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  • OFAC issues new Syria sanctions FAQs

    Financial Crimes

    On April 5, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) published two new Syria Frequently Asked Questions, FAQs 884 and 885. FAQ 884 relates to non-U.S. persons’, including nongovernmental organizations’ (NGOs) and foreign financial institutions’ exposure to U.S. secondary sanctions pursuant to the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2019 (Caesar Act) for activities that would be authorized under the Syrian Sanctions Regulations (SySR), while FAQ 885 governs whether U.S. and non-U.S. persons (including NGO and foreign financial institutions) may facilitate certain humanitarian assistance to Syria without the risk of sanctions. OFAC clarified, among other things, that “non-U.S. persons, including NGOs and foreign financial institutions, would not risk exposure to sanctions under the Caesar Act for engaging in activity, or facilitating transactions and payments for such activity, that is authorized for U.S. persons under a general license (GL) issued pursuant to the SySR.” With respect to certain humanitarian assistance, OFAC explained that “[t]he export of U.S.-origin food and most medicines to Syria is not prohibited and does not require a Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) or OFAC license, and therefore non-U.S. persons would not risk exposure to sanctions under the [Caesar Act] for engaging in such activity.”

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

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  • OFAC issues Syria-related settlement with French bank for $8.5 million

    Financial Crimes

    On January 4, the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced an over $8.5 million settlement with a French bank that facilitates trade finance between Europe and the Middle East, North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, and Asia for 127 apparent violations of Syria-related sanctions. The 127 apparent violations include: (i) 114 internal transfers on behalf of Syrian entities totaling over $1 billion, with 45 of the transfers processed between two clients, one being a sanctioned Syrian entity and 69 of the transfers conducted as a foreign exchange transaction with a sanctioned Syrian customer; and (ii) 13 “back-to-back” letter of credit transactions or other trade finance transactions involving sanctioned Syrian parties, processed through a U.S. bank.

    In arriving at the settlement amount, OFAC considered various aggravating factors, including that management had “actual knowledge” of the conduct, and that the bank “conferred substantial economic benefit to U.S.-sanctioned parties,” causing “significant harm to the integrity of U.S. sanctions programs and their associated policy objectives.”

    OFAC also considered various mitigating factors, including (i) the majority of the violations occurred in late 2011, after an August 2011 Executive Order significantly expanded U.S. sanctions against Syria; (ii) the bank voluntarily self-disclosed the apparent violations and cooperated with the investigations; and (iii) had a compliance program in place at the time of the apparent violations.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Sanctions Syria Of Interest to Non-US Persons Settlement OFAC Designations

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  • OFAC reaches settlement with Saudi Arabian bank to resolve Sudanese and Syrian sanctions violations

    Financial Crimes

    On December 28, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a $653,347 settlement with a Saudi Arabian bank to resolve 13 apparent violations of the Sudanese Sanctions Regulations, or section 2(b) of Executive Order (E.O.) 13582, which prohibits certain transactions with respect to Syria. According to OFAC’s web notice, between 2011 and 2014, the bank processed—directly or indirectly—13 U.S. dollar (USD) transactions totaling more than $5.9 million “to or through the United States in circumstances where a benefit of [the bank’s] service was received by Sudanese or Syrian counterparties, or that involved goods originating in or transiting through Sudan or Syria.” OFAC noted that the apparent violations began after the bank had implemented more robust compliance measures, “including those relating to sanctions screening and OFAC sanctions compliance.”

    In arriving at the settlement amount, OFAC considered various aggravating factors, including that the bank “conferred substantial economic benefit to U.S.-sanctioned parties,” causing “significant harm to the integrity of U.S. sanctions programs and their associated policy objectives.”

    OFAC also considered various mitigating factors, including that the bank (i) did not willfully intend to violate U.S. sanctions law or recklessly disregard its sanctions obligations; (ii) cooperated with the investigation and signed a tolling agreement; and (iii) has undertaken remedial measures and has enhanced its compliance controls and internal policies, including by requiring the screening of all payments against international sanctions lists and prohibiting the opening of USD accounts for any Sudanese customers or financial institutions.

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

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  • OFAC settles with digital asset company over multiple sanctions violations

    Financial Crimes

    On December 30, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a nearly $100,000 settlement with a California-based digital asset security company for 183 apparent violations of multiple sanctions programs. According to OFAC, between March 2015 and December 2019, the company processed 183 digital currency transactions, totaling over $9,000, on behalf of individuals who were located in sanctioned jurisdictions, such as the Crimea region of Ukraine, Cuba, Iran, Sudan, and Syria. OFAC notes that, prior to April 2018, the company allowed users to open accounts by providing only a name and email address, and while it then amended its policies to require all new accountholders to verify the country in which they were located, it did not perform additional verification or diligence on their actual location.

    In arriving at the settlement amount, OFAC considered various aggravating factors, including that the company (i) failed to implement appropriate, risk-based sanctions compliance controls; and (ii) had reason to know that some of its users were located in sanctioned jurisdictions based on users’ IP address data.

