In Hmicho v Barclays Bank PLC [2015] EWHC 1757 (QB) Mr Justice Picken refused to grant Mrs Hmicho an interim injunction requiring Barclays Bank to unfreeze her bank accounts. Barclays originally froze Mrs Hmicho’s bank accounts in May 2015 after her husband was listed on the EU’s Syria-related sanctions list pursuant to Council Regulation (EU) No. 36/2012 (as amended, “Regulation 36”). The UK transposed Regulation 36 into UK domestic law through the Syria (European Union Financial Sanctions) Regulations 2012 (the “UK Regulations”).

The court held that it did not have the necessary “high degree of assurance” that Barclays was not entitled to hold the reasonable suspicion that Mr Hmicho owned or controlled the funds in Mrs Hmicho’s Barclays Bank accounts. In arriving at this conclusion, the court noted that Mr Hmicho had transferred funds to his wife’s account once he was identified as a designated person, and that two cash deposits were paid into Mrs Hmicho’s account shortly after Mr Hmicho had been denied access to a safe deposit box, before being withdrawn and subsequently paid into an account in Mrs Hmicho’s name at National Westminster Bank Plc.

Barclays, concerned that it would commit an offence contrary to the UK Regulations if it were to release the funds in Mrs Hmicho’s account, submitted that it would be “wholly inappropriate” for the court to require it to act in a manner that would put it at risk of committing a criminal offence. Relying on K Ltd v National Westminster Bank Plc [2007] 1 WLR 311, the court agreed with Barclays. It found that the balance of convenience firmly rested with Barclays, and that damages would not be an inadequate remedy for Mrs Hmicho if she was successful at trial.