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International Advice & Assistance Services

International Advice & Assistance

Export and trade controls

"Excellent team. First-rate reputation."

Legal 500

We have substantial experience of advising and representing companies and individuals on export control, import control and other investigations into alleged breaches of trade sanctions (including military, dual-use, end-use and WMD controls).

We have acted in many of the landmark prosecutions listed on the website of the Export Control Joint Unit (ECJU), which is now part of the Department for International Trade. We have also had considerable success in advising companies and individuals on the merits of making voluntary disclosures to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) with the aim of avoiding a criminal prosecution and negotiating a civil settlement (sometimes called a “compound penalty”) instead.

We have dealt with investigations and prosecutions relating to a huge variety of military goods (including body armour, fighter jet and tank components, weapons and ammunition) and dual-use goods (including cryptographic software, aviation parts, cleaning components and chemicals) exported to a large number of destinations (including across the EU, as well as more sensitive destinations such as Iran, Iraq, Israel, Sri Lanka, Peru, Pakistan, Venezuela, Nigeria and Senegal).

We give advice about: the technicalities of the UK’s licensing system (including SPIRE and the variety of single and general licences that can be applied for) as well as seizures of goods carried out at the UK’s borders by HMRC and UK Border Force (UKBF) (including how to challenge those seizures through condemnation and restoration proceedings against the National Post Seizure Unit (NPSU)). Post-Brexit, the trade sanctions landscape has changed and the risk of enforcement action has increased.

Work highlights:

  • Representing a UK company which successfully negotiated a £1,000 compound penalty as an alternative to being prosecuted for alleged breaches of Open General Export Licences arising from the sale of armoured vehicle components within the EU;
  • Advising a household name business regarding its obligations under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora and the associated EU legislation governing imports of restricted goods into the EU;
  • Advising two listed UK companies in the aviation sector as to whether their export business was being conducted in compliance with UK/EU law;
  • Assisting two multinational law firms which made voluntary disclosures concerning their unlicensed export of cryptographic software to sensitive destinations including China, and ensuring that no prosecution action was taken;
  • Representing in HMRC interviews two individuals employed by a multinational in the chemicals sector concerning exports of particular compounds to south Asia;
  • Conducting an internal investigation on behalf of a UK company into potential breaches of export control licences arising from the provision of armed guards to combat piracy at sea.