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  • OFAC sanctions North Korean fuel procurement network

    Financial Crimes

    On October 7, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions pursuant to Executive Order 13810 against two individuals and three entities for engaging in activities related to the exportation of petroleum to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), which directly support the development of DPRK weapons programs and its military. OFAC’s actions build upon other U.S. government actions taken against one of the sanctioned individuals and entities, including criminal charges for conspiring to evade economic sanctions of the DPRK and conspiring to launder money. As a result of the sanctions, all property and interests in property of the sanctioned persons 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 persons, 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 persons may be subject to U.S. correspondent account or payable-through account sanctions. Additionally, persons that engage in certain transactions with the designated persons may themselves be exposed to designations.

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

  • House Republican concerned about Treasury sanctions on virtual currency mixer

    Federal Issues

    On August 23, Representative Tom Emmer (R-MN) sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen raising privacy and due process concerns related to recent “first-of-their-kind” sanctions issued against a virtual currency mixer accused of allegedly laundering more than $7 billion in virtual currency, including more than $455 million stolen by a Democratic People’s Republic of Korea state-sponsored hacking group that is separately subject to U.S. sanctions (covered by InfoBytes here). The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said the sanctions resulted from the company “having materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, a cyber-enabled activity originating from, or directed by persons located, in whole or in substantial part, outside the United States that is reasonably likely to result in, or has materially contributed to, a significant threat to the national security, foreign policy, or economic health or financial stability of the United States and that has the purpose or effect of causing a significant misappropriation of funds or economic resources, trade secrets, personal identifiers, or financial information for commercial or competitive advantage or private financial gain.” (Covered by InfoBytes here.)

    Emmer stressed, however, that adding the company to OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN) List seemed to diverge from previous OFAC precedent since several of the company’s designated “smart contract addresses” do not appear to be a person, entity, or property, but rather are distributed technological tools that are not controlled by any entity or natural person. “OFAC has a long, commendable history of utilizing financial sanctions to enhance the national security of the United States,” the letter said. “Nonetheless, the sanctioning of neutral, open-source, decentralized technology presents a series of new questions, which impact not only our national security but the right to privacy of every American citizen.” Emmer referenced May 2019 guidance issued by FinCEN (covered by InfoBytes here), which he said drew “a distinction between ‘providers of anonymizing services’ (including ‘mixers’)” which are subject to Bank Secrecy Act obligations and “‘anonymizing software providers’” which are not. Emmer recognized that OFAC is not bound by FinCEN regulations, but said it is his understanding that the sanctioned company is “simply the anonymizing software deployed on the blockchain.”

    Emmer requested clarification from Treasury on several questions, including the factors OFAC considers when designating technology to the SDN List and how OFAC plans to “uphold the appeals process for the sanctioned addresses that have no ability to appeal the sanction to OFAC” because they “are smart contracts with no agency, corporate or personal, and as such cannot speak for themselves or those whose funds they hold.”

    Federal Issues Digital Assets Financial Crimes Department of Treasury Sanctions OFAC Of Interest to Non-US Persons Virtual Currency Cryptocurrency North Korea FinCEN U.S. House

  • OFAC sanctions “mixer” for laundering over $7 billion in virtual currency

    Financial Crimes

    On August 8, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions pursuant to Executive Order 13694 against a virtual currency mixer accused of allegedly laundering more than $7 billion in virtual currency since 2019. According to OFAC, this amount includes more than $455 million stolen by a previously sanctioned Democratic People’s Republic of Korea state-sponsored hacking group (covered by InfoBytes here). OFAC stated that the designations resulted from the company “having materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, a cyber-enabled activity originating from, or directed by persons located, in whole or in substantial part, outside the United States that is reasonably likely to result in, or has materially contributed to, a significant threat to the national security, foreign policy, or economic health or financial stability of the United States and that has the purpose or effect of causing a significant misappropriation of funds or economic resources, trade secrets, personal identifiers, or financial information for commercial or competitive advantage or private financial gain.” Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Brian E. Nelson, added that the company “repeatedly failed to impose effective controls designed to stop it from laundering funds for malicious cyber actors on a regular basis,” and stressed that Treasury “will continue to aggressively pursue actions against mixers that launder virtual currency for criminals and those who assist them.” As previously covered by InfoBytes, in 2020, Treasury’s FinCEN penalized a bitcoin mixer $60 million for violating the Bank Secrecy Act.

    As a result of the sanctions, all property and interests in property of the sanctioned entity that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC, as well as “any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by one or more blocked persons.” OFAC noted that its regulations prohibit U.S. persons from participating in transactions with designated persons unless authorized by a general or specific license issued by OFAC or exempt.

