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International Sanctions Bite on Syrian Businessman’s Wife

International sanctions against pariah states are increasingly far-reaching and can have a dramatic impact on individuals’ lives. In one case, a UK resident who was married to an alleged supporter of the repressive regime in Syria failed to convince the High Court to unfreeze her bank accounts.

Barclays BankThe husband, a prominent Syrian businessman, had been identified by the Council of the European Union as someone who was benefiting from, or supporting, the Bashar Al-Assad government. In the light of that decision, Barclays Bank plc froze three accounts in his wife’s name in which more than £108,000 was held. The husband’s access to his own funds was also blocked.

The wife complained that the move would, amongst other things, prevent her from paying her children’s private school fees. A successful businesswoman in her own right, she denied that the funds had any connection to her husband or that he would derive any benefit from them.

The Court expressed sympathy for her but refused to grant an interim junction unblocking her accounts. Noting the unusual movement of substantial cash sums into her accounts in the days before the financial guillotine fell on her husband, the Court could not have a high degree of assurance that her arguments would prevail at the full hearing of the case. Her difficulties were outweighed by the risk that, were the injunction to be granted, Barclays would find itself committing a criminal offence.