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  • Special Alert: OFAC formalizes expectations for sanctions compliance programs

    Financial Crimes

    Buckley Special Alert

    The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control last week issued a framework for OFAC Compliance Commitments, which, for the first time, outlines OFAC’s views on essential elements of a risk-based sanctions compliance program in a single document that can serve as a roadmap for organizations as they structure and evaluate these programs. The framework should be considered carefully by U.S. organizations with any significant foreign dealings, and foreign organizations that conduct business with the United States or that utilize U.S. goods, services, or financial systems.

    The framework also makes clear that OFAC intends to target individual employees who are culpable for violations. That emphasis follows an action from earlier this year, where OFAC sanctioned an individual it deemed responsible for circumventing his employer’s compliance protocols.

    * * *

    Click here to read the full special alert.

    If you have questions about the OFAC’s new guidance or related issues, please visit our Bank Secrecy Act/Anti-Money Laundering & Sanctions practice page or contact a Buckley attorney with whom you have worked in the past.

    Financial Crimes Department of Treasury OFAC Sanctions Compliance Special Alerts Of Interest to Non-US Persons

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  • OFAC fines shipping company for apparent sanctions violations

    Financial Crimes

    On May 2, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a $871,837 settlement with a New York global shipping and logistics company, as well as its subsidiaries and affiliates, for five alleged violations of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferators Sanctions Regulations. The settlement resolves potential civil liability for the company’s alleged processing of five electronic funds transfers pertaining to payments associated with blocked vessels identified on OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals List.

    In arriving at the settlement amount, OFAC considered various aggravating factors, such as (i) the alleged violations constitute an egregious case and were not voluntarily self-disclosed; (ii) the company recklessly disregarded its obligations to comply with U.S. economic and trade sanctions; (iii) managers were aware of, and participated in, the conduct leading to the alleged violations; and (iv) the company is a global, commercially sophisticated company operating in a high-risk industry.

    OFAC also considered numerous mitigating factors, including that the company has not received a penalty or finding of a violation in the five years prior to the transactions at issue, and the company cooperated with OFAC during the investigation and has undertaken remedial efforts to minimize the risk of similar violations from occurring in the future.

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

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  • OFAC publishes A Framework for OFAC Compliance Commitments

    Financial Crimes

    On May 2, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced the publication of A Framework for OFAC Compliance Commitments to provide guidance on the essential components of a risk-based sanctions compliance program (SCP) for organizations subject to U.S. jurisdiction, along with foreign entities that conduct business in or with the U.S. or U.S. persons, or use U.S.-origin goods or services. The framework highlights five essential compliance components that should be incorporated into an effective SCP: (i) senior management commitment; (ii) risk assessment “identifying potential OFAC issues” likely to be encountered; (iii) internal controls; (iv) testing and auditing; and (v) training. The framework notes that should an entity be subject to a civil monetary penalty (CMP), the Office of Compliance and Enforcement will determine, as appropriate, what other elements should be added to the entity’s SCP. In additional, OFAC states it will “consider favorably” entities that are able to demonstrate the existence of an effective SCP at the time of an apparent violation, which may mitigate a CMP and contribute towards the determination as to whether the violations are “deemed ‘egregious.’”

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

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  • OFAC regulations address foreign interference in U.S. elections

    Financial Crimes

    On April 26, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced regulations effective April 29 implementing Executive Order (E.O.) 13848. As previously covered by InfoBytes, E.O. 13848 was issued last September to authorize sanctions against foreign persons found to have engaged in, assisted, or otherwise supported foreign interference in U.S. elections. OFAC stated it intends to supplement the final rule with further regulations, “which may include additional interpretive and definitional guidance, general licenses, and statements of licensing policy.”

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

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  • OFAC sanctions Venezuelan officials connected to Maduro regime

    Financial Crimes

    On April 26, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions against the two individuals identified as current or former officials of the Government of Venezuela for providing support to former President Maduro’s regime. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network advisories FIN-2017-A006, FIN-2017-A003, and FIN-2018-A003 provide additional information concerning the efforts of Venezuelan government agencies and individuals to use the U.S. financial system and real estate market to launder corrupt proceeds, as well as human rights abuses connected to foreign political figures and their financial facilitators. As a result, all property and interests in property of the sanctioned individuals, and of any entities owned 50 percent or more by them subject to U.S. jurisdiction, are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. U.S. persons are generally prohibited from entering into transactions with designated persons. 

    Visit here for continuing InfoBytes coverage of actions related to Venezuela.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Department of Treasury Sanctions Venezuela

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  • OFAC sanctions Hizballah financier conduits

    Financial Crimes

    On April 24, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions against two individuals and three entities “acting as conduits for sanctions evasion schemes" for Hizballah finances. The designated entities and individuals are also subject to secondary sanctions pursuant to the Hizballah Financial Sanctions Regulations, which implement the Hizballah International Financing Prevention Act of 2015, and allows OFAC the authority to “prohibit or impose strict conditions on the opening or maintaining in the United States of a correspondent account or a payable-through account by a foreign financial institution that knowingly facilitates a significant transaction for Hizballah, or a person acting on behalf of or at the direction of, or owned or controlled by, Hizballah.” As a result, all property and interests in property of the sanctioned individuals and entities, and of any entities owned 50 percent or more by them subject to U.S. jurisdiction, are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. U.S. persons are also generally prohibited from entering into transactions with designated persons. 