    Treasury further stressed that players in the virtual currency industry should take a risk-based approach for assessing risks associated with different virtual currency services, implementing measures to mitigate risks, and addressing the challenges anonymizing features can present to anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism sanctions obligations. “[M]ixers should in general be considered as high-risk by virtual currency firms, which should only process transactions if they have appropriate controls in place to prevent mixers from being used to launder illicit proceeds,” Treasury said.

    Financial Crimes Digital Assets Department of Treasury OFAC Of Interest to Non-US Persons OFAC Sanctions OFAC Designations North Korea Virtual Currency Anti-Money Laundering Combating the Financing of Terrorism SDN List

  • 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

  • OFAC updates Syrian sanctions guidance; issues DPRK advisory on information technology workers

    Financial Crimes

    On May 12, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) amended  a Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) and published a new General License (GL) regarding Syrian sanctions. Back in April (covered by InfoBytes here), OFAC published FAQ 884, which relates to non-U.S. persons’ (including nongovernmental organizations and foreign financial institutions) exposure to U.S. secondary sanctions under the Caesar Syrian Civilian Protection act of 2019 (Caesar Act). Specifically, FAQ 884 addresses sanctions exposure for activities authorized under the Syrian Sanctions Regulations. OFAC’s recent update of FAQ 884 clarifies that “OFAC will not consider transactions to be ‘significant’ for the purpose of a sanctions determination under the Caesar Act if U.S. persons would not require a specific license from OFAC to participate in such a transaction.” Additionally, GL 22 now authorizes “activities in certain economic sectors in non-regime held areas of Northeast and Northwest Syria.”

    Later in the week, OFAC announced that Treasury, the Department of State, and the FBI issued an advisory regarding an attempt by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and DPRK information technology (IT) workers to obtain employment while posing as non-DPRK nationals. Among other things, the advisory provides information on how DPRK IT workers operate and identifies red flags for companies to avoid hiring DPRK freelance developers. A Fact Sheet was also published to provide information on the advisory.

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

  • OFAC announces first-ever sanctions against virtual currency mixer

    Financial Crimes

    On May 6, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions pursuant to Executive Order 13722 against a virtual currency mixer used by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to support its cyber activities and money-laundering. According to OFAC, in March, a DPRK state-sponsored cyber-hacking group carried out the largest virtual currency heist to date, worth almost $620 million, from a blockchain project linked to an online game. The virtual currency mixer was used to process over $20.5 million of the illicit proceeds. OFAC noted that the sanctions are the first-ever sanctions on a virtual currency mixer. As a result of the sanctions, all property and interests in property belonging to the sanctioned 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.” U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any dealings involving the property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons.

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

  • OFAC reaches $6 million settlement with logistics company

    Financial Crimes

    On April 25, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a roughly $6 million settlement with a freight forwarding and logistics company for allegedly processing transactions in violation of Iran-Related Sanctions Regulations, among others. According to OFAC’s web notice, between approximately January 2013 and February 2019, the company processed payments through the U.S. financial system in connection with sea, air, and rail shipments to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Iran, and Syria, involving the property or interests in property of an entity on OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (SDN List) in apparent violation of OFAC sanctions. Specifically, in processing such payments, the company allegedly “failed to adopt or implement policies and controls that prevented it from conducting transactions that involved designated parties or persons in sanctioned jurisdictions.”

    In arriving at the settlement amount, OFAC considered various aggravating factors, including, among other things, that (i) the company “acted with reckless disregard for U.S. economic sanctions laws when, over the period of six years, it caused at least 2,958 payments involving shipments from, to, or through sanctioned jurisdictions or the blocked property or an interest in blocked property of entities on the SDN List to be routed through U.S. financial institutions”; (ii) the company had knowledge “of the apparent violations”; and (iii) nearly “14 percent of the apparent violations were for transactions involving entities blocked by OFAC for terrorism or [weapons of mass destruction (WMD)] concerns.” OFAC also considered various mitigating factors, including that the company (i) has not received a penalty notice from OFAC in the preceding five years; (ii) “voluntarily self-disclosed the apparent violations to OFAC and cooperated with OFAC’s investigation”; and (iii) “ultimately took extensive actions to remedy its compliance gaps.”

    Providing context for the settlement, OFAC stated that this “action highlights the importance of instituting strong internal controls and procedures to govern payments involving affiliates, subsidiaries, agents, or other counterparties when any of them conduct business with sanctioned jurisdictions or persons.”

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

  • 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

  • OFAC sanctions Russians for supporting DPRK’s WMD programs

    Financial Crimes

    On March 11, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions pursuant to Executive Order 13687 against two individuals and three entities based in Russia for allegedly supporting the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) “ongoing development of its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and ballistic missile programs in violation of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions.” The action specifically “targets a group of foreign individuals and companies that aid a DPRK defense industry-related procurement agent in Russia.” As a result of the sanctions, all property and interests in property of the sanctioned persons 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 persons. 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, and that persons found to have engaged in certain transactions with the designated persons “may themselves be exposed to designation.”

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

  • 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

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