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  • Treasury issues Cuba joint fact sheet

    Financial Crimes

    On August 11, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) released a fact sheet to emphasize the U.S. government’s commitment to promoting the ability of the Cuban people “to seek, receive, and impart information” through access to the internet. According to OFAC, “[t]he fact sheet highlights the most relevant exemptions and authorizations pertinent to supporting the Cuban people through the provision of certain internet and related telecommunications services.” The fact sheet also notes that though most transactions between persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction and Cuba are prohibited under the current embargo, the U.S. government permits certain activities to support the Cuban people’s access to information on the internet. The relevant OFAC regulations can be found in the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, 31 C.F.R. part 515 and the relevant BIS regulations can be found in the Export Administration Regulations, 15 C.F.R. parts 730-774.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Department of Commerce Cuba

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  • OFAC sanctions Cuban Ministry of the Interior for human rights abuse

    Financial Crimes

    On January 15, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions against the Cuban Ministry of Interior and the Minister of Interior for his alleged connection to serious human rights abuses. According to OFAC, the sanctions are taken pursuant to Executive Order 13818, which implements the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act and “targets perpetrators of serious human rights abuse and corruption.” As a result of the sanctions, all of the individual’s property and interests in property that are blocked pursuant to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations continue to be blocked, as well as any of the individual’s property and interests in property in the United States or possessed or controlled by U.S. persons. Additionally, OFAC regulations prohibit U.S. persons from participating in transactions with the individual unless exempt or otherwise authorized by an OFAC general or specific license.

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

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  • OFAC designates Cuban state-owned businesses for evading U.S. sanctions

    Financial Crimes

    On December 21, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions pursuant to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations against three state-owned entities “controlled by the Cuban military with strategic roles in the Cuban economy.” According to OFAC, the entities are identified on OFAC’s List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons, with two of the entities being designated for, among other things, using “their Panamanian incorporation to subvert international trade restrictions.” One of the sanctioned entities, OFAC notes, is a financial investment and remittance company “authorized by the Central Bank of Cuba to finance export operations, conduct financial leasing operations, and handle commercial distribution of remittance cards.” Find continuing InfoBytes coverage on the Cuban Assets Control Regulations here.

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

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  • OFAC amends CACR to remove certain remittance-related general authorizations

    Financial Crimes

    On October 26, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a final rule amending the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR) “to further implement portions of the President’s foreign policy toward Cuba to deny the Cuban government access to funds in connection with remittances to Cuba.” Among other things, the final rule amends several general licenses to remove any transactions that involve entities or subentities identified on the State Department’s Cuba Restricted List (CRL) from the scope of certain remittance-related general authorizations. According to OFAC, the CRL is a list of “entities and subentities under the control of, or acting for or on behalf of, the Cuban military, intelligence, or security services or personnel with which direct financial transactions would disproportionately benefit such services or personnel at the expense of the Cuban people or private enterprise in Cuba.” Additionally, the final rule also clarifies that transactions that relate to the collection, receipt or forwarding of remittances involving an identified entity or subentity are “not authorized as an ordinarily incident transaction where the terms of the general or specific license expressly exclude any such transactions.” In conjunction with the announcement of the final rule, OFAC also updated and issued several new Frequently Asked Questions. The final rule takes effect November 26, allowing for a 30-day implementation period in order to allow for technical implementation of the additional restrictions.

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

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  • OFAC reaches $5.8 million settlement to resolve Cuban Assets Control Regulations violations

    Financial Crimes

    On October 1, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a more than $5.8 million settlement with a New York-incorporated travel assistance services company to resolve 2,593 apparent violations of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR). According to OFAC’s web notice, from roughly June 2010 to January 2015, the company formally codified an indirect payment process in its procedures manual, in which it “intentionally referred” Cuba-related payments to a Canadian affiliate to avoid “processing reimbursement payments directly to Cuban parties and to travelers while they were located in Cuba.” Reimbursements were then sent from the company to the Canadian affiliate for those payments. While the company had a sanctions compliance policy during the time of the apparent violations to screen for individuals or entities on OFAC’s List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons, it allegedly failed to comply with screening requirements for countries and regions subject to OFAC prohibitions.

