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On January 8, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions against an Iraqi militia leader 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 militia leader’s property and interests in property that are in the United States, as well as any entities that are owned 50 percent or more by him are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. Additionally, OFAC regulations “generally prohibit” U.S. persons from participating in financial transactions with the individual and blocked entities.
On December 23, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued General License (GL) 5F, “Authorizing Certain Transactions Related to the Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. 2020 8.5 Percent Bond on or After July 21, 2021,” which replaces and supersedes GL 5E. OFAC also amended related FAQ 595, which reminds parties that, until July 21, 2021, transactions related to the sale or transfer of CITGO shares in connection with the PdVSA 2020 8.5 percent bond are prohibited, unless specifically authorized by OFAC.
Additionally, OFAC concurrently announced the issuance of Ukraine-related GLs 13P and 15J. GL 13P, “Authorizing Certain Transactions Necessary to Divest or Transfer Debt, Equity, or Other Holdings in GAZ Group,” is effective December 23 and replaces and supersedes GL 13O. Additionally, GL 15J, “Authorizing Certain Activities Involving GAZ Group,” is also effective on December 23 and replaces and supersedes GL 15I.
On December 28, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) published FAQs covering the November Executive Order (E.O.) on “Addressing the Threat from Securities Investments that Finance Communist Chinese Military Companies.” As previously covered by InfoBytes, the E.O. generally prohibits “any transaction in publicly traded securities, or any securities that are derivative of, or are designed to provide investment exposure to such securities, of any Chinese military company. . .by any US person.” The E.O. 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 companies pursuant to Section 1237, or those that the Secretary of the Treasury publicly lists as meeting the criteria set forth in Section 1237(b). In addition to the FAQs, OFAC published a list of the entities identified pursuant to the E.O. as Communist Chinese military companies, along with additional identifying information.
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.
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.
On December 22, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions against two individuals, nine business entities, and the Central Bank of Syria, pursuant to Syria sanctions authorities. Treasury notes that the sanctions are intended to “discourage future investment in government-controlled areas of Syria, force the regime to end its atrocities against the Syrian people, and compel its commitment to the United Nations-facilitated process in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2254.” Additionally, concurrent with OFAC’s designations, the State Department also designated six Syrian persons pursuant to Section 2 of Executive Order 13894. As a result, all property and interests in property belonging to the designated individuals and entities subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. OFAC 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 or otherwise blocked persons,” and warned that non-U.S. persons that engage in certain transactions with the designated persons may expose themselves to designation.
On December 21, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions pursuant to Executive Order 13851 against the vice president of the Nicaraguan Supreme Court of Justice, a deputy of the National Assembly, and a chief of the Nicaraguan national police in Leon for supporting the Ortega regime, which “continue[s] … to undermine Nicaragua’s democracy.” As a result, all property and interests in property of the sanctioned individuals and entities, and any entities owned 50 percent or more by such persons 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 persons.
On December 18, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions against a Venezuelan-registered biometric technology company and two individuals for allegedly materially supporting the Maduro regime by providing goods and services that the regime used to carry out the “fraudulent” elections on December 6. The sanctions, issued pursuant to Executive Order 13692, reflect Treasury’s continued efforts to hold persons who offer support to the Maduro regime accountable. As a result, all property and interests in property belonging to the identified individuals subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and “any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by the designated individuals, are also blocked.” U.S. persons are generally prohibited from dealing with any property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons.
On December 22, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) added several individuals and entities, including the Central Bank of Syria (CBoS), to its Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List related to Executive Order (E.O.) 13894. OFAC also released new Syria Frequently Asked Questions 866, 867, and 868 related to prohibitions applicable to CBoS and allowances for humanitarian assistance to Syria following CBoS’s designation. OFAC clarified, among other things, that “non-U.S. persons who knowingly provide significant financial, material, or technological support to, or knowingly engage in a significant transaction with the Government of Syria, including the CBoS, or certain other persons sanctioned with respect to Syria, risk exposure to sanctions.” With respect to permissible humanitarian assistance, OFAC explained that it “may issue specific licenses to authorize certain transactions involving U.S. persons or the U.S. financial system that may otherwise be prohibited by OFAC sanctions, provided those transactions are in the foreign policy interests of the United States.”
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.
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