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OFAC sanctions front company network for providing financial support to Islamic Revolutionary Guards
On March 26, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions pursuant to Executive Order 13224 against 20 Iran- and Iraq-based front companies and individuals for providing financial support to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps-Qods Force, as well as certain Iranian-backed terrorist militias in Iraq. Among other activities, OFAC alleged that the designated companies and individuals laundered money through Iraqi front companies, sold Iranian oil to the Syrian regime, and smuggled weapons to Iraq and Yemen. Pursuant to the sanctions, “all property and interests in property of these persons that are in or come within the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC.” OFAC noted that its regulations “generally prohibit” U.S. persons from participating in transactions with the designated persons and warned foreign financial institutions that if they knowingly conduct or facilitate significant transactions for any of the designated persons, they may be “subject to U.S. correspondent account or payable-through account sanctions.”
On March 26, the DOJ announced criminal charges against numerous current and former Venezuelan government officials, including “Former President” Nicolás Maduro Moros and two Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) leaders. The charges include allegedly engaging in drug trafficking, laundering drug proceeds using Florida real estate and luxury goods, corruption, and bribery. According to an unsealed four-count superseding indictment filed in the Southern District of New York, Maduro, along with five other high-ranking officials, participated in a “narco-terrorism conspiracy,” conspired to import large-scale cocaine shipments into the U.S., and used—or conspired to use—“machine guns and destructive devices” to further the narco-terrorism conspiracies. The charges also allege that Maduro and the officials negotiated and facilitated FARC-produced cocaine shipments, coordinated “foreign affairs with Honduras and other countries to facilitate large-scale drug trafficking,” and solicited assistance from FARC leadership with respect to militia training.
A separate indictment unsealed in the District of Columbia charges the current Venezuelan Minister of Defense with conspiracy to distribute cocaine on a U.S.-registered aircraft. That individual was previously sanctioned in 2018 by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). (Covered by InfoBytes here.)
A criminal complaint was also filed in the Southern District of Florida charging the current Chief Justice of the Venezuelan Supreme Court with accepting “tens of millions of dollars and bribes to illegally fix dozens of civil and criminal cases,” including a case in which the defendant authorized the dismissal of charges brought against a Venezuelan who was “charged in a multibillion-dollar fraud scheme against the Venezuelan state-owned oil company.” According to the complaint, the defendant laundered the proceeds through U.S. bank accounts, and spent approximately $3 million in South Florida on a private aircraft and luxury goods.
Another unsealed indictment in the Southern District of New York charges three additional Venezuelans with evading OFAC sanctions by working “with U.S. persons and U.S.-based entities to provide private flight services for the benefit of Maduro’s 2018 presidential campaign.”
Additional separate indictments accuse various former Venezuelan officials of drug trafficking and military aircraft smuggling. In addition, several individuals were charged with FCPA violations, including: (i) two individuals for allegedly receiving bribes to award business to U.S.-based companies; and (ii) several individuals for allegedly participating in an international money laundering scheme and conspiring to solicit Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA) vendors “for bribes and kickbacks in exchange for providing assistance to those vendors in connection with their PDVSA business.” According to the DOJ’s press release, the scheme involved “bribes paid by the owners of U.S.-based companies to Venezuelan government officials to corruptly secure energy contracts and payment priority on outstanding invoices.”
On March 20, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced it extended the expiration dates of two Ukraine-related general licenses (GLs) by issuing GL 13N, which supersedes GL 13M, and GL 15H, which supersedes GL 15G. Both GLs—which now expire July 22—authorize certain transactions necessary to divest or transfer debt, equity, or other holdings, or wind down operations or existing contracts with a Russian manufacturer previously sanctioned by OFAC in April 2018 (covered by InfoBytes here).
Visit here for continuing InfoBytes coverage of actions related to Ukraine.
On March 25, the United Kingdom’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) issued a statement addressing the potential impact of Covid-19 on firms’ LIBOR transition plans. While the FCA states that the assumption that firms cannot rely on LIBOR being published after the end of 2021 is unchanged, it acknowledges that Covid-19 has impacted the timing of some aspects of the transition programs for many firms. The FCA states that it will continue to assess the impact on transition timelines and will update the market as soon as possible.
Find continuing InfoBytes coverage on LIBOR here.
On March 12, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13850 against a Russian oil brokerage firm for operating in the oil sector of the Venezuelan economy. According to OFAC, following the February 18 designation of a Swiss-incorporated, Russian-controlled oil brokerage and its board chairman and president (covered by InfoBytes here), cargoes of Venezuelan oil allocated to the designated company were charged to the newly sanctioned brokerage firm in order to evade U.S. sanctions. In connection with the designation, OFAC issued Venezuela General License 36A, which authorizes certain transactions and activities otherwise prohibited under E.O.s 13850 and 13857 that are required in order to wind down business with the company. Concurrently, OFAC issued amended FAQ 817 and FAQ 818 to address the significance of OFAC’s designation of the company, and whether there is a wind-down period. OFAC reiterated that “all property and interests in property of [the brokerage firm] that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons, and of any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by the designated individual and entity, are blocked and must be reported to OFAC.”
