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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

Treasury implements humanitarian sanctions exceptions

Financial Crimes Department of Treasury OFAC Of Interest to Non-US Persons OFAC Sanctions OFAC Designations

On December 21, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced that it co-led, with Ireland, the development of UNSCR 2664, which implements a carveout from the asset freeze provisions of UN sanctions programs. OFAC noted that to implement the policy across U.S. sanctions programs, it issued or amended general licenses (GLs) to ease the delivery of humanitarian aid and ensure a baseline of authorizations for the provision of humanitarian support across many sanctions programs. The GLs being issued or amended provide authorizations in: (i) the official business of the U.S. government (see here); (ii) the official business of certain international organizations and entities (see here); (iii) certain humanitarian transactions in support of activities of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), such as disaster relief, health services, and activities to support democracy, education, environmental protection, and peacebuilding (see here); and (iv) the provision of agricultural commodities, medicine, and medical devices, as well as replacement parts and components and software updates for medical devices, for personal, non-commercial use (see here). OFAC also noted that it is separately updating a regulatory interpretation in several sanctions programs’ regulations to explain that the property and interests in property of an entity are blocked if one or more blocked persons own, whether individually or in the aggregate, directly or indirectly, a 50 percent or greater interest in the entity. These changes are effective immediately. OFAC is also publishing four new Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs 1105, 1106, 1107 and 1108), which provide further guidance on the action and the authorizations being issued or amended, including guidance for financial institutions facilitating activity for NGOs and OFAC’s due diligence expectations. According to OFAC, these historic steps “further enable the flow of legitimate humanitarian assistance supporting the basic human needs of vulnerable populations while continuing to deny resources to malicious actors.”