Oxebridge has filed a formal criminal complaint with the European Commission (EC) against Italy’s Ministry of Enterprises and that country’s national accreditation body, Accredia, alleging violations of European Union sanctions against Russia.
After the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, the EU enhanced existing EC sanctions against Russia to prohibit any EU member nation from providing “business and management consulting and public relations services cover … management auditing … and advisory, guidance and operational services related to improving the image of the clients and their relations with the general public.” These restrictions appear in Annex II to Regulation (EC) No 184/2005, and the EU announced that violations of these rules comprise “serious criminal offenses.” Individuals in EU nations who are found to have violated the sanctions face fines and imprisonment.
As reported previously, Oxebridge learned that Accredia has routinely ignored the EC Regulation, and as late as January of 2023 renewed the accreditation for the Russian certification body TEST in St. Petersburg.
The head of Accredia is Emanuele Riva, who also currently holds the Chair position for the International Accreditation Forum (IAF), of which Accredia is a member. In May of 2022, bowing to pressure from the public and the European Commission, Riva and the IAF issued a mandatory ruling that prohibited IAF members from continuing to perform accreditation activities in Russia. That statement threatened IAF members with expulsion if they failed to comply.
At the same time, Riva continued to allow Accredia to provide services in Russia, violating his own IAF mandate as well as international law.
Oxebridge has called on the IAF to eject Accredia from its membership, impeach Riva, and hold new elections for IAF Chair immediately. They have not done so. Sources say that IAF leaders, including Elva Nilsen, are privately waiting out Riva’s term limits, with the intent of forcing him to step down at the end, and not pursue re-election.
Allegations of International Fraud
The complaint filed last week by Oxebridge alleges that Riva used his role in the IAF to force other IAF member accreditation bodies out of the Russian Market, so that Accredia would have sole access to the market. The complaint then alleges that Accredia and Riva intentionally violated the EU sanctions in order to continue receiving monies from Russian firms. Oxebridge has confirmed that Riva personally authorized this, believing that his internal procedures somehow trumped international law.
The complaint then alleges the Italian Ministry of Enterprises and Made In Italy were complicit in the criminal fraud. Throughout 2022, Oxebridge had repeatedly copied the Ministry on communications sent to Riva on the sanctions, and submitted separate emails to the Ministry on the matter. Nevertheless, the Ministry took no action against Accredia, and then allowed Accredia to renew the accreditation of TEST in January of this year.
The Oxebridge complaint calls out Italian Minister Adolfo Urso for failing to ensure Accredia complied with EU law.
As of this publication date, the TEST website continues to market its services using the Accredia and IAF logos, despite the bans.
Behind the scenes, sources report that Riva has refused to confer with attorneys on the matter, and instead is relying on his own interpretation of international law. Riva, the sources say, claims the actions by Accredia are legal since they are not granted to specific companies under sanctions. Riva has refused to acknowledge that the EU sanctions are not only targeted at specific companies, but also key services — such as accreditation auditing — for any companies in Russia.
At the same time, Oxebridge has filed a complaint with the international food safety certification body FSSC, which continues to accredit TEST and allows them to use their logo in promoting services in Russia. FSSC operates out of The Netherlands, and is also subject to EU sanctions. A representative from FSSC wrote to Oxebridge suggesting they were not aware of the matter, but instead, “share your questions with the Management Board of FSSC.”