also indicated that there was no evidence to suggest that race, nationality or ethnicity played a part in the Secretary of State’s decision.

High Court Judgment