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On September 20, Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes Elizabeth Rosenberg delivered prepared remarks before a Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs hearing, in which she provided an overview of recent efforts taken by the U.S. Treasury Department to hold Russia accountable for its invasion of Ukraine. Rosenberg explained that these measures are intended to “squeeze Russia’s access to finance and technology for strategic sectors of its economy and degrade its industrial capacity for years to come” and highlighted sanctions imposed against hundreds of Russian individuals and entities, including Russia’s largest financial institutions and key nodes in the country’s military-industrial supply chains, to cut them off from the U.S. financial system. She noted that Treasury has also implemented restrictions on dealings in Russian sovereign debt and has “prohibited economic dealings with the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic regions of Ukraine” as well as new investments in the Russian Federation. Rosenberg added that Treasury has “also imposed prohibitions on importing certain commodities from Russia into the United States, including oil and natural gas, and similarly imposed prohibitions on exporting certain items like luxury goods and dollar-denominated banknotes.” Additionally, Rosenberg discussed international efforts, including “implementing the largest sanctions regime in modern history[,]” and working with allies to facilitate information sharing, law enforcement data, and relevant financial records. She emphasized that “Treasury has mounted an aggressive campaign to close the global financial policy and regulatory loopholes across jurisdictions that Russian aiders and abettors of this war, and other criminals, use to perpetuate their illicit activity[,]” and stated that Treasury remains focused on denying funds to Russia through its oil exports.
Find continuing InfoBytes coverage on the U.S. sanctions response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine here.
On September 15, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), in coordination with the Departments of Commerce and State, announced sanctions against 22 individuals and two entities connected to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. According to OFAC, the designated persons include multiple individuals who have furthered the Government of the Russian Federation’s objectives in Ukraine, both prior to and during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Also included among those designated is a neo-Nazi paramilitary group that has aided Russia’s military in Ukraine, and two of the group’s senior leaders. As a result of the sanctions, all property and interests in property belonging to the sanctioned individuals and entities subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. Additionally, “any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by one or more blocked persons are also blocked.” OFAC further noted that “transactions by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of designated or blocked persons are prohibited unless authorized by a general or specific license issued by OFAC, or exempt,” which “include the making of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of any blocked person and the receipt of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services from any such person.”
The same day, OFAC issued Russia-related General License (GL) 51, authorizing the wind down of transactions involving the Limited Liability Company Group of Companies Akvarius, and GL 52, which relates to journalistic activities and the establishment of news bureaus. According to the GL 51, “all transactions ordinarily incident and necessary to the wind down of any transaction involving Limited Liability Company Group of Companies Akvarius (Aquarius), or any entity in which Aquarius owns, directly or indirectly, a 50 percent or greater interest, that are prohibited by Executive Order (E.O.) 14024,” are authorized as of October 15, subject to certain qualifications. According to GL 52, “news reporting organizations that are U.S. persons, and individual U.S. persons who are journalists or broadcast or technical personnel, are authorized to engage in certain transactions where such transactions are ordinarily incident and necessary to such U.S. persons’ journalistic activities or to the establishment or operation of a news bureau and are prohibited” by E.O. 14024, subject to certain qualifications.
Additionally, OFAC published several frequently asked questions clarifying “Russian Harmful Foreign Activities Sanctions,” which include guidance on the use of the National Payment Card System (NSPK) or the Mir National Payment System given the broad sanctions imposed on Russia’s financial system this year.
On September 15, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions pursuant to Executive Order 13469 against a Zimbabwe individual for his role in undermining Zimbabwe’s democratic processes and institutions. OFAC also removed eleven others from the Specially Designated Nationals List (SDN List) under the Zimbabwe sanctions program. According to OFAC, the sanctioned individual, among other things, undermined political parties that opposed the policies of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front party, and, in 2020, supported Zimbabwe security services’ use of pressure and intimidation on prominent opposition figures. As a result of the sanctions, all property and interests in property belonging to the sanctioned individual that are in the U.S. or in the possession or control of U.S. persons, and “any entities that are owned 50 percent or more by one or more designated persons” are blocked. Additionally, U.S. persons are prohibited from engaging in any dealings involving the property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons, unless exempt or authorized by a general or specific OFAC license.
