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  • U.S. Government Revokes Certain Sanctions on Sudan Following Review Period of Sudanese Policies and Actions

    Financial Crimes

    On October 6, the U.S. Government announced, effective October 12, the revocation of certain economic sanctions against Sudan and the Government of Sudan (GOS) as a recognition of sustained positive actions in connection with efforts to cease hostilities, improve humanitarian access, promote regional stability, and address the threat of terrorism. As previously covered in InfoBytes, the announcement follows a joint review conducted by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development that began in January 2017 as required by Executive Order 13761 and amended by Executive Order 13804. The Secretary of State issued a contemporaneous report concluding that, despite GOS’ demonstrated improvement in the areas that led to the issuance of Executive Order 13761, there remain a range of concerns. As such, while the comprehensive sanctions program has been lifted, certain sanctions and trade restrictions remain in place. Specifically:

    • the national emergency, established in Executive Order 13067 with respect to Sudan, remains in effect;
    • U.S. sanctions related to the conflict in Darfur, pursuant to Executive Order 13400, remain in place;
    • The U.S. Government maintains the authority to designate Sudanese persons according to other relevant sanctions authorities; and
    • Sudan remains on the list of state sponsors of terrorism, which will continue to impose restrictions on certain dealings involving Sudan, including U.S. foreign assistance and restrictions on defense exports and sales.

    Following revocation of the sanctions, U.S. persons will no longer be banned from engaging in most transactions previously prohibited by the Sudanese Sanctions Regulations (31 C.F.R. Part 538).

    The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control also released updated FAQs to answer questions related to the revocation, along with a new general license that authorizes certain transactions.

    Financial Crimes Sanctions OFAC Department of Treasury Department of State Executive Order

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  • OFAC Settles Alleged Sudanese Sanction Violations with Connecticut-Based Paper Company

    Financial Crimes

    On October 5, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced that it had reached a $372,465 settlement with a Connecticut-based paper company for three alleged violations of Sudanese Sanctions. OFAC asserted that the company “facilitated the sale and shipment of . . . Canadian-origin paper from Canada to Sudan” in April and December 2013. OFAC alleged that each instance of this conduct, which the company did not voluntarily self-disclose, violated OFAC’s Sudanese Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. part 538. Had the company not settled, OFAC determined that civil monetary penalties ranged from approximately $445,000 to $853,746. In establishing the penalty, OFAC considered that the company: (i) “exhibited reckless disregard for U.S. sanctions requirements by failing to exercise a minimal degree of caution or care with regard to the apparent violations”; (ii) “attempted to conceal the ultimate destination of the goods from its bank”; (iii) knew that supervisory or managerial personnel “had actual knowledge of and were actively involved in, or had reason to know of, the conduct that led to the apparent violations”; (iv) is “sophisticated” but had a non-existent, inadequate compliance program; and (v) failed to initially cooperate with OFAC’s investigation by submitting “materially inaccurate, incomplete, and/or misleading information.” As for mitigating factors, OFAC determined that (i) the company has no prior sanctions history with OFAC, and (ii) the company took remedial action by implementing an OFAC compliance program.

    Financial Crimes Sanctions Settlement Department of Treasury OFAC

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  • OFAC Amends Sanctions on Russia’s Financial and Energy Sectors

    Financial Crimes

    On September 29, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) amended Directive 1 and Directive 2 of its Ukrainian-/Russian-related Sectoral Sanctions, as required by the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017 (H.R. 3364), which was signed into law by President Trump in August. (See previous InfoBytes summary here.) As amended, Directive 1 prohibits U.S. persons from all dealings in equity issued on or after July 16, 2014, of persons determined by OFAC to be part of the Russian financial services sector. Directive 1 also prohibits U.S. persons from dealing in the following debt of such persons: (i) debt of over 90 days maturity issued on or after July 16, 2014, but prior to September 12, 2014; (ii) debt of over 30 days maturity issued on or after September 12, 2014, but before November 28, 2017; and (iii) debt of over 14 days maturity issued on or after November 28, 2017. As amended, Directive 2 prohibits U.S. persons from all dealings in the following debt of persons identified by OFAC to be part of the Russian energy sector: (i) all debt of over 90 days maturity issued on or after July 16, , but before November 28, 2017; and (ii) all debt of over 60 days maturity issued on or after November 28, 2017. OFAC also released updated FAQs to answer questions related to the amended directives.

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  • OFAC Imposes Additional North Korean Sanctions; Senate Banking Committee Hearing Discusses Multi-Department Efforts

    Financial Crimes

    On September 26, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced it was imposing sanctions on an additional eight North Korean banks and 26 individuals connected to North Korean financial networks across the globe. The individuals sanctioned are North Korean nationals who represent North Korean banks operating in China, Russia, Libya, and the UAE, and have been designated “in response to North Korea’s ongoing development of weapons of mass destruction and continued violations of United Nations Security Council Resolutions.” OFAC’s action complements the United Nations Security Council’s resolution UNSCR 2375, adopted September 11, 2017. As a result, property or interests in property of the designated persons within U.S. jurisdictions are blocked.

    These actions closely follow President Trump’s recent issuance of sanctions targeting individuals, companies, and financial institutions that finance or facilitate trade with North Korea. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.)

