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  • Payment processing solutions company settles multiple sanctions violations with OFAC for $500k

    Financial Crimes

    On February 18, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a $507,375 settlement with a Georgia-based payment processing solutions company for 2,102 apparent violations of multiple sanctions programs. According to OFAC’s web notice, between 2013 and 2018, the company—which offers solutions for merchants to accept digital currency as payment for goods and services—allegedly processed thousands of transactions on behalf of individuals located in sanctioned jurisdictions based on IP addresses and invoice information. Specifically, OFAC alleged that the company “received digital currency payments on behalf of its merchant customers from those merchants’ buyers who were located in sanctioned jurisdictions, converted the digital currency to fiat currency, and then related that currency to its merchants.” While OFAC noted that the company screened its direct merchants against its List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons and conducted due diligence to ensure merchants were not located in a sanctioned jurisdiction, the company’s transaction review process allegedly failed to screen identification and location data for its merchants’ buyers, many of whom were located in Crimea, Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Sudan, and Syria. As a result, these buyers, OFAC claimed, were able to make purchases from merchants located in the U.S. and elsewhere using digital currency on the company’s platform in violation of an executive order and multiple sanctions regulations.

    In arriving at the settlement amount, OFAC considered various aggravating factors, including that the company (i) “failed to exercise due caution or care for its sanctions compliance obligations” by allowing buyers in sanctioned jurisdictions to transact with merchants despite having “sufficient information to screen those customers”; and (ii) conveyed more than $128,000 in economic benefit to individuals in OFAC sanctioned jurisdictions.

    OFAC also considered various mitigating factors, including that the company (i) had implemented certain sanctions compliance controls, including due diligence and sanctions screening; (ii) trained employees—including senior management—that signing up merchants from sanctioned jurisdictions or trading with sanctioned persons is prohibited; (iii) cooperated with OFAC’s investigation; and (iv) terminated the conduct leading to the apparent violations and undertook remedial measures to minimize the risk of similar violations from occurring in the future. The base civil monetary penalty applicable in this action is $2,255,000; however, the lower settlement amount reflects OFAC’s consideration of the general factors under the Economic Sanctions Enforcement Guidelines.

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

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  • OFAC issues Hong Kong-related sanctions regulations, updates SDN List

    Financial Crimes

    On January 15, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued regulations implementing Executive Order (E.O.) 13936 issued last July. As previously covered by InfoBytes, E.O. 13936, among other things, targets and authorizes the imposition of sanctions on persons who materially assist, sponsor, or provide financial, material, or technological support to activities contributing to the undermining of Hong Kong’s democracy and autonomy. The regulations outline prohibitions, including prohibited transactions, and provide general definitions, interpretations, licensing authorizations, and penalties and findings of violations. OFAC noted it intends to supplement Part 585 of the regulations with more comprehensive regulations that “may include additional interpretive and definitional guidance and additional general licenses and statements of licensing policy.”

    The same day, OFAC also added several individuals and entities to its Specially Designated Nationals List. These persons have been added pursuant to OFAC’s Hong Kong-related designations, Global Magnitsky designations, E.O. 13846, and the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act, among others.

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

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  • OFAC sanctions organizations controlled by the Supreme Leader of Iran

    Financial Crimes

    On January 13, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions against two purportedly charitable organizations controlled by the Supreme Leader of Iran, as well as their leaders and subsidiaries, for, among other things, allegedly controlling assets expropriated from political dissidents and religious minorities in order to benefit senior Iranian government officials. The OFAC sanctions were taken pursuant to Executive Order 13876 and follow sanctions issued last November against a conglomerate of roughly 160 holdings in key sectors of Iran’s economy (covered by InfoBytes here). As a result of the sanctions, all property and interests in property belonging to the sanctioned persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any dealings involving the property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons. OFAC further warned foreign financial institutions that knowingly conducting or facilitating significant transactions for or on behalf of the designated persons could subject them to U.S. correspondent account or payable-through sanctions.

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

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  • OFAC sanctions additional actors in Iranian steel sector

    Financial Crimes

    On January 5, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions against a Chinese supplier of graphite electrodes, 12 Iranian producers of steel and other metal products, and a major Iranian metals and mining holding company’s three foreign-based sales agents. OFAC’s actions are taken pursuant to Executive Order 13871 (covered by InfoBytes here), which authorizes the imposition of sanctions on persons determined to operate in Iran’s iron, steel, aluminum, and copper sectors, which OFAC identified as providing “funding and support for the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorist groups and networks, campaigns of regional aggression, and military expansion.” 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 conducting or facilitating significant transactions for or on behalf of the designated persons could subject them to U.S. correspondent account or payable-through sanctions.

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

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  • OFAC settles with digital asset company over multiple sanctions violations

    Financial Crimes

    On December 30, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a nearly $100,000 settlement with a California-based digital asset security company for 183 apparent violations of multiple sanctions programs. According to OFAC, between March 2015 and December 2019, the company processed 183 digital currency transactions, totaling over $9,000, on behalf of individuals who were located in sanctioned jurisdictions, such as the Crimea region of Ukraine, Cuba, Iran, Sudan, and Syria. OFAC notes that, prior to April 2018, the company allowed users to open accounts by providing only a name and email address, and while it then amended its policies to require all new accountholders to verify the country in which they were located, it did not perform additional verification or diligence on their actual location.

