Skip to main content
Menu Icon Menu Icon
Close

InfoBytes Blog

Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

Filter

Subscribe to our InfoBytes Blog weekly newsletter and other publications for news affecting the financial services industry.

  • OFAC sanctions North Koreans and issues Venezuela general license

    Financial Crimes

    On May 27, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13382 against one individual, two banks, and a trading company connected to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) development of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and ballistic missile programs and to the U.S.-designated DPRK national airline. According to OFAC, the U.S. is “committed to seeking dialogue and diplomacy with the DPRK but will continue to address the threat posed by the DPRK’s unlawful WMD and ballistic missile programs to the United States and the international community.” As a result of the sanctions, all property and interests in property of the sanctioned individuals and entities subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. OFAC noted that its regulations generally prohibit U.S. persons from participating in transactions with the designated person, including transactions transiting the U.S. OFAC’s announcement further warned that any foreign financial institution that knowingly facilitates significant transactions or provides significant financial services for any of the designated individuals or entities may be subject to U.S. correspondent account or payable-through account sanctions.

    The same day, OFAC issued Venezuela- related General License 8J, which authorizes certain transactions involving Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA) that were previously prohibited under prior Executive Orders to the extent such transactions and activities are “necessary for the limited maintenance of essential operations in Venezuela or the wind down of operations in Venezuela for certain entities,” among other things.

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

    Share page with AddThis
  • OFAC sanctions North Koreans for development of WMDs

    Financial Crimes

    On April 1, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions pursuant to Executive Order 13382 against five entities for supporting the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK’s) development of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and ballistic missile programs in violation of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions. According to OFAC, the sanctions target a DPRK WMD research and development organization, which is connected to the development of the DPRK’s intercontinental ballistic missile launches, along with four of its revenue generating subsidiaries. As a result of the sanctions, all property and interests in property of the sanctioned entities are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. OFAC noted that its regulations generally prohibit U.S. persons from participating in transactions with the designated entities, including transactions transiting the U.S. OFAC’s announcement further warned that any foreign financial institution that knowingly facilitates significant transactions or provides significant financial services for any of the designated individuals may be subject to U.S. correspondent account or payable-through account sanctions.

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

    Share page with AddThis
  • OFAC sanctions North Koreans

    Financial Crimes

    On January 12, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions pursuant to Executive Order 13382 against five Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) individuals based in Russia and China that OFAC designated as “responsible for procuring goods for the DPRK’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and ballistic missile-related programs.” According to OFAC, these sanctions are part of the U.S.’s ongoing efforts to counter the DPRK’s “continued use of overseas representatives to illegally procure goods for weapons.” As a result of the sanctions, all property and interests in property of the sanctioned individuals subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. OFAC noted that its regulations generally prohibit U.S. persons from participating in transactions with the designated person, including transactions transiting the U.S. OFAC’s announcement further warned that any foreign financial institution that knowingly facilitates significant transactions or provides significant financial services for any of the designated individuals may be subject to U.S. correspondent account or payable-through account sanctions.

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

    Share page with AddThis
  • OFAC settles with bank for alleged NKSR and Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Sanctions Regulations violations

    Financial Crimes

    On December 23, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a roughly $115,005 settlement of two cases with a Delaware-based bank for allegedly processing transactions in violation of the North Korea Sanctions Regulations (NKSR) and the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Sanctions Regulations. According to OFAC’s web notice, in the first matter, between December 2016 and August 2018, the bank processed 1,479 transactions totaling $382,685, and maintained nine accounts on behalf of five employees of the North Korean Mission to the United Nations without a license from OFAC. Additionally, the bank allegedly often misidentified North Korea or did not properly complete the citizenship field in the customer profiles, which resulted in failing to flag the accounts. The web notice explained that “[u]nder the [NKSR], a general license authorizing certain transactions with the North Korean Mission to the United Nations specifies that it does not authorize U.S. financial institutions to open and operate accounts for employees of the North Korean mission. It further specifies that U.S. financial institutions are required to obtain OFAC specific licenses to operate accounts for such persons.” According to the web notice, since the bank did not obtain a specific license to offer these services, its conduct resulted in apparent violations.

