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On September 16, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act against a leader of a Columbia-based international drug trafficking organization. OFAC noted that the designated individual “strategically located maritime corridors in northern Colombia and collects a per kilogram tax from narcotics traffickers for protection and safe passage of multi-ton shipments of narcotics through the [organization’s] area of control.” OFAC also designated three individuals and two entities closely related to the organization’s leader for providing material support to the narcotics trafficking activities. As a result of the sanctions, all property and interests in property belonging to the sanctioned individual subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. U.S. persons are also generally prohibited from engaging in any dealings involving the property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons.
On September 10, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued Venezuela General License (GL) 5H, which supersedes GL 5G and authorizes certain transactions otherwise prohibited under Executive Orders 13835 and 13857 related to, or that provide financing for, dealings in the Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. 2020 8.5 Percent Bond on or after January 22, 2022. Concurrently, OFAC amended a Venezuela-related frequently asked question regarding GL 5H.
On September 9, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a roughly $190,000 settlement with a Texas-based company for allegedly knowingly exporting goods, technology, and services in violation of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations. According to OFAC’s web notice, between December 2013 and May 2018, the company exported 49 products from the U.S. to two third-country distributors with prior knowledge, or reason to know, that its products were intended specifically for a reseller in Iran. The Iranian reseller then sold three of the exported products to an entity on OFAC’s SDN List, at the time of the relevant exports. On at least three occasions, the company also allegedly provided support, software updates, reseller training, or other services in support of sales to customers located in Iran.
In arriving at the settlement amount, OFAC considered various aggravating factors, including, among other things, that the company: (i) demonstrated reckless disregard for U.S. sanctions regulations by authorizing distribution and support of its goods; (ii) possessed knowledge of the conduct; and (iii) “caused harm to U.S. sanctions objectives by facilitating access to the bank’s products and support services by resellers and users in Iran.”
OFAC also considered various mitigating factors, including, among other things, that the: (i) “volume and total amount of payments underlying the Apparent Violations was not significant compared to [the company’s] overall revenue”; (ii) the company demonstrated remedial actions, including establishing export controls and sanctions compliance policies and procedures; and (iii) the company cooperated with OFAC’s investigation.
On September 3, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions pursuant to Executive Order 13553 against four Iranian intelligence operatives who allegedly targeted a U.S. citizen and Iranian dissidents in a wide-ranging campaign to silence critics of the Iranian government. According to OFAC, a senior official led a network that plotted to kidnap a U.S. journalist, which failed and led to the indictment of members of the network. OFAC also noted that this network has played a key role in the Iranian government’s brutal human rights abuses against Iranians. As a result of the sanctions, “all property and interests in property of these persons that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC.” OFAC further noted that its regulations “generally prohibit all dealings by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons,” and warned foreign financial institutions that knowingly facilitating significant transactions or providing significant financial services to the designated individuals may subject them to U.S. correspondent account or payable-through sanctions.
On August 31, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) announced it will host a special Innovations Hours Program on October 14, “focusing on the important role of digital identity to enhance financial services inclusion while supporting efforts to counter illicit activity that undermine the integrity and opportunity of the US financial system.” Fintech and regulatory technology (regtech) companies, venture capital firms, financial institutions, and others interested in providing a demonstration should highlight how their digital identity solutions work and how these solutions “would be used in practice as well as how they may support private- and public-sector efforts to enhance financial integrity and financial inclusion, while protecting personal privacy.” Interested companies should submit requests here no later than September 24. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the Innovation Hours Program was announced in 2019 to provide opportunities for fintech/regtech companies and financial institutions to showcase new and emerging approaches to combating money laundering and terrorist financing and to demonstrate how financial institutions could use such technologies.
On August 27, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets (OFAC) issued a technical notice for website and sanctions list data file users. The notice provides users information on measures for ensuring application configurations are updated pending the release of a replacement public certification that will be distributed worldwide and will take effect September 1.
