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  • OFAC reaches $5.2 million settlement with Hong Kong company for apparent Iranian sanctions violations

    Financial Crimes

    On January 11, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control announced a $5.2 million settlement with a Hong Kong, China-based company for allegedly processing certain transactions related to goods of Iranian origin through U.S. financial institutions in violation of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (ITSR). According to OFAC’s web notice, from August 2016 through May 2018, certain company employees violated company-wide policies and procedures by causing the company to purchase Iranian-origin goods from a supplier in Thailand for resale to buyers in China. Under the terms of the trading arrangement, the company made 60 separate U.S. dollar payments from its bank in Hong Kong to the Thai supplier’s banks in Thailand, transferring a total of $75.6 million. Each of these payments were allegedly “processed and settled through multiple U.S. financial institutions, including the U.S. correspondent banks of the Hong Kong and Thai banks.” Due to the noncompliant employees’ misconduct, the funds transfer instructions omitted references to Iran. As a result, U.S. financial institutions were unable to flag the transfers as violating the ITSR, which would have “caused them to reject and report each of these U.S. dollar denominated funds transfers.”

    In calculating the settlement amount, OFAC considered the following aggravating factors: (i) the noncompliant employees omitted Iranian country of origin references from all relevant transactional documents over a period of two years, despite knowing and having been advised repeatedly that this conduct violated the ITSR and company policy; (ii) the noncompliant employees “had actual knowledge about the [supplier’s] relation to Iran”; (iii) the company’s actions conferred significant economic benefits to Iran, specifically with respect to Iran’s petrochemical sector; and (iv) the company “is a sophisticated offshore trading and cross-border trade financing company with ready access to experience and expertise in international trade, investment, financing, and sanctions compliance.”

    OFAC also considered various mitigating factors, including that (i) the company repeatedly reminded noncompliant employees not to make U.S. dollar payments in connection with Iran-related business transactions; (ii) senior management and compliance personnel were unaware of the violations due to the concealment of the information internally; (iii) the company has not received a penalty notice from OFAC in the preceding five years; and (iv) the company voluntarily self-disclosed the apparent violations, cooperated with OFAC’s investigation, and has undertaken significant remedial measures to ensure sanctions compliance.

    Financial Crimes Of Interest to Non-US Persons OFAC Department of Treasury OFAC Sanctions OFAC Designations Settlement Enforcement Hong Kong Iran

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  • OFAC issues advisory for China and Hong Kong

    Financial Crimes

    On July 16, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), along with the Departments of State, Treasury, Commerce, and Homeland Security, issued an advisory on the risks associated with actions carried out by the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Government (PRC) of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) that may impact U.S. companies operating in the Hong Kong SAR of the People’s Republic of China. The advisory divides risks into four categories: (i) risks for businesses following the imposition of the NSL; (ii) data privacy risks; (iii) risks regarding transparency and access to critical business information; and (iv) risks for businesses with exposure to sanctioned Hong Kong or PRC entities or individuals. As previously covered by InfoBytes, OFAC issued regulations implementing Executive Order (E.O.) 13936 issued last July. E.O. 13936, among other things, targets and authorizes the imposition of sanctions on persons who materially assist, sponsor, or provide financial, material, or technological support to activities contributing to the undermining of Hong Kong’s democracy and autonomy (covered by InfoBytes here). In addition to the advisory, OFAC added several individuals and entities to its Specially Designated Nationals List.

    Financial Crimes Of Interest to Non-US Persons Anti-Money Laundering China Department of Treasury OFAC Hong Kong Sanctions OFAC Designations

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  • OFAC announces Hong Kong-related designations

    Financial Crimes

    On March 17, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) added several Chinese citizens and Hong Kong nationals to the Specially Designated Nationals List. The individuals were designated under Executive Order (E.O.) 13936, which, among other things, authorizes the imposition of sanctions on persons who are determined to be responsible for or complicit in actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, stability, or autonomy of Hong Kong. Under E.O. 13936, “[a]ll property and interests in property that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of any United States person, . . .are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in” with any foreign person identified to have engaged in the aforementioned activities.

    Financial Crimes Department of Treasury OFAC Sanctions OFAC Designations China Hong Kong SDN List

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  • OFAC issues Hong Kong-related sanctions regulations, updates SDN List

    Financial Crimes

    On January 15, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued regulations implementing Executive Order (E.O.) 13936 issued last July. As previously covered by InfoBytes, E.O. 13936, among other things, targets and authorizes the imposition of sanctions on persons who materially assist, sponsor, or provide financial, material, or technological support to activities contributing to the undermining of Hong Kong’s democracy and autonomy. The regulations outline prohibitions, including prohibited transactions, and provide general definitions, interpretations, licensing authorizations, and penalties and findings of violations. OFAC noted it intends to supplement Part 585 of the regulations with more comprehensive regulations that “may include additional interpretive and definitional guidance and additional general licenses and statements of licensing policy.”

    The same day, OFAC also added several individuals and entities to its Specially Designated Nationals List. These persons have been added pursuant to OFAC’s Hong Kong-related designations, Global Magnitsky designations, E.O. 13846, and the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act, among others.

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

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  • OFAC announces Hong Kong-related designations

    Financial Crimes

    On December 7, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) added 14 Chinese citizens to the Specially Designated Nationals List. The individuals were designated under Executive Order (E.O.) 13936, which was issued by President Trump in July and, among other things, targets and authorizes the imposition of sanctions on persons who materially assist, sponsor, or provide financial, material, or technological support to activities contributing to the undermining of Hong Kong’s democracy and autonomy. Additionally, E.O. 13936 states that “[a]ll property and interests in property that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of any United States person, . . .are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in” with any foreign person identified to have engaged in the aforementioned activities.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Department of Treasury Sanctions Hong Kong China Of Interest to Non-US Persons OFAC Designations

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  • Treasury submits Hong Kong Autonomy Act report to Congress

    Financial Crimes

    On December 11, the U.S. Treasury Department released a report submitted to Congress pursuant to Section 5(b) of the Hong Kong Autonomy Act (the Act), which was enacted on July 14. The Act requires that the Secretary of State submit to Congress a report (Section 5(a) Report) that includes (i) “an identification of the foreign person”; and (ii) “a clear explanation for why the foreign person was identified and a description of the activity that resulted in the identification.” The Secretary submitted the Section 5(a) Report on October 14, which identified 11 foreign persons that OFAC designated pursuant to Executive Order 13936 on August 7. The Act requires Treasury to submit the Section 5(b) report between 30 and 60 days of the Section 5(a) submission, detailing any foreign financial institution (FFI) that knowingly conducts a significant transaction with a foreign person identified by the Secretary in the Section 5(a) Report. The 5(b) Report notes that Treasury has no information on any FFIs that have conducted significant transactions with the designated foreign persons, after conducting “regular searches of all available sources of information, including classified and unclassified holdings.” Treasury notes that it will continue to monitor for new activity that meets the criteria and engage with foreign governments and FFIs to ensure they “they understand the reporting requirements and sanctions risks under the [the Act].”

    Financial Crimes OFAC Hong Kong Of Interest to Non-US Persons Department of Treasury

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