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Business as Usual: Russian, Foreign Companies Find Ways to Bypass Sanctions

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Flags of Russia, EU, France and coat of arms of Nice on the city's promenade - Sputnik International
Almost a full year after broad sanctions were imposed on Russia and countermeasures were fired back by Moscow, The Financial Times provides an account of how companies are managing to legally, semi-legally and illegally work around the restrictions imposed.

The newspaper says that while both EU and US bankers complain that business has come almost to a complete halt, companies in many other sectors find that this isn't necessarily the case at all.

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“Goods and services which in theory are subject to sanctions, in reality do not appear to be. Companies seem to be working around it,” it is quoting Chris Weafer, founding partner at Macro-Advisory, a Moscow based consultancy.

“There are legal, semi-legal and illegal ways, and all of these are widespread,” The FT quotes one senior official at a foreign business association in Moscow anonymously.

For example, foreign companies now re-route some exports to Russia through third countries that have no ant-Russian sanctions in place, such as Turkey or Brazil.

An executive from a European engineering company reveals that several of his competitors were now using plants in third countries to handle certain orders from Russia that would otherwise fall under dual use restrictions.

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“We have seen examples of this using China and India,” he said.

There is also a workaround for Russian customers who are barred by sanctions from buying some equipment from their usual supplier.

They simply establish new companies and contact the same suppliers.

The newspaper quotes a sales executive at a French company in Russia as saying that shortly after his group informed a state-owned Russian company that it could not sell a piece of requested equipment, they were contacted by another Russian company they’ve never heard of, with the same very request.

“We had never heard about them or any of their shareholders before, but they requested exactly the same product as our previous customer, and they knew the specs and the price and who to contact,” he said.

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“We ran a quick check, and none of the shareholders given in the company registry is on any black list. That’s all we can do, although we can probably guess what’s going on here.”

In the energy sector, European regulators have cleared some co-operation between European companies and state-owned oil group Rosneft allowing the continuation of work on Arctic projects, although such projects in principle fall under the sanctions.

In the credit market there are also options: the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has advised banks and exporters that Russian entities subject to sectoral sanctions are generally allowed to make repeated drawdowns of 30 days or less as long as they repay in full each time.

“This in fact allows for continued credit in the form of consecutive 30-day tranches,” the newspaper quotes Brian Zimbler, managing partner at US law firm Morgan Lewis in Moscow as saying.

Energy and banking industry sources said western energy trading companies were using this soft interpretation to lend to sanctioned entities including Rosneft.

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