UK High Court rejects delisting Synesis without considering corporate changes
The first challenge to sanctions by the United Kingdom on Russia-related grounds has failed.
A report paid for by the Belarusian facial recognition surveillance firm Synesis to support its being dropped from a sanctions list reportedly was ignored by the UK’s High Court.
Instead, according to multiple reports, the court relied on a ministerial review of the sanctions, which found no reason to delist Synesis.
Belarus is governed by a strong-man government that is allied closely with Russia, which is prosecuting an invasion and takeover of neighboring Ukraine. A former part-owner of Synesis, Alexei Aleksin, is reported to be a supporter of the Belarus government. It is alleged that Aleksin left the company after it was listed by the UK government.
A former Synesis subsidiary, 24×7 Panoptes, had sold its biometric surveillance software, Kipod, to the government of President Alexander Lukashenko. Kipod was a central component of what the government called the Republican System for Monitoring Public Security.
Allegedly, it was used to repress opposition to Lukashenko. Large-business and high-wealth-individual law firm Macfarlanes, in a posted analysis of the situation, says the government was capable of “hunting” for a person based on an image.
A year ago, according to Synesis, Lukashenko replaced Panoptes as the “technical operator of the system” with a state-owned business, Beltelecom RUE. The change was complete around the time the UK decided to sanction Synesis.
Synesis claims that Beltelecom implemented another surveillance system and that Panoptes was not involved in any way since that decision.
It is not clear outside of the government if Beltelecom has created its own software or if it is operating Kipod.
Synesis executives reportedly have admitted Kipod could be used to find and follow individuals but have said it was not used to do so. At the same time, according to another law firm, BCL Solicitors, Synesis executives have said that aside from receiving monthly subscription payments, they had no interaction with the firm.
It is unknown at this time if Synesis has further options to appeal being listed.