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  • Agencies clarify BSA/AML due diligence requirements for “politically exposed persons”

    Financial Crimes

    On August 21, the FDIC, Federal Reserve Board, FinCEN, NCUA, and OCC issued a joint statement clarifying that banks should ensure customers who may be considered “politically exposed persons” (PEPs) be subject to customer due diligence matching the risk levels posed by the relationships. In general, while PEPs are not defined within the Bank Secrecy Act/Anti-Money Laundering (BSA/AML) regulations, they commonly refer to “foreign individuals who are or have been entrusted with a prominent public function, as well as their immediate family members and close associates.” U.S. public officials are not included. Specifically, the agencies emphasized that not all individuals who might qualify as PEPs “are high risk solely by virtue of their status.” While FinCEN’s customer due diligence rule (CDD rule), requires banks to identify and verify the identities of new account holders, assess the riskiness of these customer relationships, and conduct ongoing monitoring (see InfoBytes coverage of the CDD Rule here), the agencies note that “the CDD rule does not create a regulatory requirement, and there is no supervisory expectation, for banks to have unique, additional due diligence steps for customers who are considered PEPs. Instead, the level and type of CDD should be appropriate for the customer risk.”

    The joint statement also outlines a number of considerations for banks to take into account when evaluating a PEP’s risk level, including the type of products and services used, the volume and nature of transactions, the nature of the customer’s authority or influence over government activities or officials, and the customer’s access to significant government assets or funds. Among other impacts, the agencies note that the customer risk profile may effect “how the bank complies with other regulatory requirements, such as suspicious activity monitoring, since the bank structures its BSA/AML compliance program to address its risk profile, based on the bank’s assessment of risks.” The joint statement also rescinds the 2001 Guidance on Enhanced Scrutiny for Transactions that May Involve the Proceeds of Foreign Corruption related to foreign PEPs.

    The agencies emphasized, however, that the joint statement does not change existing BSA/AML legal or regulatory requirements, nor does it “require banks to cease existing risk management practices if the bank considers them necessary to effectively manage risk.”

    Financial Crimes OFAC Department of Treasury Sanctions Iran DOJ Of Interest to Non-US Persons

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  • OFAC sanctions persons for providing support to Iranian airline, DOJ files concurrent criminal charges

    Financial Crimes

    On August 19, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated two companies, as well as the owner of one of the companies, pursuant to Executive Order 13224 for allegedly providing material support to an Iranian airline previously “designated under counterterrorism authorities for support to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF), as well as under a counter proliferation authority that targets weapons of mass destruction proliferators and their supporters.” According to OFAC, the designated persons allegedly provided services to assist the airline sustain its fleet of aircraft and allow it to support the IRGC-QF, as well as transport Iranian technicians and technical equipment to Venezuela to support the Maduro regime. The designations follow a recent OFAC action that targeted a China-based company for allegedly acting as a general sales agent for or on behalf of the Iranian airline (covered by InfoBytes here), and serves as “another warning to the international aviation community of the sanctions risk for individuals and entities that choose to maintain commercial relationships with [the Iranian airline] and other designated airlines.” As a result of the sanctions, all property and interests in property of the designated 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, unless licensed or exempt,” and warned foreign financial institutions that knowingly facilitating significant transactions or providing significant financial services to the designated persons may subject them to U.S. correspondent account or payable-through sanctions.

    On the same day, the DOJ announced criminal charges against the designated individual and one of the companies for allegedly conspiring to violate U.S. export laws, defraud the U.S., and violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (ITSRs).

    Financial Crimes OFAC Department of Treasury Sanctions Iran DOJ Of Interest to Non-US Persons

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  • OFAC settles Iranian sanctions violations

    Financial Crimes

    On July 28, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a $824,314 settlement with a Pennsylvania-based cookware coating manufacturer for 74 apparent violations of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations. According to OFAC, between November 2012 and December 2015, two of the company’s foreign subsidiaries allegedly sold coatings intended for customers in Iran and engaged in trade-related transactions with Iran, despite changes to OFAC’s Iran sanctions program, which prohibited such transactions. In addition, OFAC stated that in 2013, once the company realized that these sales may be problematic, some of its U.S. employees devised and facilitated a plan to continue sales from the two subsidiaries by using third-party distributers and avoiding referencing Iran on documentation.