On March 19, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions pursuant to Executive Order 13382 against five United Arab Emirates-based companies for facilitating the Iranian regime’s petroleum and petrochemical sales, which helps to finance Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force. According to OFAC, the sanctions follow similar designations of key revenue sources (covered by InfoBytes here and here). As a result, all property and interests in property belonging to the identified entities subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and “U.S. persons are generally prohibited from transacting with them.” Moreover, OFAC warned that “foreign financial institutions that knowingly facilitate significant transactions for, or persons that provide material or certain other support to, the persons 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.”
On March 16, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued a release reminding financial institutions affected by Covid-19 to contact the agency and their functional regulator as soon as practicable if they anticipate delays in filing their Bank Secrecy Act reports. Financial institutions were also advised to be on alert for malicious or fraudulent transactions connected to Covid-19, particularly with respect to emerging trends such as imposter scams, investment scams, product scams, and insider trading. Financial institutions were also directed to review FinCEN advisory FIN-2017-A007—which discusses other relevant typologies, including benefits fraud, charities fraud, and cyber-related fraud—and encouraged to review guidance from their functional regulators as available.
On March 6, the FDIC and the Federal Reserve Board issued a joint notice and request for comment on their proposal for updates to resolution plan guidance for certain large foreign banking organizations (FBOs). Pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Act, FBOs must submit resolution plans—also known as “living wills”—which detail the strategic plans for their U.S. operations and subsidiaries for rapid and orderly resolution in bankruptcy in the event that the banks fail or fall under material financial distress. Updates in the proposal focus on the FBO’s derivatives and trading activities and payment, clearing, and settlement activities and are informed by responses from FBOs to the prior 2018 FBO guidance and 2019 domestic guidance. In addition, the proposal contains an appendix of frequently asked questions with answers provided by agency staff. The agencies also seek comments “on objective, quantitative criteria to determine its applicability.” Comments must be received by May 5.
Chinese nationals sanctioned and charged with laundering over $100 million in cryptocurrency from hacked exchange
On March 2, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions pursuant to Executive Orders 13694, 13757, and 13722 against two Chinese nationals for allegedly laundering over $100 million in stolen cryptocurrency connected to a North Korean state-sponsored cyber group that hacked cryptocurrency exchanges in 2018. According to OFAC, the two individuals “materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, a malicious cyber-enabled activity” or in support of the North Korean cyber group, which was designated by OFAC last September (covered by InfoBytes here). OFAC stated that it closely coordinated its action with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation Division. As a result of the sanctions, “all property and interests in property of these individuals 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 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 or providing significant financial services to the designated individuals may subject them to U.S. correspondent account or payable-through sanctions.
On the same day, the DOJ unsealed a two-count indictment against the two individuals, charging them with money laundering conspiracy and operating an unlicensed money transmitting business. The indictment claims that the individuals converted virtual currency traceable to the hack of a cryptocurrency exchange into fiat currency or prepaid Apple iTunes gift cards through accounts in various exchanges linked to Chinese banks and then transferred the currency or gift cards to customers for a fee. According to the indictment, neither individual was registered as a money transmitting business with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, which is a federal felony offense. The complaint seeks forfeiture of 113 virtual currency accounts belonging to the individuals.
On March 4, the Federal Reserve Board (Fed) released a final rule amending and simplifying the capital rules for large banks, as well as instructions for the 2020 Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review (CCAR) cycle. The final rule, which is “broadly similar” to the Fed’s April 2018 proposal (covered by InfoBytes here), incorporates a simplified framework that integrates a “stress capital buffer” (SCB) requirement, which will use supervisory stress test results to establish the size of a firm’s stress capital buffer requirement. The stress test—one element of the annual CCAR—helps determine a firm’s capital requirements for the upcoming year. According to the Fed, “[b]y combining the Board’s stress tests—which project the capital needs of each firm under adverse economic conditions—with the Board’s non-stress capital requirements, large banks will now be subject to a single, forward-looking, and risk-sensitive capital framework.” The simplification would result in banks needing to meet eight capital requirements, instead of the current 13. Among other things, the final rule will also (i) increase capital requirements for global systemically important banks and decrease requirements for less complex banks; and (ii) continue to subject all banks to ongoing, non-stress leverage requirements.
The final rule applies to bank holding companies and U.S. intermediate holding companies of foreign banking organizations with more than $100 billion in total consolidated assets, and will take effect 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, with a firm’s first stress capital buffer requirement, as determined under the final rule, effective October 1, 2020.
- Melissa Klimkiewicz to discuss "Lender town hall" at the National Flood Conference webinar
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "BSA for BSA seasoned officers" at an NAFCU webinar
- Sherry-Maria Safchuk to discuss "The CCPA: Successes, failures, and practical considerations for compliance" at a American Bar Association webinar
- Jon David D. Langlois to discuss "LIBOR transition: Preparations for legal professionals" at a Mortgage Bankers Association webinar
- Garylene D. Javier to discuss "Navigating workplace culture in 2020" at the DC Bar Conference