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On June 21, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Treasury issued a statement confirming that FATF members agreed to regulate and supervise virtual asset financial activities and related service providers. On the same day, FATF issued a statement noting that it “adopted and issued an Interpretive Note to Recommendation 15 on New Technologies (INR. 15) that further clarifies the FATF’s previous amendments to the international Standards relating to virtual assets and describes how countries and obliged entities must comply with the relevant FATF Recommendations to prevent the misuse of virtual assets for money laundering and terrorist financing and the financing of proliferation.” As previously covered by InfoBytes, in October 2018, FATF urged all countries to take measures to prevent virtual assets and cryptocurrencies from being used to finance crime and terrorism and updated The FATF Recommendations to add new definitions for “virtual assets” and “virtual asset service providers” and to clarify how the recommendations apply to financial activities involving virtual assets and cryptocurrencies.
According to FATF announcement, INR. 15 establishes “binding measures,” which require countries to, among other things, (i) assess and mitigate risks associated with virtual asset activities and service providers; (ii) license or register service providers and subject them to supervision; (iii) implement sanctions and other enforcement measures when service providers fail to comply with an anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) obligation; and (iv) ensure that service providers implement the full range of AML/CFT preventive measures under the FATF Recommendations, including customer due diligence, record-keeping, suspicious transaction reporting, and screening all transactions for compliance with targeted financial sanctions.
On June 24, President Trump issued Executive Order (E.O.) 13876, “Imposing Sanctions with Respect to Iran,” which: (i) imposes sanctions on Iran’s Supreme Leader’s Office (SLO); and (ii) targets persons appointed to certain official or other positions by the Supreme Leader and/or his office for allegedly taking actions to “destabilize the Middle East, promote international terrorism, and advance Iran’s ballistic missile program, and Iran’s irresponsible and provocative actions in and over international waters.” Among other things, E.O. 13876 authorizes the Secretaries of Treasury and State to impose sanctions on a foreign financial institution if it is determined that it has knowingly conducted or facilitated any significant financial transactions in these sectors, or for or on behalf of a blocked person. These sanctions would prohibit the opening of, or impose strict conditions on maintaining, a correspondent account or payable-through account by such foreign financial institutions in the United States.
On the same day, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated eight senior commanders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) pursuant to E.O. 13224, which “provides a means by which to disrupt the financial support network for terrorists and terrorist organizations.” According to OFAC, the sanctions are meant to reinforce the President’s newly issued E.O. 13876. As a result of the designations, “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 must be blocked and reported to OFAC.” OFAC noted that persons who engage in transactions with the designated individuals and entities may be exposed to sanctions themselves or subject to enforcement action.
On June 24, the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS), together with the New York Attorney General, announced a $33 million settlement with a Japanese bank resolving allegations the bank’s internal controls—specifically, its anti-money laundering (AML), Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), and Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctions compliance programs—at its New York Branch were “systematically deficient” between November 2014 and November 2018. This allegedly resulted in violations of state and federal laws and regulations, as well as two previous NYDFS consent orders from 2013 and 2014. The settlement resolves an action that was commenced by the bank against NYDFS in connection with a 2017 application with the OCC to convert its state-licensed branches in New York, Illinois, and California and its state-licensed agency offices in Texas to federally licensed branches and agency offices. The action sought to block a NYDFS order that would keep the bank under its supervisory purview notwithstanding the OCC’s granting of the federal charter. The settlement indicates that neither NYDFS, NYAG, or the bank admit any wrongdoing, but have agreed to dismiss all outstanding claims, upon the bank’s monetary payment. The settlement states that NYDFS releases the bank of any further obligations related to the previous consent orders and notes that it “will not attempt to exercise any visitorial power or other supervisory, regulatory, or enforcement authority over [the bank] or its branches or agencies.”
On June 20, the DOJ announced a $137 million settlement with a U.S.-based multinational retailer (the Retailer) and its wholly owned Brazilian subsidiary (the Subsidiary) to resolve claims they violated the FCPA. The Retailer entered into a non-prosecution agreement, while the Subsidiary pleaded guilty. On the same day, the SEC issued an administrative order requiring the Retailer to pay $144 million in disgorgement and interest. The SEC stated that the Retailer failed to “operate a sufficient anti-corruption compliance program for more than a decade as the retailer experienced rapid international growth.” In total, the Retailer will pay more than $282 million to settle the charges.
According to the DOJ announcement, from 2001 to 2011, the Retailer failed to implement and maintain internal accounting controls related to anti-corruption, and senior officials were aware of the failures. The failures allegedly allowed the Retailer’s foreign subsidiaries in Mexico, India, Brazil and China to hire third-party intermediaries (TPIs) “without establishing sufficient controls to prevent those TPIs from making improper payments to government officials in order to obtain store permits and licenses,” which, in turn, allowed the foreign subsidiaries to open stores faster, earning the company additional profits. In its non-prosecution agreement with the DOJ, in addition to the monetary penalty, the Retailer agreed to: (i) appoint an independent compliance monitor for a two-year term; and (ii) continue to cooperate with the DOJ’s investigation. The monetary penalty amount was calculated by reducing by 25 percent the bottom of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines fine range for the portion of the penalty applicable to conduct in Brazil, China, and India, and reducing by 20 percent the bottom of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines fine range for the portion of the penalty applicable to conduct in Mexico.
