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On August 15, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed additional sanctions, pursuant to Executive Order 13810, designed to reinforce the U.S.’s ongoing commitment to prevent the financing of North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction programs and activities. The sanctions designate a Chinese-based trading company and its Singaporean-based affiliate, along with a Russian-based port service agency and its director general, for allegedly facilitating illicit shipments on behalf of North Korea. Pursuant to OFAC’s sanctions, all property and interests in property of the designated persons within U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from participating in transactions with these persons.
See here for previous InfoBytes coverage on North Korean sanctions.
On August 3, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced its decision to sanction a Russian bank, pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13810, for allegedly “knowingly facilitating a significant transaction” on behalf of an individual connected to North Korea’s primary foreign exchange bank. According to OFAC, the Russian bank violated its UN Security Council (UNSC) obligations by providing banking services to a representative of the North Korean bank who had previously been designated for weapons of mass destruction-related activities connected to North Korea. OFAC also issued sanctions against the North Korean bank’s Moscow-based deputy representative (E.O. 13687), as well as two of its associated “front companies” (E.O. 13722) accused of facilitating North Korean illicit financial activity. OFAC noted that, in accordance with UNSC requirements, all identified representatives “working on behalf of or at the direction of a [North Korean] bank or financial institution” should have been expelled from Russia, but instead, the Russian bank continued to facilitate transactions with the sanctioned persons. Pursuant to OFAC’s sanctions, all property and interests in property of the designated persons within U.S. jurisdiction are blocked and “may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in.” Moreover, U.S. persons are “generally prohibited” from participating in transactions with these individuals and entities.
See here for previous InfoBytes coverage on North Korean sanctions.
Departments of Treasury, State, and Homeland Security issue joint advisory warning businesses of North Korean sanctions evasion tactics
On July 23, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), in conjunction with the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security, issued an advisory to warn businesses—including manufacturers, buyers, and service providers—of the potential risks that may result from sanctions evasion tactics used by North Korea across supply chains. The advisory also provides assistance for businesses complying with Title III of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017 with respect to North Korean sanctions. According to the advisory, the U.S. government “is focusing its disruption efforts on North Korean citizens or nationals whose labor generates revenue for the North Korean government.” Specifically, the advisory warns businesses to examine their entire supply chains and adopt appropriate, well-documented due diligence best practices, which “may be considered mitigating factors when the U.S. government determines the appropriate enforcement response.” The advisory also outlines penalties for violations of sanctions and enforcement actions.
See here for previous InfoBytes coverage on North Korea sanctions.
U.S. imposes denial of export privileges on Chinese telecom giant for violating prior settlement agreement
On April 16, the U.S. Department of Commerce imposed a denial of export privileges on Chinese telecommunications equipment corporation for violating a previous settlement relating to illegally shipping telecommunications equipment to Iran and North Korea. As previously covered in InfoBytes, in March 2017, the company agreed to a combined civil and criminal penalty and to forfeiture of over $1.1 billion for shipping the equipment, making false statements, and obstructing justice. As part of the settlement, the company agreed to a seven-year suspended denial of export privileges, which would trigger if the agreement was not met or if the company committee further violations.
The Department imposed the denial after determining that the company made false statements during the 2016 settlement negotiations and again during the probationary period in 2017 related to disciplinary actions against senior employees that the company said it was taking or had already taken. The false statements covered up the fact that the company had actually failed to issue letters of reprimand and paid full bonuses to the employees who had engaged in illegal conduct.
On October 26, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions on an additional seven individuals (pursuant to Executive Order 13687) and three entities (pursuant to Executive Order 13722) connected to the North Korean government for ongoing human rights abuses. According to Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin, the sanctions target “financial facilitators who attempt to keep the regime afloat with foreign currency earned through forced labor operations.” The sanctions freeze all property or interests in property within U.S. jurisdiction, and transactions by U.S. persons involving these individuals and entities are also “generally prohibited.” Please see here for previous InfoBytes coverage on North Korean sanctions.
Separately, on October 30, OFAC released amendments to its Global Terrorism Sanctions Regulations to include recently identified officials, agents, and affiliates connected to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The amendments take effect upon publication in the Federal Register on October 31 and are issued pursuant to the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017 (CAATSA). See previous InfoBytes coverage on CAATSA here.
OFAC Imposes Additional North Korean Sanctions; Senate Banking Committee Hearing Discusses Multi-Department Efforts
On September 26, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced it was imposing sanctions on an additional eight North Korean banks and 26 individuals connected to North Korean financial networks across the globe. The individuals sanctioned are North Korean nationals who represent North Korean banks operating in China, Russia, Libya, and the UAE, and have been designated “in response to North Korea’s ongoing development of weapons of mass destruction and continued violations of United Nations Security Council Resolutions.” OFAC’s action complements the United Nations Security Council’s resolution UNSCR 2375, adopted September 11, 2017. As a result, property or interests in property of the designated persons within U.S. jurisdictions are blocked.
