On 22 September 2015, the Court of Justice of the European Union (the “CJEU”) rejected First Islamic Investment Bank’s application to annul its listing in the EU’s nuclear proliferation sanctions regime on Iran in Case T-161/13 First Islamic Investment Bank Ltd v Council of the European Union. The Malaysian bank was first made subject to the asset freeze in 2012 for assisting designated entities to violate EU sanctions on Iran and providing financial support to the government of Iran. The EU’s summary of reasons also stated that the bank was one of the companies in the “Sorinet Group” being used to channel Iranian oil-related payments. The Sorinet Group is owned and operated by Babak Zanjani, an individual sanctioned in 2012 for being a “key facilitator for Iranian oil deals and transferring oil-related money.”
The CJEU found that the Council, in taking 19 months to respond to a request by the bank for information on its listing, had infringed the applicant’s rights of defence. However, as in the recent Iranian Ministry of Energy case (see Issue 43 of the Sanctions Alert), the CJEU held that the delay did not justify annulment. The CJEU held that, although the Council had not presented sufficient evidence to prove all of the grounds for listing the bank, the established link to Babak Zanjani was sufficient to justify the decision to maintain the sanctions.