Findings and lessons learnt for sanctions in Europe

Online, 6 December 2023, 14:00 – 15:15 CET (Berlin time)


Between autumn 2022 and June 2023 CiFAR and European Investigative Collaborations, with the support of OCCRP and thanks to IJ4EU and the National Endowment for Democracy, coordinated the Russian Escape investigations into how far sanctions applied against Russian individuals following the invasion of Ukraine were being effectively implemented in Europe.

These sanctions are designed to prevent designated persons or entities from using their assets – be it money, property, cars or yachts – or transferring them overseas. In effect, freezing in place all assets of designated individuals and entities until the sanctions are lifted. CiFAR’s previous work on sanctions, however, led us to believe that implementation of these sanctions might not be effective or that loopholes in the frameworks may be allowing sanctioned persons to escape designations.

The investigations, published by Mediapart (France), Info Libre (Spain), and Domani (Italy), showed that it is likely sanctions are in several cases failing to fulfil their purpose. A particular problem in this is the ongoing use of assets supposed to be frozen and the transfer of other assets to family members before designation. The investigations also demonstrated the high levels of discrepancy between European countries in how frozen assets are publicly reported – making it harder for journalists, civil society and citizens to monitor sanctions implementation. In doing so, our investigations for the first time identified the EUR 3 billion in assets currently frozen in Italy and Spain under the Russian sanctions.

With this event, we will explore how were these investigations were conducted, what the findings tell us and how they fit in to the bigger picture of how European countries are enforcing sanctions. With implications beyond the Russian sanctions regimes, in explaining the investigation and its results, speakers will delve into the bigger question of to what extent European countries are serious about sanctions and what needs to be done to make them more effective.

The discussion with the panellists will be followed by questions from the audience.


  • Alexandre Brutelle, Investigations Manager, CiFAR
  • Sara Brimbeuf, Senior advocacy officer | Illicit Financial Flows, Transparency International France
  • Lucia Cizmaziova, Research and Policy Manager, CiFAR


  • Maria Nizzero, Research Fellow, Royal United Services Institute (RUSI)