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On July 16, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), along with the Departments of State, Treasury, Commerce, and Homeland Security, issued an advisory on the risks associated with actions carried out by the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Government (PRC) of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) that may impact U.S. companies operating in the Hong Kong SAR of the People’s Republic of China. The advisory divides risks into four categories: (i) risks for businesses following the imposition of the NSL; (ii) data privacy risks; (iii) risks regarding transparency and access to critical business information; and (iv) risks for businesses with exposure to sanctioned Hong Kong or PRC entities or individuals. As previously covered by InfoBytes, OFAC issued regulations implementing Executive Order (E.O.) 13936 issued last July. 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 (covered by InfoBytes here). In addition to the advisory, OFAC added several individuals and entities to its Specially Designated Nationals List.
On June 17, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued three general licenses, Iran GL N, Syria GL 21, and Venezuela GL 39, (referred to as the “COVID-19-related GLs”) to expand upon Treasury’s existing authorizations for Covid-19-related transactions and activities. As previously covered by InfoBytes, OFAC published a Fact Sheet providing guidance to ensure humanitarian-related trade and assistance reaches at-risk populations through legitimate and transparent channels during the global Covid-19 pandemic. The recently released COVID-19-related GLs build on longstanding humanitarian exemptions, exceptions, and authorizations to cover Covid-19-related transactions and activities, which include, among others, “transactions and activities involving the delivery of face masks, ventilators and oxygen tanks, vaccines and the production of vaccines, COVID-19 tests, air filtration systems, and COVID-19-related field hospitals.” These GLs are also part of the Biden Administration’s efforts designated in National Security Memorandum – 1, which directs certain government agencies to review existing U.S. and “multilateral financial and economic sanctions to evaluate whether they are unduly hindering responses to the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide.” According to OFAC, these new authorizations will continue to support the effort by governments, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, and private sector actors in providing Covid-19-related assistance to people in certain sanctioned jurisdictions. OFAC also published six FAQs related to the COVID-19-related GLs (see 906, 907, 908, 909, 910, and 911).
On June 10, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions pursuant to Executive Order 13224 against members of a smuggling organization that allegedly contributes to funding Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) and the Houthis in Yemen. According to OFAC, the group is led by an Iran-based Houthi financier and generates millions of dollars from selling commodities, such as Iranian petroleum, of which a significant amount is directed through an intricate network of intermediaries in several countries to the Houthis in Yemen. OFAC Director Andrea M. Gacki noted that financial support from the network “enables the Houthis’ deplorable attacks threatening civilian and critical infrastructure in Yemen and Saudi Arabia,” and that the attacks “undermine efforts to bring the conflict to an end and, most tragically, starve tens of millions of innocent civilians.” As a result of the sanctions, all property and interests in property belonging to the sanctioned individuals, and “any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more” by the individuals that are subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. OFAC’s announcement further noted that OFAC regulations “generally prohibit” U.S. persons from participating in transactions with designated persons and foreign financial institutions that knowingly participate in significant transactions related to the designated individuals risk sanctions that could discontinue their access to the U.S. financial system or block their property or interests in property under U.S. jurisdiction.
In addition, OFAC announced the removal of sanctions on three former Government of Iran officials, and two companies who were previously connected to the handlings of Iranian petrochemical products. According to OFAC, “these delistings are a result of a verified change in behavior or status on the part of the sanctioned parties and demonstrate the U.S. government’s commitment to lifting sanctions in the event of a change in behavior or status for sanctioned persons.”
On June 9, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions pursuant to Executive Order 13851 against four individuals connected to the Ortega regime. According to the announcements, the Ortega regime has undermined democracy, abused civilians’ human rights, implemented corrupt laws with negative economic results, and attempted to censor the independent news media. OFAC Director Andrea M. Gacki, stated that the Ortega regime “intends to continue its suppression of the Nicaraguan people,” and “[t]he United States will continue to expose those officials who continue to ignore the will of its citizens.” As a result of the sanctions, all property and interests in property belonging to the sanctioned individual, and “any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more” by the individual that are subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. OFAC’s announcement further noted that OFAC regulations “generally prohibit” U.S. persons from participating in transactions with designated persons.
President Biden issues executive order blocking U.S. entry by some persons connected to the Western Balkans
On June 8, President Biden issued an Executive Order (E.O.) on “Blocking Property And Suspending Entry Into The United States Of Certain Persons Contributing To The Destabilizing Situation In The Western Balkans.” According to the E.O., expanding the scope will address the national emergency declared in E.O. 13219, “including the undermining of post-war agreements and institutions following the breakup of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, as well as widespread corruption within various governments and institutions in the Western Balkans, stymies progress toward effective and democratic governance and full integration into transatlantic institutions, and thereby constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.” The E.O blocks property and interests in property that are in the U.S. or in the possession or control of certain persons who meet one or more of the criteria set forth in the order, including those who are determined, among other things: (i) “to be responsible for or complicit in, or to have directly or indirectly engaged in, actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, stability, or territorial integrity of any area or state in the Western Balkans”; (ii) “to be responsible for or complicit in, or to have directly or indirectly engaged in, actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions in the Western Balkans”; or (iii) “to have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order.” Additionally, the Treasury Secretary is authorized to take actions, including promulgating rules and regulations, to carry out the purposes of the E.O.