These actions closely follow President Trump’s recent issuance of sanctions targeting individuals, companies, and financial institutions that finance or facilitate trade with North Korea. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.)
Additionally, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs (Committee) held an open session hearing on September 28 entitled “Evaluating Sanction Enforcement and Policy Options on North Korea: Administration Perspectives.” Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) opened the hearing to stress that “[m]any Members of Congress, including on this committee, have a keen interest in knowing more about how and when enforcement of these new measures will occur, wondering if last week’s executive order and earlier UN sanctions will be sufficient to achieve U.S. policy goals.” Sen. Crapo also mentioned the Committee’s legislative efforts to “maximize pressure against North Korea.”
The September 28 hearing—a video of which can be accessed here—included testimony from the following witnesses concerning North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile program and the need to curtail the country’s access to revenue, trade, and financial systems.
On September 21, President Trump announced the issuance of new sanctions targeting individuals, companies, and financial institutions that finance or facilitate trade with North Korea, in addition to tightening trade restrictions. The Executive Order approves broad limitations on any foreign financial institution that knowingly conducts “significant” transactions involving North Korea. This includes transactions that “originate from, are destined for, or pass through a foreign bank account that has been determined by the Secretary of the Treasury to be owned or controlled by a North Korean person, or to have been used to transfer funds in which any North Korean person has an interest.” These funds “are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in.” The restrictions also prohibit dealing with persons involved in North Korea’s “construction, energy, financial services, fishing, information technology, manufacturing, medical, mining, textiles, or transportation industries,” and further authorizes the Secretary of the Treasury to restrict U.S.-based correspondent and payable-through accounts.
These sanctions are in addition to those previously passed by President Trump in August. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.) Separately, as previously covered in InfoBytes, last month the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed sanctions against certain Chinese and Russian entities and individuals, among others, for allegedly aiding North Korea’s efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction.
In response to President Trump’s latest sanctions, OFAC released updates to its FAQs concerning the additional sanctions. OFAC also issued General License 10 concerning the authorization restrictions to certain vessels and aircraft, and General License 3-A, which addresses permitted “normal service charges.”
On August 22, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced it was imposing sanctions on ten entities and six individuals from China, Russia, Singapore, and Namibia for their roles in supporting North Korea’s efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction, violations of United Nations Security Council Resolutions, and attempted evasion of U.S. sanctions. The sanctions prohibit any U.S. individual from dealing with the designated entities and individuals, and further states that “any property or interests in property of the designated persons in the possession or control of U.S. persons or within the United States must be blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from dealing with them.” OFAC’s notice identified entities and individuals that (i) assisted already-designated persons supporting North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs; (ii) dealt in the North Korean energy trade; (iii) facilitated overseas labor to North Korea; and (iv) enabled sanctioned North Korean entities to access the U.S. and international financial systems. Targets include three Chinese coal companies allegedly responsible for importing nearly half a billion dollars' worth of North Korean coal, as well as three Russians individuals and two Singapore-based companies OFAC claimed were involved in providing oil to North Korea.
On August 2, President Trump signed into law a bipartisan bill placing new sanctions on Iran, Russia, and North Korea. The House passed the sanctions by a vote of 419-3, while the Senate cleared it 98-2. The Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (H.R. 3364) is comprised of three bills:
- Korean Interdiction and Modernization of Sanctions Act. The sanctions modify and increase President Trump’s authority to impose sanctions on persons in violation of certain United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding North Korea. Specifically, U.S. financial institutions shall not “knowingly, directly or indirectly,” facilitate or maintain correspondent accounts with North Korean or other foreign financial institutions that provide services to North Korea, or execute a transfer of funds or property “that materially contributes to any violation of an applicable United National Security Council resolution.” A foreign government that provides to or receives from North Korea a defense article or service is prohibited from receiving certain types of U.S. foreign assistance. The sanctions concern: (i) shipping and cargo restrictions; (ii) cooperation between North Korea and Iran pertaining to the countries’ weapon programs; (iii) forced labor and trafficking victims, including goods produced by forced labor; and (iv) foreign persons that employ North Korean forced laborers. Furthermore, the Secretary of State is directed to submit a determination regarding whether North Korea meets the criteria for designation as a state sponsor of terrorism no later than 90 days after the Act has been enacted.