    In arriving at the settlement amount, OFAC considered various mitigating factors, including that the apparent violations were non-egregious and (i) the company voluntarily disclosed the violations and cooperated with the investigation; and (ii) the company has undertaken significant remedial efforts to address the deficiencies and minimize the risk of similar violations from occurring in the future, including appointing compliance monitors and outside counsel, making changes to its leadership, and adopting compliance and training policies.

    OFAC also considered various aggravating factors, including that the company (i) failed to implement appropriate compliance policies “commensurate with selling to a high-risk jurisdiction such as Iran”; (ii) took “affirmative steps” to help the foreign subsidiaries continue to sell to Iran through indirect channels even though it knew the sales were problematic; and (iii) senior management, including U.S. employees, had actual knowledge of the conduct leading to the alleged violations and continued to facilitate transactions with Iran.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Department of Treasury Settlement Sanctions Iran Of Interest to Non-US Persons

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  • District court dismisses False Claims Act suit at DOJ’s request

    Courts

    On July 2, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed a False Claims Act suit against a British bank accused of allegedly engaging in banking practices that violated U.S. sanctions against Iran. The bank had entered into deferred prosecution agreements in 2012 and 2019 with the DOJ and agreed to pay penalties to federal and New York authorities to resolve allegations that it had facilitated U.S. dollar transactions for Iranian entities in violation of U.S. sanctions and various New York and federal banking regulations. According to the whistleblower’s suit, the bank mislead the DOJ when negotiating the 2012 deferred prosecution agreement, and allegedly continued to engage in sanctions-violating conduct, “notwithstanding their representations to the [DOJ] that they had thereafter ceased doing so.” The DOJ twice declined to intervene in the case and moved to dismiss, arguing that it was “meritless” and that continuing to discovery would waste government resources. The whistleblower countered that the DOJ “failed to properly investigate its contentions,” but the court determined that this argument was “insufficient to transform the Government’s decision into one that is arbitrary and capricious.” In reaching its decision, the court determined that it did not need to adopt a specific standard, stating, “[l]ike other courts in this [d]istrict to have considered this question, the [c]ourt concludes that it need not definitively determine the appropriate standard of review to resolve this case.” According to the court, this “is because the Government has carried its burden even under the more searching. . .standard” outlined by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in United States ex rel. Sequoia Orange Co. v. Baird-Neece Packing Corp., which requires the DOJ to identify “‘a valid government purpose’ and ‘a rational relation between dismissal and accomplishment of the purpose.’”

    Courts False Claims Act / FIRREA DOJ Whistleblower Sanctions Iran

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  • OFAC sanctions Iranian ship captains for delivering gasoline to Venezuela

    Financial Crimes

    On June 24, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced that the captains of five Iranian U.S.-sanctioned tankers have been added to the Specially Designated National and Blocked Persons List (SDN List) for allegedly delivering gasoline and gasoline components to Venezuela. Treasury emphasized it “will target anyone who supports Iranian attempts to evade United States sanctions,” and stated it will use its authority to disrupt the Iranian regime’s support to Venezuela. As a result of the sanctions, “all property and interests in property of these targets that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons is blocked and must be reported to OFAC.” OFAC further noted that its regulations “generally prohibit all dealings by U.S. persons or within the United States (including transactions transiting the United States) that involve any property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons,” and warned foreign financial institutions that knowingly facilitating significant transactions for any of the designated individuals or entities may subject them to U.S. sanctions.

    Financial Crimes Department of Treasury OFAC Of Interest to Non-US Persons Venezuela Iran Sanctions

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  • OFAC sanctions four Iranian metal companies

    Financial Crimes

    On June 25, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions against four steel, aluminum, and iron companies for being directly or indirectly owned or controlled by Iran’s largest steel manufacturer, which was previously designated for operating in Iran’s steel sector and sanctioned by the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center for taking part in Iran’s terror support network. OFAC’s designations also target four foreign sales agents for being owned or controlled by the designated steel manufacturer, which, combined, “generated tens of millions of dollars annually” and provided “significant contributions to the billions of dollars generated overall by Iran’s steel, aluminum, copper, and iron sectors.” 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, unless licensed or exempt,” and warned foreign financial institutions that knowingly facilitating significant transactions to the designated entities may subject them to U.S. correspondent account or payable-through sanctions.