    In arriving at the settlement amount, OFAC considered various aggravating factors, including that the company (i) knew it was illegal to make direct payments to Cuban service providers and therefore formalized the aforementioned referral process; (ii) provided “prohibited post-travel claim reimbursements directly to unauthorized Canadian subscribers who travelled to Cuba”; and (iii) knew of the conduct at issue because the indirect payment process was codified and approved by its CEO.

    OFAC also considered various mitigating factors, including that (i) the CACR was later amended to authorize some of the apparent violations; (ii) the company enhanced its sanctions compliance program by, among other things, implementing a formal structure for compliance personnel and conducting sanctions training for all employees; (iii) the company voluntarily disclosed the violations and signed a tolling agreement, including multiple extensions; and (iv) the company terminated the conduct leading to the apparent violations and has undertaken remedial measures to minimize the risk of similar violations from occurring in the future.

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

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  • OFAC amends CACR to restrict revenue sources to the Cuban regime

    Financial Crimes

    On September 23, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a final rule amending the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR) to further implement portions of the President’s foreign policy to deny the Cuban regime sources of revenue. Among other things, the final rule (i) amends an interpretive provision and several general licenses regarding lodging and related transactions at certain properties in Cuba identified on the State Department’s “Cuba Prohibited Accommodations List,” including those owned or controlled by the Cuban government; (ii) amends four general licenses to restrict the importation of Cuban-origin alcohol and tobacco products into the U.S.; (iii) amends a general license to eliminate the authorization for U.S. persons to attend or organize professional meetings or conferences in Cuba (specific licenses may be issued on a case-by-case basis for certain transactions); and (iv) eliminates a general license that authorizes U.S. persons “to participate in or organize certain public performances, clinics, workshops, other athletic or non-athletic competitions, and exhibitions, and replaces it with a specific licensing policy” (again permitting the authorization of specific activities via specific license on a case-by-case basis). The final rule also makes several technical and conforming changes, and is effective September 24.

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

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  • OFAC settles Cuban Assets Control Regulation violations

    Financial Crimes

    On May 6, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a $257,862 settlement with an animal nutrition company for 44 alleged violations of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR). According to OFAC, between July 2012 and September 2017, the company and its owned or controlled foreign entities allegedly coordinated agricultural commodity sales to a Cuban company without OFAC authorization by processing Cuba-related business through its foreign affiliates and developing “a transaction structure that it incorrectly determined would be consistent with U.S. sanctions requirements.” OFAC noted that the company “could potentially have availed itself of such authorization” or applied for a specific licenses from OFAC, but “failed to seek appropriate advice or otherwise take the steps necessary to authorize these transactions.” OFAC determined that in light of the fact that the transactions may have been eligible for authorization, as well as the company’s voluntary self-disclosure, compliance enhancements, and other factors, the apparent violations constituted a non-egregious case.

    OFAC advised U.S. companies with a global presence to maintain an appropriate sanctions compliance program and to seek “appropriate advice and guidance” when contemplating business that may be impacted by U.S. sanctions programs. In addition, OFAC referenced enforcement and compliance resources and cautioned that sanctions violations can arise from a misinterpretation or lack of understanding of OFAC’s regulations, including general licenses and authorizations. OFAC advised U.S. persons to “exercise[e] caution when dealing with foreign subsidiaries or affiliates located in regions subject to U.S. sanctions programs” and to understand the full scope and applicability of authorizations related to certain sanctions prohibitions.

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

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  • OFAC settles with travel insurance companies

    Financial Crimes

    On December 9, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a settlement with a U.S.-based property and casualty company for 6,474 alleged violations of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR). According to OFAC, between August 2010 and January 2015, the company’s Canadian branch provided travel insurance policies to Canadian citizens traveling to Cuba, and continued to do so even though the company knew early on that that policies were being issued related to travel to Cuba but did not investigate it until 2014. In arriving at the settlement amount, OFAC considered various mitigating factors, including the fact that the company voluntarily self-disclosed the issue to OFAC, and that the company enhanced its OFAC compliance. OFAC also considered various aggravating factors, including that the company had knowledge of the violations as early as 2010, and that the travel policies “provided economic benefit to Cuba.”

