Law Bites – March 2022

Sanctioning Russia, what it means for Singapore firms?

 

Singapore imposed sanctions against Russia unilaterally notwithstanding the absence of any binding UN Security Council decision. The last time Singapore acted on its own in imposing sanctions was in 1978, when Vietnam invaded Cambodia. We wrote a Newsflash on this when the global sanctions against Russia were rolled out.

Singapore’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Vivian Balakrishnan, first announced Singapore’s decision to impose sanctions against Russia on February 28, 2022. Singapore is currently the only Southeast Asian country to have imposed sanctions against Russia. In Asia, the city-state joins Japan, South Korea and Taiwan in efforts to trim Russia’s fallback options.

In an act of retaliation, Russia issued a list of countries including Singapore that “commit unfriendly actions” against the country, its companies, and citizens, and announced that all corporate deals with companies and individuals from “unfriendly countries” will have to receive Russian governmental approvals. Foreign creditors from the said list of countries can “be paid in rubles for any debts owed to them by Russian citizens, companies, regions or the state itself”.

Data from the Observatory of Economic Complexity showed that Russia’s exports to Singapore amounted toUS$97 million in November 2021 and its imports from Singapore that month stood at US$65.2 million.  Laboratory reagents and navigation equipment were among the top products that Russia imported from Singapore last November  

The sanctions and restrictions imposed by Singapore aim to constrain Russia’s capacity to conduct war against Ukraine and undermine its sovereignty.

As of March 7, 2022, the Singapore Exchange Regulation (SGX RegCo) suspended the admission to trading of Russian state energy company PJSC Gazprom global depositary receipts. The Singapore Exchange has also noted that Singapore-listed firms with sanction-related businesses should suspend trading until they can show that the sanctions no longer apply to their businesses.

In addition, the Singapore-listed firms must also announce their findings on the exchange after conducting an assessment on the financial and operational impact of the sanctions. Issuers should also submit their proposals on remediation measures within 12 months from the date of suspension and implement the same within 6 months of approval by the authority.

An issuer may be deprived of the rights to trade or issue shares on the Singapore Exchange in the event of a failure to comply with the submission requirement and to execute the approved measures.  More broadly, issuers should also be taking note of the Guidance on “What SGX expects of issuers in respect of sanctions-related risks, subject or activity” issued by the SGX RegCo. The Guidance sets out expectations if an issuer, or any person or entity closely associated with the issuer, is exposed to sanctions-related risks.

In summary, Singapore’s sanctions against Russia would directly impact financial institutions’ dealings with Russian banks and state-linked businesses, as well as imports and exports:

Financial:

  • All financial institutions in Singapore including lenders and insurers to securities exchanges and payment service providers are prohibited from conducting transactions or establishing business relationships with four named banks – VTB Bank, Vnesheconombank (VEB), Promsvyazbank and Bank Rossiya. These banks have already been hit with sanctions by other countries and have been removed from the SWIFT global payment network; and
  • All financial institutions in Singapore are to freeze any assets and funds of the abovementioned banks and are barred from providing fundraising-related services for the Russian government, the central bank or any state-controlled entities. The Singapore government will cease investing in securities newly issued by these entities.

Singapore banks including DBS, OCBC and UOB have restricted trade financing for Russian raw materials by imposing a halt on issuing letters of credit in U.S. dollars for trades involving Russian commodities, including oil and liquefied natural gas. Bank of China’s Singapore operation has also reportedly stopped financing deals involving Russian oil and Russian companies

There are now also restrictions on cryptocurrency transactions. Financial institutions are prohibited from facilitating transactions involving cryptocurrencies that could allow Russian entities to circumvent any of the above prohibitions.

  • Import and export: controls are imposed on Russia-bound exports of military goods, electronics, computers, and telecommunications equipment are banned; and
  • the imposition of export controls extends to sanctioned products transiting in Singapore, even if the products do not originate from Singapore.

It is important for companies to conduct a risk assessment and seek legal advice on the applicable sanctions and the steps that can be taken to minimise the company’s exposure to liability. Some instances where your company may be affected are where payments have to be made to or from Russian entities (whether directly or indirectly), delays in deliveries and price increases caused by disruptions in the supply chain. Businesses should embrace this opportunity to look into their sanctions programme and strengthen their governance framework as part of their ESG strategy.

 

For further information, please contact:

Nicola Loh
Partner
JTJB Singapore Office
E: nicolaloh@jtjb.com
T: 6223 3477 / 9170 7925

 

 

 

 

 

 

This update is for general information only and is not intended to constitute legal advice. JTJB has made all reasonable efforts to ensure the information provided is accurate at the time of publication.