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On May 10, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) made additions to the Specially Designated Nationals List under the Iranian Financial Sanctions Regulations and Global Terrorism Sanctions Regulations. OFAC’s additions to the designations identify nine individuals and entities that materially assisted in converting millions of U.S. dollars to fund the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force’s malignant activities. As a result, all assets belonging to the identified individuals and entities subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked and must be reported to OFAC, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from dealing with them.
On March 23, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), in coordination with the DOJ, imposed additional sanctions on an Iranian entity and 10 Iranian nationals, pursuant to Executive Order 13694, for conducting malicious cyberattacks against hundreds of U.S. and third-country universities for private financial gain. Nine of the identified individuals are connected to the Mabna Institute and are accused of misappropriating “economic resources or personal identifiers” to aid Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Pursuant to these sanctions, all property or 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 individuals and entities. Additionally, as reported in a DOJ press release, the nine Iranians have also been indicted for engaging in malicious cyber-enabled activities. A tenth Iranian national was sanctioned for engaging in cyber-related actions targeting a U.S. media company.
Visit here for additional InfoBytes coverage on Iranian sanctions.
On January 5, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed additional sanctions against four current or former officials of the Venezuelan government. The designations, issued pursuant to Executive Order 13692, identify officials who are “associated with corruption and repression in Venezuela” and have “forsaken the professional republican mission of the military institution, which . . . is to be ‘with no political orientation … and in no case at the service of any person or political partisanship.’” All assets belonging to the identified individuals subject to U.S. jurisdiction are frozen, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from dealing with them. See here for previous InfoBytes coverage of Venezuelan sanctions.
Separately on January 4, OFAC designated five Iranian entities, pursuant to Executive Order 13382 (E.O. 13382), for their ties to Iran’s ballistic missile program. The five entities identified in the designation are either owned or controlled by an Iranian group that is “responsible for the development and production of Iran's solid-propellant ballistic missiles, is listed in the Annex to E.O. 13382 and is currently sanctioned by the U.S., UN, and EU.” In addition to freezing assets subject to U.S. jurisdiction and prohibiting U.S. persons from engaging in transactions with the entities, “foreign financial institutions that knowingly facilitate significant transactions for, or persons that provide material or certain other support to, the entities designated today risk exposure to sanctions that could sever their access to the U.S. financial system or block their property and interests in property under U.S. jurisdiction.” See here for previous InfoBytes coverage of Iranian sanctions.
OFAC Penalizes Dental Supply Company for Violations of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations
The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) announced that it entered into a $1.2 million settlement with a U.S. dental supply company for alleged violations of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (ITSR). According to the December 6 announcement, between November 2009 and July 2012, two of the company’s subsidiaries exported 37 shipments of dental supplies to distributors in other countries with “knowledge or reason to know that the goods were ultimately destined for Iran.” OFAC determined that the alleged violations were non-egregious.
In determining the settlement amount, OFAC considered multiple factors, including that (i) the subsidiaries acted willfully in violation of the ITSR because employees concealed their knowledge that the goods were destined for Iran; (ii) subsidiary supervisory personnel actively concealed their awareness of the apparent violations from their U.S. parent company; and (iii) the U.S. company is “commercially sophisticated” with knowledge of OFAC’s regulations. OFAC also considered numerous mitigating factors, including (i) the fact that the U.S. company has not received a penalty from OFAC in the previous five years; (ii) the harm to the ITSR program was limited; and (iii) the U.S. company cooperated with the investigation and took remedial steps.
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.
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.
On June 26, the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) reached a settlement with an international financial services and insurance company based in New York for alleged violations of OFAC sanctions programs. OFAC claimed that the company “issued policies and insurance certificates, and/or processed claims and other insurance-related transactions that conferred economic benefit to sanctioned countries or persons and undermined the policy objectives of several U.S. economic sanctions programs.” Specifically, OFAC maintained the company violated the following sanctions programs: (i) Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. Part 560 (ITSR); (ii) Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferators Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. Part 544 (WMDPSR); (iii) Sudanese Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. Part 538 (SSR); and (iv) Cuban Assets Control Regulations, 31 C.F.R. Part 515 (CACR). The settlement requires the company to pay $148,698 to settle the claims, which the company voluntarily self-disclosed to OFAC.
For others to avoid these issues, OFAC suggested that “the best and most reliable approach for insuring global risks without violating U.S. sanctions law is to insert in global insurance policies an explicit exclusion for risks that would violate U.S. sanctions laws.”
On January 16, the Department of the Treasury issued a statement regarding Implementation Day under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the plan reached between the P5+1 (the United States, China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and Germany), the European Union, and Iran concerning Iran’s nuclear program. In response to Iran taking the appropriate nuclear-related measures, the United States followed through on lifting nuclear-related “secondary sanctions” on Iran, which included certain financial and banking-related sanctions. To summarize the effect of Implementation Day, OFAC issued guidance and FAQs. As outlined in the FAQs and in addition to lifting the nuclear-related “secondary sanctions,” the United States removed more than 400 individuals and entities from OFAC’s List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN List). Still, as Treasury Secretary Lew noted, “other than certain limited exceptions provided for in the JCPOA, the U.S. embargo broadly remains in place, meaning that U.S. persons, including U.S. banks, will still be prohibited from virtually all dealings with Iranian entities.”
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