Key facts of the case:
Common foreign and security policy — Restrictive measures taken against Iran with the aim of preventing nuclear proliferation — Freezing of funds — Obligation to state reasons — Rights of defence — Right to effective judicial protection — Error of assessment — Right to property — Right to reputation — Proportionality.
Results (sanctions) and key consequences of the case:
THE GENERAL COURT (First Chamber) hereby:
92. It must be recalled that the fundamental right to observance of the rights of defence during a procedure preceding the adoption of restrictive measures is expressly affirmed in Article 41(2)(a) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, recognised by Article 6(1) TEU as having the same legal value as the Treaties (see judgment in Makhlouf v Council, paragraph 56 above, EU:T:2013:431, paragraph 31 and the case-law cited).
93. The principle of respect for the rights of the defence requires, first, that the person or entity concerned must be informed of the evidence adduced against it to justify the measure adversely affecting it and, secondly, that the person or entity concerned must be afforded the opportunity effectively to make known its view on that evidence (see, by analogy, judgment of 12 December 2006 in Organisation des Modjahedines du peuple d’Iran v Council, T‑228/02, EU:T:2006:384, paragraph 93).
94. In the context of the adoption of a decision maintaining a person’s or entity’s name on a list of persons or entities subject to restrictive measures, the Council must respect the right of that person or entity to a prior hearing where new evidence, namely evidence which was not included in the initial listing decision, is admitted against it in the decision maintaining its name on the list (see, to that effect, judgments of 21 December 2011 in France v People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, C‑27/09 P, ECR, EU:C:2011:853, paragraph 62, and Makhlouf v Council, paragraph 56 above, EU:T:2013:431, paragraphs 42 and 43).
95. In the present case, on 2 August 2012, the Council communicated to the applicant individually the statement of reasons for the contested acts, namely that it ‘[p]rovid[ed] financial support to the Government of Iran’. The legality of the contested acts must be assessed in the light of that statement of reasons which was used by the Council, and not that which appears in the Council’s cover note under reference 17576/12, which is not reproduced in the contested acts.
96. It follows from paragraph 87 above that that statement of reasons could be regarded as sufficient, in the light of the requirements of the case-law, so far as concerns the criterion of support to the Government of Iran.
97. Furthermore, the Council did not in this instance have to communicate to the applicant the documentary evidence on which that statement of reasons was based, since that evidence, which related to the financial services specifically provided to the Government of Iran by the applicant, as the central bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran, could be presumed to be known to all and to be implicitly included in the statement of reasons for the contested acts so far as concerns the criterion of support to the Government of Iran (see paragraph 85 above). In other words, the Council did not have to provide the applicant with the actual documents specifying the applicant’s functions and powers as the central bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
98. The applicant was able to challenge that statement of reasons and the underlying evidence even before the adoption of the contested acts. In the letter of 7 October 2012, it accordingly denied providing financial support to any institution (including the Government of Iran) in order to fund nuclear proliferation. It was also able effectively to exercise its right of appeal by objecting in the present action that it ‘[did] not support the Government financially any more than any other central bank in the world’ and that ‘[s]till less [did] it provide the kind of support to which the contested [acts] relate, namely support for nuclear proliferation activities’.
99. Consequently, the applicant’s rights of defence and its right to effective judicial review were respected when the contested acts were adopted.