Oil giants in price fixing investigations

The European Commission and the UK government are investigating claims that oil giants BP and Shell have been fixing oil prices since 2002 following raids on both of their offices by the European Commission. The Office of Fair Trading carried out an investigation into the petrol market last year and found no evidence of price fixing at the time. BP, Shell, and Statoil, and also the oil pricing agency Platts, have confirmed that they were working with the authorities in their inquiries.

Europe call to back global standard to combat tax evasion

UK chancellor, George Osborne has called on European finance ministers to back a new global standard to fight tax evasion, already backed in principle by the G20 following the recent meeting of the G7. In a letter ahead of the Brussels gathering of European finance ministers the Chancellor asks ministers to back the automatic exchange of tax information between countries, based on a mutual agreement for developed and developing countries.

European Parliament adopts report on organised crime

The European Parliament's special committee on organised crime, corruption and money laundering (CRIM) has published a press release announcing that it has voted to adopt a mid-term report. The report sets out a motion for a European Parliament resolution on recommendations and initiatives regarding organised crime, money laundering and corruption. The Parliament has also published a draft version of the report, which they are scheduled to vote on in the plenary session on 13 June 2013.

New EU Directive: Reporting by Extractive Companies on Government Payments

The European Parliament and Council of Ministers have agreed the final form of the new EU rules for the disclosure, on a project by project basis, of payments to governments by companies operating in the extractive  industries. The EU’s agreement is part of a suite of transparency initiatives which are designed to promote good governance and improve national development outcomes for developing countries.

Recent sanctions developments concerning Myanmar (Burma), North Korea, Syria and Libya

Syria

Council Regulation (EU) No 363/2013 has amended Annex II to Regulation (EU) No 36/2012 by removing one person from the list of, and by further updating and amending the entries for, the persons, entities and bodies subject to restrictive measures imposed by that Regulation. On 22 April 2013 the Council also announced a decision to permit the easing of certain EU sanctions against Syria, including the oil embargo.  The UK has not as yet confirmed whether it will exercise its discretion to authorise such transactions.

Libya

On 23 April 2013, the Council has announced a decision to amend EU sanctions in view of the situation in Libya so as to take account of changes adopted at the UN.  It permitted the supply of non-lethal military equipment and technical assistance intended solely for security or disarmament assistance to the Libyan government.  It also allowed the supply of small arms, light weapons and related materiel, for the sole use of UN personnel and development workers.

Myanmar

EU foreign ministers have voted to lift the majority of its restrictive measures against Myanmar (Burma). In May 2012, in recognition of the country’s transition from military dictatorship to civilian rule, the EU agreed to suspend its sanctions, save for the arms embargo, for a period of one year (Council Regulation (EC) 409/2012).  With the suspension due to lapse on the 30 April 2013 Council ministers voted to lift all restrictive measures, save for the arms embargo (Council Decision 2013/184).

North Korea

In contrast to the relaxation of the Myanmar sanctions, the EU has strengthened those sanctions applying to North Korea. These restrictive measures include export and import restrictions on arms and goods which could contribute to North Korea’s nuclear programme. Council Regulation 370/2013 has extended the list of person in respect of whom the North Korean financial sanctions apply (increasing by 3 individuals and 2 entities) from 23 April 2013.