    OFAC also considered various mitigating factors, such as (i) the company not having received a penalty notice from OFAC in the proceeding five years; (ii) the company cooperating with the investigation; and (iii) the company having undertaken remedial measures, including hiring a Chief Compliance Officer and implementing a new OFAC policy.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Sanctions OFAC Designations Settlement Enforcement Of Interest to Non-US Persons Cuba Iran Syria

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  • OFAC sanctions Central Bank of Syria and Syrian officials

    Financial Crimes

    On December 22, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions against two individuals, nine business entities, and the Central Bank of Syria, pursuant to Syria sanctions authorities. Treasury notes that the sanctions are intended to “discourage future investment in government-controlled areas of Syria, force the regime to end its atrocities against the Syrian people, and compel its commitment to the United Nations-facilitated process in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2254.” Additionally, concurrent with OFAC’s designations, the State Department also designated six Syrian persons pursuant to Section 2 of Executive Order 13894. As a result, all property and interests in property belonging to the designated individuals and entities subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. OFAC 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 designated or otherwise blocked persons,” and warned that non-U.S. persons that engage in certain transactions with the designated persons may expose themselves to designation.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Sanctions Syria Of Interest to Non-US Persons OFAC Designations

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  • OFAC sanctions Syrian entities, issues FAQs

    Financial Crimes

    On December 22, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) added several individuals and entities, including the Central Bank of Syria (CBoS), to its Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List related to Executive Order (E.O.) 13894. OFAC also released new Syria Frequently Asked Questions 866, 867, and 868 related to prohibitions applicable to CBoS and allowances for humanitarian assistance to Syria following CBoS’s designation. OFAC clarified, among other things, that “non-U.S. persons who knowingly provide significant financial, material, or technological support to, or knowingly engage in a significant transaction with the Government of Syria, including the CBoS, or certain other persons sanctioned with respect to Syria, risk exposure to sanctions.” With respect to permissible humanitarian assistance, OFAC explained that it “may issue specific licenses to authorize certain transactions involving U.S. persons or the U.S. financial system that may otherwise be prohibited by OFAC sanctions, provided those transactions are in the foreign policy interests of the United States.”

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

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  • OFAC sanctions Syrian individuals and entities

    Financial Crimes

    On November 9, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned 10 entities and seven individuals, including Syrian military officials, members of the Syrian Parliament, Syrian government entities, and various Syrian and Lebanese persons for allegedly supporting Bashar al-Assad regime’s petroleum industry. The individuals and entities were designated pursuant to Executive Orders 13852, 13573, and 13572. As a result, all property and interests in property belonging to the designated individuals and entities subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. OFAC 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 that non-U.S. persons that engage in transactions with the designated persons may expose themselves to designation.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Sanctions Syria Of Interest to Non-US Persons OFAC Designations

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  • OFAC sanctions Syrian government officials

    Financial Crimes

    On September 30, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced three individuals and 13 entities were added to the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List, pursuant to Syria sanctions authorities. As a result, all property and interests in property belonging to the designated individuals and entities subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked and must be 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 that non-U.S. persons that engage in transactions with the designated persons may expose themselves to designation.

    Moreover, OFAC issued a new Syria General License 20, “Authorizing Transactions and Activities Necessary for Wind Down of Transactions with Emma Tel LLC,” and updated the FAQs to reflect the new issuance. 

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

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  • OFAC sanctions Syrian government officials

    Financial Crimes

    On August 20, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions pursuant to Executive Order 13573 against two senior members of the Syrian government. OFAC noted that, among other things, the designated individuals allegedly contributed to “the oppression of the Assad regime” in Syria. As a result, all property and interests in property belonging to the designated individuals and subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked and must be 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 that non-U.S. persons that engage in transactions with the designated persons may expose themselves to designation.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Sanctions Syria Of Interest to Non-US Persons

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  • OFAC sanctions investors supporting Syrian government

    Financial Crimes

    On July 29, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions against one individual and nine entities for providing significant investment support to the Syrian government. OFAC noted that, among other things, the designated individual and his companies knowingly provided “significant financial, material, or technological support to, or knowingly engag[ed] in a significant transaction with, the Government of Syria (including any entity owned or controlled by the Government of Syria) or a senior political figure of the Government of Syria.” As a result, all property and interests in property belonging to the designated persons and subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked and must be 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 designated persons,” and warned that non-U.S. persons that engage in transactions with the designated persons may expose themselves to designation. OFAC also referenced a previously published Fact Sheet (covered by InfoBytes here), which highlights the most pertinent exemptions, exceptions, and authorizations for humanitarian assistance and trade under the Syria, Iran, Venezuela, North Korea, Cuba, and Ukraine/Russia-related​ sanctions programs to ensure humanitarian-related trade and assistance reaches at-risk populations through legitimate and transparent channels during the global Covid-19 pandemic.

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

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