Dutch financial sector imposing sanctions on Russian customers; Gazprom Netherlands director resigns
A week after Russia started invading Ukraine, the Dutch financial sector is implementing the sanctions set by the EU against their Russian clients. Dutch banks are freezing accounts of Russian oligarchs, lawyers are dropping Russian clients, and trust offices are re-examining their client portfolios, Financieele Dagblad reports. The director of Gazprom Energy in the Netherlands also submitted his resignation.
Dutch central bank DNB already received various reports of frozen assets after the European Union's sanctions against Russia. Financial institutions and trust offices in the Netherlands must check all their relationships to ensure they comply with the sanctions and must immediately attach consequences to those who don't, the DNB said to FD.
Martin Wörsdörfer, chairman of the trade association of trust offices Holland Quaestor, told the newspaper that its members responded quickly to the sanctions and had already submitted several reports about frozen assets to the DNB. Trust offices have actively been parting ways with Russian clients since 2014 when the Russia-Ukraine crisis started, he said. In 2015, the Dutch trust sector provided services to 305 prominent Russians, according to figures from DNB. By 2020, that dropped to 16. "It will now be between zero and ten," Wörsdörfer said.
"Where relevant, assets are immediately frozen," Wörsdörfer said to FD. "Trust offices have to deal with the open standard of social decency, and they are busy every day examining whether what they do still fits in with the statutory and self-imposed integrity rules. That is why we have already said goodbye to customers that have Russian owners behind them."
Other striking news came from the legal profession - law firm Houthoff is ending its relationship with the Russian Federation and associated persons and companies, a spokesperson said to FD on Thursday morning. Houthoff will also not accept any new cases from these parties. The office said that the decision was made because of acts of war in Ukraine and was not made overnight. "The professional rules for lawyers impose strict requirements on making such a decision, even if the circumstances are as serious as they are now in Ukraine."
Houthoff has been the permanent law firm of the Russian Federation and associated parties in the Netherlands for many years. According to FD's sources, work for the Russians accounts for 10 to 15 percent of the law firm's annual turnover (121 million euros in 2020). The links with Russia earned Houthoff the nickname "the Kremlin office" of the Zuidas.
Sytse van Heijst also announced his resignation as director of Gazprom Energy in the Netherlands on Thursday, NOS reported. "I am very shocked by the loss of life in Ukraine. I cannot reconcile the events there with my position as country head at Gazprom Energy in the Netherlands. I, therefore, resigned at the beginning of this week." Van Heijst has been working at the Russian state-owned gas company since 2011.