On August 27, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a $862,318 settlement with a Romania-based bank and its U.S. parent company to resolve 98 apparent violations of OFAC’s Iran and Syria sanctions programs. According to OFAC’s web notice, the bank processed 98 commercial transactions totaling more than $3.5 million through U.S. banks on behalf of parties located in Iran and Syria. OFAC considered various aggravating factors in arriving at the settlement amount, including that the bank (i) demonstrated “a reckless disregard for U.S. sanctions regulations by failing to implement appropriate controls to comply with applicable U.S. regulations with respect to payments it processed” that had a “sanctions nexus that transited the U.S. financial system” or “after the bank became a foreign subsidiary of a U.S. person”; (ii) knew, or had reason to know, “it was processing payments on behalf of persons in Iran and Syria because of underlying finance and trade documents in its possession that referenced those countries”; and (iii) conveyed more than $3.5 million in economic benefit to Iranian and Syrian persons, thus causing harm to the integrity of U.S. sanctions programs and their associated policy objectives.
OFAC also considered various mitigating factors, including that the bank voluntarily self-disclosed the apparent violations and the apparent violations constitute a non-egregious case. OFAC also determined that the bank (i) has not received a penalty notice from OFAC in the preceding five years; (ii) cooperated with OFAC’s investigation, conducted a lookback, and entered into a tolling agreement; and (iii) has undertaken remedial measures to ensure sanctions compliance. As such, OFAC noted that under its Economic Sanctions Enforcement Guidelines, the base civil money penalty amount is applicable in this matter with the final settlement amount reflecting OFAC’s consideration of general factors.
On August 26, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a roughly $2.3 million settlement with a UK subsidiary of a Chinese financial institution for allegedly processing transactions in violation of the Sudanese Sanctions Regulations, “which prohibited the exportation, directly or indirectly, to Sudan of any goods, technology, or services from the United States.” According to OFAC’s web notice, between September 2014 and February 2016, the bank processed 111 commercial transactions totaling more than $40 million through U.S. correspondent banks on behalf of parties in Sudan. In conducting a lookback review to identify potential Sudan-related transactions, the bank identified two customers who processed transactions through the U.S. financial system. For both of these customers, the bank’s internal customer database did not reference Sudan in the name or address fields, and messages processed on behalf of these customers by the bank through U.S. banks also failed to include any references to Sudan.
In arriving at the settlement amount, OFAC considered various aggravating factors, including, among other things, that (i) the bank demonstrated reckless disregard for U.S. sanctions regulations by processing the transactions “despite having account and transactional information indicating the Sudanese connection to the accounts and in contravention of the bank’s existing policies and procedures”; (ii) certain bank personnel responsible for processing the transactions knew that the payments were related to entities in Sudan; (iii) the bank conferred economic benefit to a comprehensively sanctioned country; and (iv) the bank “is a commercially sophisticated financial institution that processes transactions internationally.”
OFAC also considered various mitigating factors, including, among other things, that the bank (i) has not received a penalty notice from OFAC in the preceding five years; (ii) self-identified the alleged violations, cooperated with OFAC’s investigation, conducted a lookback, and entered into a tolling agreement; and (iii) has undertaken remedial measures, including enhancing policies and procedures to improve compliance with U.S. sanctions when processing payments through the U.S.
On August 24, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued Iran General License (GL) M-1, “Authorizing the Exportation of Certain Graduate Level Educational Services and Software,” which authorizes accredited graduate and undergraduate degree-granting academic institutions in the U.S. to engage with Iranian students in online educational services and exploration of software through September 1, 2022, provided certain criteria are met. OFAC also published an updated FAQ related to GL M-1 (see 853). Effective August 24, GL M-1 supersedes and replaces GL M.
On August 24, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions pursuant to Executive Order 13818 against three Paraguayan individuals and five entities under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act. According to OFAC, the designations highlight the financial risks and activities where Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay converge, which is marked by many unregistered money exchange houses, trade based money laundering, and a lack of awareness regarding money laundering and terrorist financing typologies, among other things. As a result of the sanctions, all property and interests in property belonging to the sanctioned persons, and “any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more” by them that are subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. OFAC notes that its regulations generally prohibit U.S. persons from participating in transactions with these individual and entities, which include “the making of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of any blocked person or the receipt of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services from any such person.”
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