On September 13, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control published new cyber-related frequently asked questions concerning transactions involving a virtual currency mixer sanctioned last month for allegedly laundering more than $7 billion in virtual currency since 2019. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the company “repeatedly failed to impose effective controls designed to stop it from laundering funds for malicious cyber actors on a regular basis,” and provided financial, material, or technological support for, or in support of, cyber-enabled activity contributing to a significant threat to the national security, foreign policy, or economic health or financial stability of the U.S. The FAQs outline requirements for completing virtual currency transactions without violating U.S. sanctions regulations, discuss whether OFAC reporting obligations apply to transactions involving unsolicited and nominal amounts of virtual currency, and reiterate that transactions involving identified virtual currency wallet addresses are prohibited absent a specific OFAC license. The FAQs noted that as part of the SDN List entry, OFAC included as identifiers certain virtual currency wallet addresses associated with the company as well as the company’s URL address. OFAC provided additional clarification on interactions with open-source code that does not involve a prohibited transaction with the sanctioned company.
On September 14, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions as part of a joint action with the DOJ, Department of State, FBI, U.S. Cyber Command, National Security Agency, and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, against ten individuals and two entities for their roles in conducting malicious cyber acts, including ransomware activity. The individuals and entities designated are affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which “is known to exploit software vulnerabilities in order to carry out their ransomware activities, as well as engage in unauthorized computer access, data exfiltration, and other malicious cyber activities.” OFAC also noted that a joint cyber security advisory was published to highlight continued malicious cyber activity by advanced persistent threat actors that the authoring agencies assess are affiliated with IRGC. As a result of the sanctions, all property, and interests in property of the designated individuals and entities, “and of any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by them, individually, or with other blocked persons, that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons, must be blocked and reported to OFAC.” U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with the designated persons. OFAC further warned that engaging in certain transactions with the individuals and entities designated today entails risk of additional sanctions.
On September 8, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions pursuant to Executive Orders 13382 and 14024 against an Iran-based air transportation service provider, as well as three companies and one individual involved in the research, development, production, and procurement of Iranian unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and UAV components. Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson reiterated that the U.S. “is committed to strictly enforcing our sanctions against both Russia and Iran and holding accountable Iran and those supporting Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine,” and stressed that the U.S. will “not hesitate to target producers and procurers who contribute to Iran and its IRGC’s UAV program, further demonstrating [the U.S.’s] resolve to continue going after terrorist proxies that destabilize the Middle East.” The sanctions follow designations implemented by OFAC last year against members of a network of companies and individuals that provided critical support to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Qods Force’s use of UAVs (previously covered by InfoBytes here).
As a result of the sanctions, all property and interests in property belonging to the sanctioned individuals and entities subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. U.S. persons are also generally prohibited from engaging in any dealings involving the property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons. Additionally, OFAC warned that “any foreign financial institution that knowingly facilitates a significant transaction or provides significant financial services for any of the individuals or entities designated today could be subject to U.S. correspondent or payable-through account sanctions.”
On September 9, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13694 against Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) and its Minister of Intelligence for conducting malicious cyber-enabled activities targeting government and private-sector organizations and across various critical infrastructure sectors, including the U.S. and its allies. OFAC noted that in July, MOIS and the Iranian government sponsored cyber-threat actors who disrupted the Albanian government computer systems. OFAC previously flagged MOIS pursuant to E.O.s 13224, 13472, and 13553 for supporting multiple terrorist groups, as well as for commissioning serious human rights abuses against the Iranian people.
As a result of the sanctions, all property and interests in property belonging to the sanctioned targets that are in the U.S. or in the possession or control of U.S. persons, and “any entities that are owned 50 percent or more by one or more designated persons” are blocked. Additionally, U.S. persons are prohibited from engaging in any dealings involving the property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons, unless exempt or authorized by a general or specific OFAC license. Additionally, OFAC warned that “any foreign financial institution that knowingly conducts or facilitates a significant transaction for or on behalf of the persons designated today could be subject to U.S. correspondent or payable-through account sanctions.”