    In arriving at the settlement amount, OFAC considered various aggravating factors, including that the company (i) failed to implement appropriate, risk-based sanctions compliance controls; and (ii) had reason to know that some of its users were located in sanctioned jurisdictions based on users’ IP address data.

    OFAC also considered various mitigating factors, such as (i) the company not having received a penalty notice from OFAC in the proceeding five years; (ii) the company cooperating with the investigation; and (iii) the company having undertaken remedial measures, including hiring a Chief Compliance Officer and implementing a new OFAC policy.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Sanctions OFAC Designations Settlement Enforcement Of Interest to Non-US Persons Cuba Iran Syria

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  • OFAC sanctions entities supporting the sale of Iranian petrochemicals

    Financial Crimes

    On December 16, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions pursuant to Executive Order 13846 against four entities for facilitating the export of Iranian petrochemical products on behalf of a previously designated petrochemical company. According to OFAC, the designated entities—China- and United Arab Emirates-based companies—have allegedly provided the previously designated company “with critical shipping services or conducted financial transactions on” its behalf, which has enabled the previously designated company to “continue brokering and moving Iranian petrochemical exports.” As a result of the sanctions, all property and interests in property of the designated persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and any “entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by such persons, are also blocked.” OFAC noted that its regulations “generally prohibit” U.S. persons from participating in transactions with the designated persons. OFAC further warned foreign financial institutions that knowingly facilitating significant transactions or providing significant support to the designated persons may subject them to sanctions and could sever their access to the U.S. financial system.

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

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  • OFAC sanctions entities connected to IRGC-QF

    Financial Crimes

    On December 8, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13224 against an official in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF), along with the Iranian regime’s envoy to the Houthi rebels in Yemen, for allegedly “acting for or on behalf of the IRGC-QF.” OFAC also announced sanctions against an Iranian university and a separate individual for providing support to IRGC-QF operations. As a result, all property and interests in property belonging to the designated persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and any “entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by such persons, are also blocked.” U.S. persons are “generally prohibited from engaging in transactions” with the designated persons. OFAC further warned foreign financial institutions that if they knowingly facilitate significant transactions for the designated persons they “risk exposure to sanctions that could sever their access to the U.S. financial system or block their property and interests in property under U.S. jurisdiction.”

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

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  • OFAC sanctions entities for assisting North Korean coal exportation

    Financial Crimes

    On December 8, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions pursuant to Executive Orders 13687, 13722, and 13810 against six entities related to the alleged transportation of North Korean coal. OFAC also identified four vessels as blocked property. According to OFAC, by engaging in activities prohibited under UN Security Council resolution 2371, the six sanctioned entities have assisted North Korea’s continued efforts to circumvent UN prohibitions on the exportation of North Korean coal. As a result of the sanctions, “all property and interests in property of these targets that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC.” OFAC noted that its regulations “generally prohibit” U.S. persons from participating in transactions with the designated persons, and warned foreign financial institutions that if they knowingly facilitate significant transactions for any of the designated individuals or entities, they may be subject to U.S. secondary sanctions. OFAC also recommended all relevant jurisdictions review a global advisory issued last May by the U.S. Departments of State and Treasury, along with the U.S. Coast Guard (covered by InfoBytes here), which warned the maritime industry of deceptive shipping practices used by Iran, North Korea, and Syria to evade economic sanctions.

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

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  • OFAC sanctions supporter of Iranian chemical weapons research

    Financial Crimes

    On December 3, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions against a subordinate to the Iranian Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research and its director for its involvement in Iran’s chemical weapons research. The government made the sanctions designations pursuant to Executive Order 13382, which aims to freeze the assets of proliferators of weapons of mass destruction along with their supporters. As a result, all property and interests in property belonging to, or owned by, the designated persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and U.S. persons are also generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them. OFAC further warned foreign financial institutions that knowingly facilitating significant transactions or providing significant support to the designated persons may subject them to U.S. sanctions.

    Additionally, OFAC updated and issued several Iran-related FAQs.

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

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  • OFAC sanctions network for financially contributing to the Supreme Leader of Iran

    Financial Crimes

    On November 18, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control announced sanctions against “a key patronage network for the Supreme Leader of Iran” (Foundation)—a conglomerate of roughly 160 holdings in key sectors of Iran’s economy, including finance, energy, construction, and mining—along with Iran’s Minister of Intelligence and Security. The Foundation is being designated pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13876, which also targets the Supreme Leader of Iran, the Iranian Supreme Leader’s Office (SLO), as well as their affiliates. According to OFAC, the Foundation, among other things, allegedly transferred large amounts of money to the SLO and made financial contributions to candidates for Iran’s presidential election. The Foundation also allegedly “maintains control of its economic empire through a network of holding companies touching nearly every sector of the Iranian economy.” Seven of these companies have also been designated, “along with dozens of their owned-or-controlled subordinate entities, as well as a number of “independent” Foundation owned-or-controlled subsidiaries and their owned-or-controlled subordinate companies.” The Iranian Minister of Intelligence and Security is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13553 for “having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, the [Ministry of Intelligence and Security],” which plays “a key role in the Iranian regime’s brutal human rights abuses against the Iranian people.”

    As a result, all property and interests in property belonging to, or owned by, the designated persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and U.S. persons are also generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them. OFAC further warned foreign financial institutions that knowingly facilitating significant transactions or providing significant support to the designated persons may subject them to U.S. correspondent account or payable-through account sanctions.

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

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