    Also on December 9, OFAC announced another settlement, this time with a Swiss worldwide insurance and reinsurance company, which formerly was a subsidiary of a U.S. company. The settlement resolves potential civil liability for 20,291 alleged violations of the CACR between January 2010 and December 2014 for issuing insurance policies for Cuba-related travel, because the policies, though global in scope, did not include an exclusionary clause “for risks that would violate U.S. sanctions law.” OFAC considered a number of mitigating factors in determining the settlement amount, including the fact that the company voluntarily self-disclosed the alleged violations and represented that it conducted a risk assessment of its offices and developed compliance policies and procedures. Additionally, OFAC considered several aggravating factors, including that the company issued global policies that did not contain exclusionary clauses, the activity resulted from a pattern or practice spanning several years, and the company is a large and commercially sophisticated financial institution.

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

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  • OFAC settles with multinational corporation for Cuban sanctions violations

    Financial Crimes

    On October 1, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a settlement of more than $2.7 million with a multinational corporation, on behalf of three subsidiaries, to resolve potential civil liability for 289 alleged violations of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR). The settlement resolves allegations that between December 2010 and February 2014, the subsidiaries accepted payments on 289 occasions from an entity identified on OFAC’s List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons “for goods and services provided to a Canadian customer.” OFAC alleged that although the subsidiaries negotiated and entered into contracts with the Canadian customer—and invoices were sent to the customer—the designated entity was approved as a third-party payer and paid more than 65 percent of the total transactions. OFAC asserted that the subsidiaries failed to undertake sufficient diligence into the activities of the Canadian customer, and noted that the sanctions screening software used by the subsidiaries was set to screen for only one version of the designated entity’s name.

    In arriving at the settlement amount, OFAC considered various mitigating factors including that (i) OFAC has not issued a violation against the subsidiaries in the five years preceding the earliest date of the transactions at issue; (ii) the corporation identified the alleged violations by testing and auditing its compliance program, and implemented several remedial measures in response to the alleged violations, which included improvements to its compliance program; and (iii) the corporation entered into, and agreed to extend, multiple statute of limitations tolling agreements.

    OFAC also considered various aggravating factors, including that (i) the subsidiaries “failed to take proper or reasonable care with respect to their U.S. economic sanctions obligations”; (ii) the subsidiaries’ actions allowed a large volume of high-value transactions to be conducted with the designated entity, causing “substantial harm” to the CACR objectives; and (iii) the corporation’s submissions to OFAC “leave substantial uncertainty about the totality of the benefits conferred” to the designated entity through the Canadian customer.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Settlement Cuba Of Interest to Non-US Persons

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  • OFAC strengthens Cuba sanctions, revokes “U-turn” authorization

    Financial Crimes

    On September 6, the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced amendments effective October 9 to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR), which implement changes in accordance with President Trump’s 2017 National Security Presidential Memorandum “Strengthening the Policy of the United States Towards Cuba.” Key elements of the changes include:

    • Lowering the value of permitted remittances to Cuba. Family remittances will be capped at $1,000 U.S. dollars per quarter that a single remitter can send to an individual Cuban national. Remittances to close family members of prohibited Cuban officials and members of the Cuban Communist Party will be forbidden. While the amendments rescind the authorization for donative remittances, they add a new provision authorizing remittances to certain individuals and independent non-governmental organizations in Cuba “to support the operation of economic activity . . . independent of government control.”
    • “U-turn” transactions. The amended sanctions revoke what is commonly referred to as the Cuban “U-turn” authorization. Effective next month, financial institutions subject to U.S. jurisdiction will no longer be authorized to process Cuba-related payments that originate and terminate outside the United States. However, financial institutions subject to U.S. jurisdiction will be permitted to reject such transactions.

    An updated list of FAQs related to the CACR has also been published, as well as guidance on recent changes to the sanctions.

    The changes will have the greatest impact on U.S. banks offering foreign correspondent banking services and foreign banks utilizing those services, increasing compliance risks for both. They also shut a significant window to the U.S. financial system that foreign persons conducting international trade with Cuba previously enjoyed.

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

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