On September 9, the U.S. Treasury Department announced preliminary guidance on implementing a maritime services policy and related price exception for seaborne Russian oil. As previously covered by InfoBytes, OFAC recently announced that it planned to publish preliminary guidance on implementing the price cap to provide a high-level overview of the directive, including how U.S. persons can comply in advance of formal guidance and legal implementation. According to the preliminary guidance, the policy is intended to establish a framework for Russian oil to be exported by sea under a capped price, and establishes a ban on services for any shipments of seaborne Russian oil above the capped price. Objectives of the guidance include: (i) maintaining a reliable supply of seaborne Russian oil to the global market; (ii) reducing upward pressure on energy prices; and (iii) reducing the revenues the Russian Federation earns from oil after its own war of choice in Ukraine has inflated global energy prices. The policy contains an exception, which applies to “jurisdictions or actors that purchase seaborne Russian oil at or below a price cap to be established by the coalition (the “price exception”).” The policy, which relates to a broad range of services in connection with the maritime transportation of Russian Federation origin crude oil and petroleum products, will become effective December 5, 2022 for the maritime transportation of crude oil and on February 5, 2023 for the maritime transportation of petroleum products.
On September 2, the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced that it is amending, and reissuing in their entirety, the Cyber-Related Sanctions Regulations. OFAC noted that this administrative action replaces regulations that were published in abbreviated form on December 31, 2015, with a more comprehensive set of regulations that includes additional interpretive and definitional guidance, general licenses, and other regulatory provisions that will provide further guidance to the public. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the regulations prohibited all transactions described in Executive Order (E.O.) 13694, including dealing in the property or interests in property, that come within the United States, of blocked persons. Among other things, under E.O. 13694, a party may be blocked if the U.S. government finds the party “to be responsible for or complicit in, or to have engaged in, directly or indirectly, cyber-enabled activities originating from, or directed by persons located, in whole or in substantial part, outside the U.S. that are reasonably likely to result in, or have materially contributed to, a significant threat to the national security, foreign policy, or economic health or financial stability of the United States” and that have one of the purposes or effects enumerated in the order. The sanctions became effective September 6.
Additionally, OFAC noted that “the publication of this final rule has triggered an automatic administrative update to a number of sanctions entries.” OFAC listed unique identifier numbers (UIDs) for the affected entries as part of the administrative update and provided FAQs to clarify UIDs.
On September 2, the U.S. Treasury Department announced that G7 Finance Ministers confirmed their joint intention to implement a price cap on Russian-origin crude oil and petroleum products. According to the statement, G7 countries, along with other allies and partners, “plan to prohibit the provision of services that enable maritime transportation of such oil and products unless purchased at or below a price level determined by the coalition of countries adhering to and implementing the price cap.” Secretary of the Treasury Janet L. Yellen issued a statement commending the action. She noted that the price cap will “help deliver a major blow for Russian finances and will both hinder Russia’s ability to fight its unprovoked war in Ukraine and hasten the deterioration of the Russian economy,” while also maintaining supplies to global energy markets by keeping Russian oil flowing at lower prices.
In conjunction with the announcement, OFAC said it plans to publish preliminary guidance on implementing the price cap later this month. The guidance will provide a high-level overview of the mechanism, including how U.S. persons can comply in advance of formal guidance and legal implementation which will be issued at a later date.
- Benjamin W. Hutten to discuss “Ongoing CDD: Operational considerations” at NAFCU’s Regulatory Compliance & BSA Seminar
- James C. Chou to discuss ransomware at NAFCU’s Regulatory Compliance & BSA seminar
- Jedd R. Bellman to provide an “Attorney exemption/medical debt update” at the North American Collection Agency Regulatory Association annual conference
- Kathryn L. Ryan to discuss “What should crypto regulation look like: Legislation, regulation and consumer issues” at WCL's First Annual Virtual Currency Law Institute
- Elizabeth E. McGinn to discuss “How to mitigate and manage third-party risks: Leveraging tools and best practices” at The Knowledge Group’s webcast
- Elizabeth E. McGinn, Benjamin W. Hutten, and James C. Chou to discuss “The evolving regulatory landscape: Third-party and cyber risk management” at the 2022 mWISE Conference
- Sherry-Maria Safchuk to discuss “For your eyes only: Privacy updates for 2022-2023” at CCFL’s Annual Consumer Financial Services Conference
- James T. Parkinson to present a “Global anti-corruption update” at IBA’s annual conference