    In arriving at the settlement amount of $105,238, OFAC considered various aggravating factors, including, among other things, that the bank (i) failed to use due caution or care in processing the 1,479 transactions, which was in violation of the NKSR for over a year; (ii) “had reason to know that it maintained accounts for North Korean nationals because at account opening, the account holders of all nine accounts presented to [the bank] North Korean passports”; and (iii) “is a large and commercially sophisticated financial institution with a global presence.” OFAC also considered various mitigating factors, including, among other things, that the bank (i) “enhanced its controls for identifying government officials of sanctioned countries”; and (ii) “updated its operating procedures to specify that reviews of customers in or affiliated with sanctioned jurisdictions must be escalated.”

    In the second matter, according to the web notice, the bank allegedly maintained accounts for a U.S. resident who was on OFAC’s SDN List. The bank did not block the account and disclose to OFAC until after the fifth high-confidence sanctions screening alert was generated because the previous alerts had a “match on full name DOB and geographical location.” The bank’s fraud unit, unaware of the sanctions-related reason for account closure, then credited one of the individual’s accounts, which caused it to be re-opened. The notice reported that the failure to correctly identify the individual as a person on the SDN List was the result of human error and a breakdown in the bank’s sanctions compliance procedures. Further, “[i]n addition to incorrectly dispositioning these alerts, [the bank’s] analysts contravened [the bank’s] procedures which require alerts to be escalated if a match occurs in first and last name and any additional information field.” Such conduct resulted in 145 apparent violations of the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Sanctions Regulations.

    In arriving at the settlement amount of $9,766, OFAC considered various aggravating factors, including, among other things, that the bank (i) “failed to exercise due caution or care for U.S. economic sanctions requirements by incorrectly adjudicating high-confidence sanctions screening alerts four times over four years, despite full date-of-birth and first and last name matches”; (ii) permitted $35,514.13 in transactions by an individual on the SDN List; and (iii) “is a large and sophisticated financial institution with a global presence.” OFAC also considered various mitigating factors, including, among other things, that the bank did not appear to have had actual knowledge of the conduct that led to the apparent violations, and represented that it has terminated this conduct and has undertaken remedial measures.

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

    Share page with AddThis
  • Digital payment solutions company settles 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 Digital Assets OFAC Department of Treasury Cryptocurrency Sanctions Of Interest to Non-US Persons OFAC Designations Enforcement Settlement

    Share page with AddThis
  • Indonesian company settles with OFAC for $1 million for North Korea sanctions violations, enters into deferred prosecution agreement with DOJ

    Financial Crimes

    On January 14, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a more than $1 million settlement with an Indonesian-based paper products manufacturer for 28 apparent violations of the North Korea Sanction Regulations. According to OFAC’s web notice, between 2016 and 2018, the company “exported cigarette paper to entities located in or doing business on behalf of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK),” including a Chinese intermediary that procured paper on behalf of an OFAC-designated company operating under an alias. The company allegedly directed payments for its DPRK-related exports to a U.S. dollar bank account held at a non U.S. bank, leading to 28 wire transfers being cleared through U.S. banks. OFAC noted that while the company initially referenced the DPRK entities on documents such as invoices, packing lists, and bills of lading, it eventually replaced the references with the names of intermediaries located in third countries.

    In arriving at the settlement amount, OFAC considered various aggravating factors, including that the company (i) “acted with reckless disregard for U.S. sanctions laws and regulations” by directing DPRK-related payments to its U.S. dollar account; (ii) was aware that management had actual knowledge of the conduct at issue; and (iii) the company’s actions “caused U.S. persons to confer economic benefits to the DPRK and an OFAC-designated person.”

    OFAC also considered various mitigating factors, including that the company (i) cooperated with OFAC’s investigation; (ii) has undertaken remedial measures, ceased all dealings with the DPRK, and enhanced its compliance controls and internal policies by, among other things, procuring a sanctions screening service from a third-party provider, implementing a know-your-customer process, and requiring that “all trading companies or agents purchasing goods on behalf of other end-users sign an anti-diversion agreement that includes OFAC sanctions compliance commitments.”

