EU Court Melts Frozen Assets of Syrian Bank

     (CN) - Vacating sanctions against a Syrian bank on Wednesday, the EU General Court found no proof that it acted as a front for other blacklisted banks in the war-torn country.
     In imposing the asset freeze against Syria International Islamic Bank, the European Council claimed that the bank arranged $150 million in financing for the blacklisted Commercial Bank of Syria in 2011 and 2012.
     Lawmakers also accused the bank of helping another sanctioned bank - Syrian Lebanese Commercial Bank - to make its payments, therefore contributing to the financial support of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad's despotic regime.
     But in a ruling issued Wednesday, the General Court of the European Union found the council failed to prove that transactions carried out by the bank involved frozen funds, since all the deals were made on behalf of individual clients who have never been blacklisted.
     The Luxembourg-based court also noted in its ruling - which is not available in English - that sanctions against other Syrian banks have stemmed from their ties to the Syrian government and not because of specific clients.
     Lawmakers also never tied the bank or its clients to the violent repression of the Syrian people, the court found, saying they instead targeted the bank simply because it handled customers who also had accounts with blacklisted banks.
     In 2012, the U.S. Treasury Department froze Syria International Islamic Bank's assets as well, finding, as EU lawmakers, had that the bank acted as a front for other financial institutions banned in the United States because of their association with al-Assad's use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians.