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Agencies flag intermediaries in evading Russia-related sanctions
On March 2, the DOJ, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), and the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) issued a joint compliance note on the use of third-party intermediaries or transshipment points to evade Russian- and Belarussian-related sanctions and export controls. This is the first collective effort taken by the three agencies to inform the international community, the private sector, and the public about efforts taken by malign actors to evade sanctions and export controls in order to provide support for Russia’s war against Ukraine. The compliance note outlines enforcement trends and details attempts made by Russia “to circumvent restrictions, disguise the involvement of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons  or parties on the Entity List in transactions, and obscure the true identities of Russian end users.” The compliance note also provides common red flags indicating whether a third-party intermediary may be engaged in efforts to evade sanctions or export controls, and outlines guidance for companies on maintaining effective, risk-based sanctions and export compliance programs. The agencies highlight other measures taken to constrain Russia, including stringent export controls imposed by BIS to restrict Russia’s access to technologies and other items, sanctions and civil money penalties issued against U.S. persons who violate OFAC sanctions and non-U.S. persons who cause U.S. persons to violate Russian sanctions programs, and the DOJ’s interagency law enforcement task force, Task Force KleptoCapture, which enforces sanctions, export controls, and economic countermeasures imposed by the U.S. and foreign allies and partners.
OFAC sanctions firms for aiding Russia’s acquisition of UAVs
On November 15, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control announced sanctions pursuant to Executive Orders (E.O.) 13382 and 14024 against several firms responsible for the production and transfer of Iranian unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to Russia for use in the country’s war against Ukraine. OFAC also designated two individuals who facilitated the acquisition of UAVs for a previously State Department-designated company. According to the announcement, the designations “implement commitments to target international actors involved in supporting Russia’s war machine, as highlighted by OFAC FAQs 1091 and 1092 and reinforced by an October 14, 2022 meeting of senior officials in Washington representing ministries of finance and other government agencies from 33 countries, in which the participants acknowledged the significance of sanction actions taken so far and discussed additional steps to further impair Russia’s military-industrial complex and critical defense supply chains.” The sanctions follow OFAC’s September designations against several persons involved in the shipment, production, and procurement of UAVs for Russia’s benefit. (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, persons that engage in certain transactions with the sanctions individuals or entities may themselves be exposed to sanctions. OFAC further 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 pursuant to E.O. 13382 could be subject to U.S. sanctions.”
The same day, the Departments of Treasury, Commerce, and State issued a joint alert detailing the impact of international sanctions and export controls on Russia’s military-industrial complex to date.
OFAC sanctions Russian military technology procurement network
On October 19, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions pursuant to Executive Order 14024 against a Russian military technology procurement network for allegedly procuring military and sensitive dual-use technologies from U.S. manufacturers and supplying them to Russian end-users. The individual and his two companies are designated as part of a joint action with the DOJ and FBI and highlights the U.S. government’s on-going “efforts to hinder Russia’s ability to wage its war of aggression in Ukraine, including by holding accountable those who support Russia’s military by disrupting its illicit defense and technology procurement networks around the world.” The action builds upon an October 14 alert issued by OFAC and the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security and the Department of State, which details the impact of international sanctions and export controls (covered by InfoBytes here). The alert followed the convergence of top officials representing ministries of finance and other government agencies from 33 countries who met to discuss the effects of international sanctions and export controls on Russia’s military-industrial complex and critical defense supply chains.
As a result of the sanctions, all property and interests in property belonging to the sanctioned persons that are in the U.S. or in the possession or control of U.S. persons are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. Further, “any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more in the aggregate by one or more of such persons are also blocked.” 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.
The same day, the DOJ (with the support of the Department’s Task Force KleptoCapture) unsealed indictments against nearly a dozen individuals and several entities, including the sanctioned Russian national and his two companies, accused of scheming to export military technologies to Russia.
OFAC announces Russian sanctions, REPO provides update
On September 30, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), together with the Departments of Commerce and State, announced sanctions against 14 persons in Russia’s military-industrial complex, including two international suppliers, three key leaders of Russia’s financial infrastructure, and immediate family members of certain senior Russian officials, as well as 278 members of Russia’s legislature, for enabling Russia’s referenda and effort to annex Ukraine. 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 are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. Further, “any entities that are owned 50 percent or more by one or more designated persons” are blocked. 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 issued FAQ 1091 to provide new guidance warning of the heightened sanctions risk that international actors outside of Russia would face for providing political or economic support to Russia as a result of its illegal attempts to change the status of Ukrainian territory. According to OFAC, the FAQ emphasizes that the U.S. “is prepared to more aggressively use its existing sanctions authorities, including E.O. 13660, E.O. 14024, and E.O. 14065, to target persons—inside or outside Russia—whose activities may constitute material assistance, sponsorship, or provision of financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services (together ‘material support’) to or in support of persons sanctioned pursuant to those Executive orders, or sanctionable activity related to Russia’s sham referenda, purported annexation, and continued occupation of the Kherson, Zaporizhzhya, Donetsk, and Luhansk regions of Ukraine.” OFAC noted, however, that it “will generally not impose sanctions on non-U.S. persons that engage in transactions that would be authorized for U.S. persons, such as certain energy-related transactions.”
The same day, Treasury and the DOJ announced that the Russian Elites, Proxies, and Oligarchs (REPO) Task Force Deputies convened to accelerate oligarch asset forfeiture efforts in response to Russia’s war in Ukraine. As previously covered by InfoBytes, REPO is a multilateral task force that was formed in February 2022 and is “committed to using their respective authorities in concert with other appropriate ministries to collect and share information to take concrete actions, including sanctions, asset freezing, and civil and criminal asset seizure, and criminal prosecution.” Representatives from Australia, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, the UK, the European Commission, and the U.S. discussed continuing initiatives “to tailor already robust asset forfeiture tools and maximize the impact of our joint work on Russian elites and their cronies” for their involvement with the war in Ukraine. REPO further noted that their steps “immobilized Russian assets as one of several means to induce Russia to come into compliance with its international law obligations, including the obligation to pay reparations.”
OFAC sanctions nearly 100 Russian targets; prohibits Russian gold imports
On June 28, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions pursuant to Executive Orders (E.O.) 14024 and 14065 against 70 entities—many of which, according to OFAC, “are critical to the Russian Federation’s defense industrial base, including State Corporation Rostec, the cornerstone of Russia’s defense, industrial, technology, and manufacturing sector.” Twenty-nine Russian individuals were also designated. “We once again reaffirm our commitment to working alongside our partners and allies to impose additional severe sanctions in response to Russia’s war against Ukraine,” Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said. OFAC’s designations occurred in tandem with actions taken by the U.S. State Department, which include sanctions against an additional 45 entities and 29 individuals as well as visa restrictions against “officials believed to have threatened or violated Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, or political independence.” Additionally, OFAC immediately prohibited the importation of Russian gold into the U.S. (unless licensed or otherwise authorized by OFAC). As a result of the sanctions, all property and interests in property belonging to the designated persons in the U.S. 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 noted that U.S. persons are prohibited from participating in transactions with the sanctioned persons unless authorized by a general or specific license.
A joint alert issued by FinCEN and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security also urged financial institutions to remain vigilant against Russian and Belarusian export control evasion and to take a “risk-based approach” for identifying potentially suspicious activity, such as end-use certificates, export documents, or letters of credit-based trade financing. “Financial institutions and the private sector continue to play a key role in disrupting Russia’s efforts to acquire critical goods and technology to support its war-making efforts,” OFAC stated in its announcement.
On the same day, OFAC issued several new Russia-related general licenses (GL): (i) GL 39 authorizes the wind down of transactions ordinarily incident and necessary involving State Corporation Rostec that are normally prohibited by E.O. 14024; (ii) GL 40 authorizes “all transactions ordinarily incident and necessary to the provision, exportation, or reexportation of goods, technology, or services to ensure the safety of civil aviation involving one or more of” certain blocked entities; (iii) GL 41 authorizes certain transactions related to agricultural equipment that are normally prohibited by the Russian Harmful Foreign Activities Sanctions Regulations; (iv) GL 42 authorizes certain transactions with the Federal Security Services; and (v) GL 43 authorizes the divestment or transfer of debt or equity of, and wind down of derivative contracts involving the Public Joint Stock Company Severstal or Nord Gold PLC.
OFAC also published a Determination Pursuant to Section 1(a)(i) of Executive Order 14068 concerning prohibitions related to the importation of Russian gold and issued one new and one amended frequently asked question.
The Russian Elites, Proxies, and Oligarchs (REPO) Task Force also issued a joint statement summarizing actions taken by REPO members against sanctioned Russians. The efforts have led to more than $30 billion worth of sanctioned Russians’ assets being blocked or frozen and has heavily restricted sanctioned Russians’ access to the international financial system.
