Subscribe to our InfoBytes Blog weekly newsletter and other publications for news affecting the financial services industry.
On January 4, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued Venezuela-related General License (GL) 31A and an amended related frequently asked question. GL 31A authorizes certain transactions and activities involving the IV Venezuelan National Assembly, the Interim President of Venezuela, and certain other persons that would otherwise be prohibited by Executive Order (E.O.) 13884, as incorporated into the Venezuela Sanctions Regulations. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.)
Additionally, earlier on December 30, OFAC announced sanctions pursuant to E.O. 13692 against two Venezuelan government officials who presided over the trials of six U.S. persons in Venezuela. According to OFAC, the six executives’ trials “were based on politically motivated charges and marred by a lack of fair trial guarantees.” As a result, all property and interests in property belonging to the identified individuals subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and “any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by the designated persons are also blocked.” U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any dealings involving the property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons.
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.
On January 8, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions against an Iraqi militia leader for his alleged connection to serious human rights abuses. According to OFAC, the sanctions are taken pursuant to Executive Order 13818, which implements the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act and “targets perpetrators of serious human rights abuse and corruption.” As a result of the sanctions, all of the militia leader’s property and interests in property that are in the United States, as well as any entities that are owned 50 percent or more by him are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. Additionally, OFAC regulations “generally prohibit” U.S. persons from participating in financial transactions with the individual and blocked entities.
On January 5, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions against a Chinese supplier of graphite electrodes, 12 Iranian producers of steel and other metal products, and a major Iranian metals and mining holding company’s three foreign-based sales agents. OFAC’s actions are taken pursuant to Executive Order 13871 (covered by InfoBytes here), which authorizes the imposition of sanctions on persons determined to operate in Iran’s iron, steel, aluminum, and copper sectors, which OFAC identified as providing “funding and support for the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorist groups and networks, campaigns of regional aggression, and military expansion.” As a result of the sanctions, “all property and interests in property of these persons 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 (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons,” and warned foreign financial institutions that knowingly conducting or facilitating significant transactions for or on behalf of the designated persons could subject them to U.S. correspondent account or payable-through sanctions.
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.
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.
On December 21, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions pursuant to Executive Order 13851 against the vice president of the Nicaraguan Supreme Court of Justice, a deputy of the National Assembly, and a chief of the Nicaraguan national police in Leon for supporting the Ortega regime, which “continue[s] … to undermine Nicaragua’s democracy.” As a result, all property and interests in property of the sanctioned individuals and entities, and any entities owned 50 percent or more by such persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction, are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. U.S. persons are also generally prohibited from entering into transactions with the sanctioned persons.
On December 18, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions against a Venezuelan-registered biometric technology company and two individuals for allegedly materially supporting the Maduro regime by providing goods and services that the regime used to carry out the “fraudulent” elections on December 6. The sanctions, issued pursuant to Executive Order 13692, reflect Treasury’s continued efforts to hold persons who offer support to the Maduro regime accountable. As a result, all property and interests in property belonging to the identified individuals subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and “any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by the designated individuals, are also blocked.” U.S. persons are generally prohibited from dealing with any property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons.
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.”
On December 21, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions pursuant to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations against three state-owned entities “controlled by the Cuban military with strategic roles in the Cuban economy.” According to OFAC, the entities are identified on OFAC’s List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons, with two of the entities being designated for, among other things, using “their Panamanian incorporation to subvert international trade restrictions.” One of the sanctioned entities, OFAC notes, is a financial investment and remittance company “authorized by the Central Bank of Cuba to finance export operations, conduct financial leasing operations, and handle commercial distribution of remittance cards.” Find continuing InfoBytes coverage on the Cuban Assets Control Regulations here.
- Buckley Webcast: CRA modernization — All eyes turn to the Fed
- Daniel R. Alonso to discuss "How to become an AUSA" at the New York City Bar Association Minorities in the Courts Committee “How To” series
- Michelle L. Rogers and Kathryn L. Ryan to discuss “Fintech U.S. expansion” at the Tech Nation 3.0 cohort meeting
- Melissa Klimkiewicz to discuss "Flood insurance basics" at the NAFCU Virtual Regulatory Compliance School