On June 19, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced its decision to sanction a Russian financial entity, pursuant to Executive Order 13382, for allegedly “having provided, or attempted to provide, financial, material, technological, or other support for, or goods or services” on behalf of an entity that is owned and controlled by North Korea’s primary foreign exchange bank. According to OFAC, since at least 2017 and continuing through 2018, the Russian entity has provided multiple accounts to the North Korean entity, which has “enabled North Korea to circumvent U.S. and UN sanctions to gain access to the global financial system in order to generate revenue for the Kim regime’s nuclear program.” Pursuant to OFAC’s sanctions, all property and interests in property of the designated persons within U.S. jurisdiction must be blocked and reported to OFAC. OFAC notes that its regulations “generally prohibit” U.S. persons from participating in transactions with these individuals and entities.
OFAC sanctions entity and two individuals for trafficking weapons to IRGC-QF and facilitating sanctions evasion
On June 12, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed sanctions on a resource trading company and its two Iraqi associates, for trafficking “hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of weapons” to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) and facilitating access to the Iraqi financial system to evade sanctions.
According to OFAC, the sanctions were issued pursuant to Executive Order 13224, which “provides a means by which to disrupt the financial support network for terrorists and terrorist organizations.” As a result, “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 must be blocked and reported to OFAC.” OFAC noted that persons who engage in transactions with the designated individuals and entities may be exposed to sanctions themselves or subject to enforcement action. Moreover, OFAC warned foreign financial institutions that, unless an exemption applies, they may be subject to U.S. sanctions if they knowingly facilitate significant transactions for any of the designed individuals or entities.
On June 11, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced additions to the Specially Designated Nationals List pursuant to Executive Orders (E.O.) 13573 and 13582. OFAC’s additions to the list include 13 entities and three individuals associated with an international network benefiting the Assad regime in Syria. According to OFAC, a Syrian business developer and his associated businesses have “leveraged the atrocities of the Syrian conflict into a profit-generating enterprise.” As a result, “all property and interests in property of these individuals and entities that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC.”
See here for continuing InfoBytes coverage of actions related to Syria.
On June 7, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced an approximately $400,000 settlement with a global money services business for alleged violations of the Global Terrorism Sanctions Regulations (GTSR). The settlement resolves potential civil liability for the money services business' processing of certain transactions totaling roughly $1.275 million. According to OFAC, the transactions were paid out to third-party, non-designated beneficiaries who collected their remittances from a company in Gambia that OFAC designated pursuant to the GTSR in December 2010. Notwithstanding this designation, the money services business continued processing payments to the company until March 2015. In arriving at the settlement amount, OFAC considered various mitigating factors, including the fact that the money services business voluntarily self-disclosed the issue to OFAC. OFAC also considered various aggravating factors, including that the money services business could have identified that the company was a sanctions target with the exercise of reasonable due diligence.
On June 7, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions against Iran’s largest petrochemical holding group for providing financial support to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), an entity targeted for sanctions under OFAC’s Iran-related sanctions. In addition, OFAC designated the holding group’s network of 39 subsidiary petrochemical companies and foreign-based sales agents. According to OFAC, profits derived from the holding group’s activities “support the IRGC’s full range of nefarious activities, including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction . . . and their means of delivery, support for terrorism, and a variety of human rights abuses, at home and abroad.”
As a result, all property and interests in property belonging to the identified entities subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked and must be reported to OFAC, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from transacting with them. Moreover, OFAC warned foreign financial institutions that they may be subject to U.S. correspondent account or payable-through account sanctions—which, if imposed, could restrict their access to the U.S. financial system—if they knowingly facilitate significant transactions for any of the designated entities. OFAC further issued a reminder that as of November 5, 2018, purchasing, acquiring, selling, transporting, or marketing petrochemical products from Iran is sanctionable under OFAC’s sanctions against Iran (covered by InfoBytes here).
Visit here for additional InfoBytes coverage of actions related to Iran.
On June 6, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) amended three General Licenses (GL), (i) GL 7B, which supersedes GL 7A; (ii) GL 8A, which supersedes GL 8; and (iii) GL 13A, which supersedes GL 13, to clarify that these general licenses do not authorize transactions or dealings related to the exportation or re-exportation of diluents, directly or indirectly, to Venezuela. Additionally, OFAC is issuing corresponding FAQ 672 to provide further guidance with respect to restrictions regarding diluents.
Visit here for additional InfoBytes coverage of actions related to Venezuela.
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