President Biden issues executive order prohibiting securities investments in Chinese military companies
On June 3, President Biden issued Executive Order (E.O.) 14032, “Addressing the Threat from Securities Investments that Finance Communist Chinese Military Companies.” The E.O. takes additional steps pursuant to the national emergency declared pursuant to E.O. 13959 (covered by Infobytes here), including the threat posed by the military-industrial complex of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and “its involvement in military, intelligence, and security research and development programs, and weapons and related equipment production under the PRC’s Military-Civil Fusion strategy.” The E.O. generally prohibits U.S. persons from “the purchase or sale of any publicly traded securities, or any securities that are derivative of such securities, or are designed to provide investment exposure to such securities, of” any listed Chinese military company. The E.O. also establishes the deadlines for divestment of investments in companies currently listed as Chinese military companies as well as companies that later may be added to the list of Chinese military.
Among other things, the prohibitions apply “except to the extent provided by statutes, or in regulations, orders, directives, or licenses that may be issued pursuant to this order, and not withstanding any contract entered into or any license or permit granted before the date of the order.” The E.O. also prohibits any transactions by U.S. persons or within the U.S. that evade or avoid, have the purpose of evading or avoiding, cause a violation of, or attempt to violate the provisions set forth in the order, as well as any conspiracy to violate any of these prohibitions. Additionally, the Treasury Secretary—after consulting with heads of other executive departments as deemed appropriate—is authorized to take actions, including promulgating rules and regulations, to carry out the purposes of the E.O.
OFAC also published eight new FAQs and seven updated FAQs regarding the new E.O. In addition, several names and entities have been added to OFAC’s Non-SDN Chinese Military-Industrial Complex Companies List.
On June 2, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions pursuant to Executive Order 13818 against three individuals for their extensive roles in corruption in Bulgaria and their networks, which encompasses 64 entities. According to the announcement, this is the single largest action targeting corruption to date. Andrea Gacki, Director of OFAC, noted that the U.S. joins Bulgarians in “promoting accountability for corrupt officials who undermine the economic functions and democratic institutions.” Additionally, “any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by one or more blocked persons are also blocked.” The sanctions also generally prohibit U.S. persons from engaging in any dealings involving the property or interests in property of designated or otherwise blocked persons.
On June 1, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control issued Venezuela-related General License (GL) 8H, which authorizes transactions involving Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PdVSA) necessary for the limited maintenance of essential operations in Venezuela or the wind down of operations in Venezuela for certain entities that would otherwise be prohibited by Executive Order 13850, as incorporated into the Venezuela Sanctions Regulations. (Covered by InfoBytes here.) Effective June 1, GL 8H replaces GL 8G, which was issued November 2020.
On May 27, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) removed FAQ 880 from its website and published a new FAQ 896 pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13959, “Addressing the Threat From Securities Investments That Finance Communist Chinese Military Companies.” FAQ 880 previously stated that, following a court order preliminarily enjoining the implementation of E.O. 13959 against a previously sanctioned company, the prohibitions are no longer applicable pending further order of the court (covered by InfoBytes here). FAQ 896 clarifies that the prohibitions in E.O. 13959 do not apply with respect to the specific company identified in the FAQ.
On May 26, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced the release of a joint statement by the Counter ISIS Finance Group (CIFG) of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, which coordinates efforts to isolate the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) from the international financial system and eliminate revenue sources. The CIFG held its fourteenth meeting on May 17 to discuss ongoing efforts to combat ISIS financing worldwide, which coincided with sanctions against three individuals and one entity connected to ISIS for allegedly helping ISIS access the financial system in the Middle East through a network of international donors (covered by InfoBytes here).
Among other things, the statement highlighted ISIS’s “reliance on regional money services businesses (MSBs) to transfer funds internationally,” its focus on funding “the release of its detained operatives and family members, and its extortion and looting of Syrian and Iraqi populations.” CIFG members and observers also noted the significance of “information-sharing, increased oversight over financial institutions, and coordinated disruptive actions to deter ISIS financial supporters from accessing the regional financial system.” CIFG members and observers were also briefed on ISIS supporters’ abuse of the charitable sector and madrassa networks in Asia, in addition to “discussions on how ISIS branches and networks in Africa utilize informal funds transfer mechanisms and participate in looting to support their extremist affairs.” Delegates also “presented case studies on security operations against Europe-based ISIS supporters who raise and transfer funds online, in some cases via virtual currencies.” The statement concludes: “The work of the CIFG is critical to the global fight to defeat ISIS in all corners of the world and we will continue to engage global partners to deprive ISIS of its sources of revenue and prevent it from accessing the international financial system. We will continue learning from each other’s successes and challenges, and empowering partners in the most vulnerable jurisdictions to strengthen their anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism regimes.”