- Countering Iran's Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017. The sanctions—intended to deter Iranian activities and threats affecting the U.S. and key allies—include: (i) assessments of Iran’s conventional force capabilities such as its ballistic missile or weapons of mass destruction programs; (ii) prohibitions on the sale or transfer of military equipment and sanctions against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and any affiliated foreign persons; (iii) programs to be undertaken by the U.S. and other foreign governments to counter destabilizing activities; and (iv) prohibitions on any activity that provides “financial, material, technological, or other support for goods or services in support” of the identified programs or persons. The sanctions also block any property or interests in property of any designated person “if such property and interests in property are in the [U.S.], come within the [U.S.], or are or come within the possession or control of a [U.S.] person.” The law allows President Trump to impose sanctions against persons committing human rights violations against Iranian citizens, and also grants him the ability to “temporarily waive the imposition or continuation of sanctions under specified circumstances.”
- Countering Russian Influence in Europe and Eurasia Act of 2017. Under the new sanctions, notwithstanding sanctions passed under President Obama’s administration, Congress will review President Trump’s proposed actions to terminate or waive sanctions with respect to Russia and determine whether the actions will or will not “significantly alter [U.S.] foreign policy with regard to the Russian federation.” Additionally, the President may, at his discretion, waive specified cyber- and Ukraine-related sanctions if submitted to the appropriate congressional committees and “is in the vital national security interests of the [U.S.].” The sanctions concern the following: (i) cybersecurity; (ii) crude oil projects; (iii) Russian and foreign financial institutions; (iv) corruption; (v) human rights abuses; (vi) evasion of sanctions; (vii) transactions with Russian intelligence or defense sectors; (viii) pipeline developments; (ix) privatization of state-owned assets by the Russian federation; and (v) arms and related material transfers to Syria. The sanctions further detail financial transaction loan and credit restrictions between U.S. and international financial institutions and sanctioned persons—including directives related to financing new debt—and place prohibitions on sanctioned financial institutions. Among other things, the sanctions direct the development of a national strategy for combating the financing of terrorism and other types of illicit financing.
Recently, OFAC announced implementation of sanctions against several entities and individuals designated for, among others, materially assisting, sponsoring, or providing financial support to certain foreign entities. In addition, OFAC updated its list of Specially Designed Nations (SDN) and announced a settlement agreement with a Canadian-based motor vehicle finance company.
North Korea Suppliers of Weapons Proliferation Programs. On June 1, OFAC announced it was taking action against six entities and three individuals in response to their involvement in North Korea’s continued efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The announcement targets the country’s military, nuclear, and WMD programs, in addition to its overseas financial operations. The sanctions prohibit any U.S. individual from dealing with the designees, and further states that “any property or interests in property of the designated persons in the possession or control of U.S. persons or within the United States must be blocked.” John E. Smith, the Director of OFAC, stated, “Treasury is working with our allies to counter networks that enable North Korea’s destabilizing activities, and we urge our partners to take parallel steps to cut off their funding sources.” These sanctions are in addition to those imposed earlier in April on eleven North Koreans and one associated entity (see previous InfoBytes coverage here).
Iraq-Based Chemical Weapons Developers. On June 12, OFAC announced, for the first time, designations against individuals involved in the development of ISIS’ chemical weapons. The sanctions were pursuant to Executive Order 13224, which “provides a means by which to disrupt the financial support network for terrorists and terrorist organizations by authorizing the U.S. government to designate and block the assets of foreign individuals and entities that commit, or pose a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism.” The property and interests in property of the two individuals identified in the designations, subject to U.S. jurisdiction, are blocked, and “U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.”
Settlement Agreement with Motor Vehicle Finance Company. On June 8, OFAC announced it had reached a settlement with a motor vehicle finance company as a result of transactions by its Canadian based subsidiary. The enforcement action claims the majority-owned subsidiary, which “specializes in various forms of financing in the [U.S.] for purchasers, lessees, and authorized independent [auto] dealers,”—between 2011 and 2014—allegedly violated 13 Cuban Assets Control Regulations by leasing vehicles to the Cuban Embassy in violation of OFAC’s Blocked Persons and SDN list, which prohibited transactions with Cuban government entities. The company voluntarily self-disclosed the alleged violations and agreed to remit $87,255 to settle its potential civil liability.
Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Sanctions. On May 24 and 25, OFAC made additions to the SDN list, which designates individuals and companies who are prohibited from dealing with the U.S. and whose assets are blocked. Transactions are prohibited if they involve transferring, paying, exporting, or otherwise dealing in the property or interest in property of an entity or individual on the SDN list. Additions to the list were made under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Sanctions Regulations against several Mexican and Colombian individuals and entities.