Agencies release risk advisory for businesses operating in Sudan
On May 23, the U.S. Departments of Treasury, State, Commerce, and Labor issued an advisory, Risks and Considerations for U.S. Businesses Operating in Sudan, highlighting growing risks to American businesses and individuals associated with conducting business with Sudanese State-Owned Enterprises. According to the advisory, the risks outlined come from recent actions undertaken by Sudan’s Sovereign Council and security forces under the military’s control and could adversely impact U.S. businesses, individuals, other persons, and their operations in the country and the region. The advisory also noted that the U.S. recently imposed sanctions on the Central Reserve Police (CRP) for serious human rights abuse under Executive Order 13818. As previously covered by InfoBytes, OFAC noted that, the “CRP has used excessive force against pro-democracy protesters peacefully demonstrating against the military-led overthrow of the civilian-led transitional government in Sudan.” As a result of the sanctions, all property and interests in property belonging to the sanctioned person subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. OFAC also noted that its regulations generally prohibit all dealings by U.S. persons that involve any property or interests in property of designated persons.
Agencies issue Burma advisory
On January 26, OFAC, along with Departments of State, Commerce, Homeland Security, Labor, and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, published a business advisory titled Risks and Considerations for Businesses and Individuals with Exposure to Entities Responsible for Undermining Democratic Processes, Facilitating Corruption, and Committing Human Rights Abuses in Burma (Myanmar), which informs the public of the heightened risks associated with conducting business in Burma, specifically business that involves the military regime. According to the announcement, since the military coup in 2021, the military has engaged in serious human rights abuse against the people of Burma. The specific entities and sectors of greatest concern for corruption and other illicit finance risks include, among other things, state owned enterprise and real-estate and construction projects.
OFAC sanctions Chinese tech firms
On December 16, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) added eight Chinese companies to OFAC’s Non-SDN Chinese Military-Industrial Complex Companies sanctions list. The eight Chinese technology firms were identified by OFAC pursuant to E.O. 13959, as expanded by E.O. 14032, for “actively support[ing] the biometric surveillance and tracking of ethnic and religious minorities in China.” As previously covered by InfoBytes, last month President Biden extended, for one year, the national emergency declared pursuant to E.O. 13959, as expanded by E.O. 14032, involving securities investments related to Non-SDN Chinese Military-Industrial Complex Companies. Among other things, E.O. 14032 generally prohibits U.S. persons from “the purchase or sale of any publicly traded securities, or any securities that are derivative of such securities, or are designed to provide investment exposure to such securities, of” any such companies.
Additionally, the U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security issued a final rule, amending the Export Administration Regulations through the addition of 37 new foreign entities to the Entity List after determining the entities have engaged in activities that are “contrary to the foreign policy or national security interests of the United States.” According to OFAC’s announcement, these 37 entities “include 25 PRC entities that contribute to Beijing’s efforts to develop and deploy biotechnology and other technologies for military applications and human rights abuses, including four entities previously identified in E.O. 13959, as amended.”
Treasury issues Cuba joint fact sheet
On August 11, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) released a fact sheet to emphasize the U.S. government’s commitment to promoting the ability of the Cuban people “to seek, receive, and impart information” through access to the internet. According to OFAC, “[t]he fact sheet highlights the most relevant exemptions and authorizations pertinent to supporting the Cuban people through the provision of certain internet and related telecommunications services.” The fact sheet also notes that though most transactions between persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction and Cuba are prohibited under the current embargo, the U.S. government permits certain activities to support the Cuban people’s access to information on the internet. The relevant OFAC regulations can be found in the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, 31 C.F.R. part 515 and the relevant BIS regulations can be found in the Export Administration Regulations, 15 C.F.R. parts 730-774.
Department of Commerce requests comments on new federal approach to consumer privacy rules
The NTIA’s proposal follows the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which was implemented this past summer, and the recently enacted and amended California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (see previous InfoBytes coverage here). Comments on the notice must be received by October 26.
- Keisha Whitehall Wolfe to discuss “Tips for successfully engaging your state regulator” at the MBA's State and Local Workshop
- Max Bonici to discuss “Enforcement risk and trends for crypto and digital assets (Part 2)” at ABA’s 2023 Business Law Section Hybrid Spring Meeting
- Jedd R. Bellman to present “An insider’s look at handling regulatory investigations” at the Maryland State Bar Association Legal Summit