    Separately, the DOJ announced that the company agreed to pay a $1.5 million fine and enter into a deferred prosecution agreement for conspiring to commit bank fraud after admitting it deceived U.S. banks in order to trade with the DPRK. The company also “agreed to implement a compliance program designed to prevent and detect violations of U.S. sanctions laws and regulations and to regularly report to the [DOJ] on the implementation of that program.” The company is also required to report violations of relevant U.S. laws to the DOJ and “cooperate in the investigation of such offenses.”

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

    Share page with AddThis
  • 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

    Share page with AddThis
  • OFAC sanctions entities for assisting North Korean regime

    Financial Crimes

    On November 19, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control announced sanctions pursuant to Executive Order 13722 against two entities allegedly involved in the exportation of forced labor from North Korea. According to OFAC, the sanctioned entities—a Russian construction company and a North Korean company—have “engaged in, facilitated, or been responsible for the exportation of forced labor from North Korea, including exportation to generate revenue for the Government of North Korea or Workers’ Party of Korea.” In addition, OFAC updated the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Person List to provide additional information on three previously designated companies responsible for sending North Korean workers to Russia and China. 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.

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

    Share page with AddThis
  • OFAC sanctions investors supporting Syrian government

    Financial Crimes

    On July 29, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions against one individual and nine entities for providing significant investment support to the Syrian government. OFAC noted that, among other things, the designated individual and his companies knowingly provided “significant financial, material, or technological support to, or knowingly engag[ed] in a significant transaction with, the Government of Syria (including any entity owned or controlled by the Government of Syria) or a senior political figure of the Government of Syria.” As a result, all property and interests in property belonging to the designated persons and subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked and must be 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 designated persons,” and warned that non-U.S. persons that engage in transactions with the designated persons may expose themselves to designation. OFAC also referenced a previously published Fact Sheet (covered by InfoBytes here), which highlights the most pertinent exemptions, exceptions, and authorizations for humanitarian assistance and trade under the Syria, Iran, Venezuela, North Korea, Cuba, and Ukraine/Russia-related​ sanctions programs to ensure humanitarian-related trade and assistance reaches at-risk populations through legitimate and transparent channels during the global Covid-19 pandemic.

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

    Share page with AddThis
  • UAE manufacturer settles OFAC, DOJ charges for apparent North Korean sanctions violations

    Financial Crimes

    On July 16, a United Arab Emirates cigarette filter and tear tape manufacturer settled OFAC and DOJ charges for apparent violations of the North Korea Sanctions Regulations (NKSR) 31 C.F.R. part 510 and the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA). According to OFAC’s release, the company allegedly violated the NKSR by (i) engaging in deceptive practices in order to export cigarette filters to North Korea through a network of front companies in China and other countries; and (ii) receiving three wire transfers totaling more than $330,000 in accounts at a U.S. bank’s foreign branch as payment for exporting the filters. OFAC noted that the conduct leading to the apparent violations included aggravating factors such as (i) the company’s senior manager and customer-facing employee willfully violated the NKSR by agreeing to, among other things, transact with non-North Korean front companies to conceal the North Korea connection despite a company policy that “warned that its banks would not handle transactions with sanctioned jurisdictions” including North Korea; and (ii) the senior manager and customer-facing employee were aware that the filters would be sent to North Korea. OFAC also considered various mitigating factors, including that the company substantially cooperated with OFAC’s investigation and agreed to provide ongoing cooperation. Under the terms of the settlement agreement, the company is required to pay a $665,112 civil monetary penalty to OFAC, which will be deemed satisfied by payment of the fine assessed by the DOJ arising out of the same conduct.

    In the parallel criminal enforcement action, the company entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the DOJ, accepting responsibility for its criminal conduct and agreeing to pay a $666,543.88 fine. According to the DOJ, this is the Department’s first corporate enforcement action for violations of the IEEPA. In addition, the company agreed to, among other things, fully cooperate with any investigation, implement a compliance program designed to prevent and detect any future violations of U.S. economic sanctions regulations, provide quarterly reports to the DOJ regarding the status of compliance improvements, provide OFAC-related training, and annually certify to OFAC that it has implemented and has continued to uphold its compliance-related commitments.

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

    Share page with AddThis

Pages

Upcoming Events