    Financial Crimes Department of Treasury OFAC Iran Sanctions Of Interest to Non-US Persons

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  • OFAC updates FAQs related to Iranian humanitarian goods manufacturing

    Financial Crimes

    On June 5, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued updated Iran-related FAQs related to Executive Order (E.O.) 13902 concerning the treatment of Iranian manufacturers that provide humanitarian goods. As previously covered by InfoBytes, E.O, 13902 authorizes the Secretary of the Treasury, in conjunction with the Secretary of State, to impose asset blocking sanctions on any person determined to operate in the construction, mining, manufacturing or textile sectors of the Iranian economy, or any additional sector as they may jointly determine. Additionally, EO 13902 authorizes the imposition of certain sanctions on any person determined to have engaged in, or any foreign financial institution determined to have knowingly facilitated, a significant transaction involving one of the aforementioned sectors of the Iranian economy. The FAQs state that OFAC will not target persons in Iran manufacturing humanitarian goods, such as “medicines, medical devices, or products used for sanitation or hygiene” as long as the products are “solely for use in Iran and not for export from Iran.” The FAQs also define Iranian economy sectors, specify what constitutes as “significant goods or services,” and clarify the interpretation of “‘knowingly’ and ‘significantly reduced’” for purposes of E.O. 13902. Additionally, on June 8, OFAC added several Iran-related designations to its Specially Designated Nationals List.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Department of Treasury Sanctions Iran Of Interest to Non-US Persons

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  • OFAC issues Iran nuclear FAQ

    Financial Crimes

    On May 27, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), in response to the Department of State’s announcement of an end to certain Iran nuclear-related waivers, issued a new FAQ and added two individuals to the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (SDN List). FAQ 829 provides a 60-day wind-down period for persons currently engaged in activities permitted by these waivers; however, OFAC cautions that such activities should be wound down by July 27 or persons risk exposure to sanctions under U.S. law absent another waiver or exception. The FAQ notes that the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act “provides for sanctions on persons determined to knowingly provide significant financial, material, technological, or other support to, or goods or services in support of any activity or transaction on behalf of or for the benefit of, an Iranian person on OFAC’s SDN List.”

    Financial Crimes OFAC Sanctions Department of Treasury Of Interest to Non-US Persons Department of State Iran

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  • OFAC designates Iran’s interior minister and senior law enforcement officials for human rights abuses

    Financial Crimes

    On May 20, the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), pursuant to Executive Order 13553, sanctioned Iran’s interior minister, in addition to seven senior officials of Iran’s Law Enforcement Forces (LEF), a provincial commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and a foundation along with its director and members of the board of trustees, for serious human rights abuses against Iranians. According to OFAC, the foundation is controlled by LEF and plays an active role in Iran’s energy, construction, services, technology, and banking industries. 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 facilitating significant transactions or providing significant financial services to the designated individuals may subject them to U.S. correspondent account or payable-through sanctions.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Sanctions Department of Treasury Of Interest to Non-US Persons Iran

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  • Treasury designates Chinese GSA for providing support to Iranian airline

    Financial Crimes

    On May 19, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated a China-based company pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13224 for allegedly acting as a general sales agent (GSA) for or on behalf of an Iranian airline. According to OFAC, this is the seventh time a GSA has been designated to the airline since 2018, which was previously designated under E.O.s 13224 and E.O, 13382 for providing support to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force. OFAC emphasized that entities operating in the airline industry “should conduct due diligence to avoid performing services, including GSA services, for or on behalf of a designated person, which may be sanctionable,” and referred the industry to a 2019 advisory that outlined potential civil and criminal consequences for providing unauthorized support to or for designated Iranian airlines.

    As a result of the sanctions, “all property and interests in property of [the GSA] 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 property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons,” and warned foreign financial institutions that knowingly facilitating significant transactions or providing significant financial services to designated individuals may subject them to U.S. correspondent account or payable-through sanctions.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Sanctions Department of Treasury Of Interest to Non-US Persons China Iran

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