    Visit here for additional InfoBytes coverage on sanctions involving Hizballah networks.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Department of Treasury Sanctions

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  • OFAC reaches settlement with New Jersey corporation for alleged Ukrainian sanctions violations

    Financial Crimes

    On April 25, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a $75,375 settlement with a New Jersey corporation for two alleged violations of the Ukraine Related Sanctions Regulations. The settlement resolves potential civil liability for the company’s alleged issuance of two separate invoices for software licensing and software support services to an entity previously identified on OFAC’s Sectoral Sanctions Identification List. According to OFAC, the designated entity’s attempts to remit payment were rejected by financial institutions after it was determined that the transaction was prohibited. However, the corporation—which allegedly failed to have in place a sanctions compliance program and failed to “recognize that the delayed collection of payment was prohibited”—explored possible options to collect the payment and did not seek guidance or authorization from OFAC.

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

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  • Treasury sanctions Venezuela’s central bank and official connected to Maduro regime; sanctions Nicaraguan bank and official

    Financial Crimes

    On April 17, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions against Venezuela’s central bank, along with an individual determined to be a current or former official of the Government of Venezuela, for providing support to former President Maduro’s regime. OFAC stated that the U.S. “has taken steps to ensure that regular debit and credit card transactions can proceed and personal remittances and humanitarian assistance continue unabated and are able to reach those” affected by the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network advisories FIN-2017-A006, FIN-2017-A003, and FIN-2018-A003 provide additional information concerning the efforts of Venezuelan government agencies and individuals to use the U.S. financial system and real estate market to launder corrupt proceeds, as well as human rights abuses connected to foreign political figures and their financial facilitators. 

    Additionally the same day, OFAC designated the Nicaraguan president’s son along with a Nicaraguan bank for actions supporting the Ortega regime. According to OFAC, the bank has, among other things, provided material, technical, and financial support to the previously sanctioned vice president, as well as money laundering assistance to the regime. OFAC also cited to the president’s son’s involvement with foreign investors to provide “preferential access to the Nicaraguan economy.” As a result, all property and interests in property of the sanctioned entities and individuals, and of any entities owned 50 percent or more by them subject to U.S. jurisdiction, are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. U.S. persons are also generally prohibited from entering into transactions with the sanctioned entities and individuals. 

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

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  • German-headquartered financial institution to pay $1.3 billion for Iran sanctions violations

    Financial Crimes

    On April 15, U.S. regulators announced settlements totaling $1.3 billion with several banking units of a German-headquartered financial institution to resolve allegations by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), the DOJ, the Federal Reserve Board, the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS), and the New York County District Attorney’s Office of apparent violations of multiple sanctions programs, including those related to Burma, Cuba, Iran, Libya, Sudan, and Syria. According to OFAC’s announcement, between January 2007 and December 2011, the institution’s banking units in Germany, Austria, and Italy processed thousands of payments through U.S. financial institutions on behalf of sanctioned entities “in a manner that did not disclose underlying sanctioned persons or countries to U.S. financial institutions which were acting as financial intermediaries.”

    According to the settlement agreements (see here, here, and here), OFAC considered various aggravating factors, and noted, among other things, that the institution’s banking units failed to sufficiently enforce policies addressing OFAC sanctions concerns or restrict the processing of transactions in U.S. dollars involving persons or countries subject to sanctions programs administered by OFAC. Additionally, OFAC asserted that the Austrian banking unit claimed on several occasions that OFAC’s sanctions programs “were not legally binding or relevant to [the bank].” OFAC further stated that while the banking units failed to voluntarily self-disclose the alleged violations, they have each agreed to implement and maintain compliance commitments to minimize the risk of the recurrence of the alleged conduct.

    Financial Crimes Of Interest to Non-US Persons OFAC Department of Treasury Settlement Iran Sanctions DOJ Federal Reserve NYDFS

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  • Treasury sanctions key persons in ISIS’ financial network

    Financial Crimes

    On April 15, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions against seven individuals and one entity for allegedly providing financial support to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) operating in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. According to OFAC, six of the designated individuals, as well as the identified entity, belong to a key ISIS financial facilitation group, which uses “money service businesses to circumvent the formal banking sector” and move funds through financial cells around the globe. The seventh designated individual is a financial facilitator in East Africa. As a result, all property and interests in property of the sanctioned entity and individuals, and of any entities owned 50 percent or more by them subject to U.S. jurisdiction, are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. U.S. persons are also generally prohibited from entering into transactions with the sanctioned entity and individuals. 

    Financial Crimes OFAC Department of Treasury Iraq Sanctions

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