Belarussian company loses UK sanctions challenge


LLC Synesis has lost its UK court challenge against its sanctions designation. 

The Belarussian technology company was designated in the UK in 2020 for providing Kipod Technology to Alexander Lukashenko's autocratic regime in Belarus, which was used for video surveillance and monitoring to track down pro-democracy activists and protestors.

Having already sought a Ministerial review of its designation unsuccessfully, Synesis applied to the Court under section 38 of the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018 to set aside the Government's decision.  On 14 March 2023, the High Court rejected the application, stating that the Government's decision to not de-list Synesis was not unreasonable or disproportionate.

The judgment has provided some useful takeaways for future cases:

  • The threshold for listing - having “reasonable grounds to suspect” - is a well-established test in UK law.
  • This test means that the decisionmaker must "consider all the material or information known to him or ought to have been within his knowledge following reasonable inquiry".  It does not require a finding of fact but rather the assessment of available information and material.
  • The Court should not stand in the decisionmaker's shoes when reviewing the decision under section 38 of the Act, but its role is to examine whether the Government’s decision was based on no evidence or was irrational, taking into account the context of expert decision-making in an area of Government policy.

Synesis is also sanctioned in the US and EU and may be appealing its EU designation in the coming months. 

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