    Additionally, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs (Committee) held an open session hearing on September 28 entitled “Evaluating Sanction Enforcement and Policy Options on North Korea: Administration Perspectives.” Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) opened the hearing to stress that “[m]any Members of Congress, including on this committee, have a keen interest in knowing more about how and when enforcement of these new measures will occur, wondering if last week’s executive order and earlier UN sanctions will be sufficient to achieve U.S. policy goals.” Sen. Crapo also mentioned the Committee’s legislative efforts to “maximize pressure against North Korea.”

    The September 28 hearing—a video of which can be accessed here—included testimony from the following witnesses concerning North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile program and the need to curtail the country’s access to revenue, trade, and financial systems.

    • The Honorable Sigal Madelker, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Crimes, U.S. Department of the Treasury (testimony)
    • Ms. Susan A. Thornton, Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, U.S. Department of State (testimony)

    Financial Crimes Sanctions OFAC Department of Treasury Senate Banking Committee Department of State

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  • President Trump’s Executive Order Imposes New Sanctions Against North Korea

    Financial Crimes

    On September 21, President Trump announced the issuance of new sanctions targeting individuals, companies, and financial institutions that finance or facilitate trade with North Korea, in addition to tightening trade restrictions. The Executive Order approves broad limitations on any foreign financial institution that knowingly conducts “significant” transactions involving North Korea. This includes transactions that “originate from, are destined for, or pass through a foreign bank account that has been determined by the Secretary of the Treasury to be owned or controlled by a North Korean person, or to have been used to transfer funds in which any North Korean person has an interest.” These funds “are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in.” The restrictions also prohibit dealing with persons involved in North Korea’s “construction, energy, financial services, fishing, information technology, manufacturing, medical, mining, textiles, or transportation industries,” and further authorizes the Secretary of the Treasury to restrict U.S.-based correspondent and payable-through accounts.

    These sanctions are in addition to those previously passed by President Trump in August. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.) Separately, as previously covered in InfoBytes, last month the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed sanctions against certain Chinese and Russian entities and individuals, among others, for allegedly aiding North Korea’s efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction.

    In response to President Trump’s latest sanctions, OFAC released updates to its FAQs concerning the additional sanctions. OFAC also issued General License 10 concerning the authorization restrictions to certain vessels and aircraft, and General License 3-A, which addresses permitted “normal service charges.”

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  • FinCEN Issues Advisory Regarding Venezuelan Government

    Financial Crimes

    On September 20, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued an advisory to financial institutions to warn of public corruption and money laundering related to Venezuelan government agencies and bodies. The advisory lists several red flags specific to the Venezuelan government to assist financial institutions with identifying and reporting suspicious activity to FinCEN, including, among other things, payments for government contracts made to personal accounts or to companies in a different line of business, payments made from shell corporations, and certain real estate purchases by Venezuelan government officials, primarily in south Florida and Houston, Texas.

    As previously reported in InfoBytes, sanctions have recently been imposed on several Venezuelan political figures. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here and here.)

    Financial Crimes FinCEN Department of Treasury Sanctions

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  • OFAC Imposes Additional Iranian Sanctions, List Includes Entities Involved in DDoS Attacks Against U.S. Financial Institutions

    Financial Crimes

    On September 14, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced it was imposing sanctions on 11 entities and individuals for supporting designated Iranian actors or for conducting malicious cyberattacks, including engaging in a series of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against approximately 46 U.S. financial institutions. As reported in an indictment delivered by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of New York (see March 24, 2016 DOJ press release), the DDoS attacks—allegedly conducted by seven Iranian individuals between December 2011 and mid-2013—denied customers access to online bank accounts and collectively cost the affected financial institutions “tens of millions of dollars in remediation costs as they worked to neutralize and mitigate the attacks on their [computer] servers.” During a DDoS attack, a “malicious actor” gains remote control of a server through the installation of malicious software. Once compromised, the “malicious actor” can collect hundreds or thousands of these compromised devices (collectively known as a “botnet”), and, once control is achieved, will “direct the computers or servers comprising the botnet to carry out computer network attack[s] and computer network exploitation activity.” Three of the seven sanctioned individuals worked for a company that was added to OFAC’s updated SDN list on September 14 and oversaw a network of compromised computers that powered DDoS attacks. The other four individuals operated a second DDoS botnet on behalf of a different company listed on OFAC’s non-SDN list. Both Iranian-based private computer security companies perform work on behalf of the Iranian Government, including Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Pursuant to E.O. 13694, U.S. persons are prohibited from dealing with the designated entities and individuals, and “foreign financial institutions that facilitate significant transactions for, or persons that provide material or certain other support to, the entities and individuals 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.”

    In addition, pursuant to E.O. 13382, OFAC sanctioned an Iranian-based engineering company for engaging in activities related to Iran’s ballistic missile program, which include providing “ financial, material, technological, or other support for, or goods or services in support of, the [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps].” Two Ukrainian-based companies were also sanctioned pursuant to E.O. 13224 for assisting previously sanctioned Iranian and Iraqi airlines in obtaining U.S.-origin aircraft, as well as crew and services.

    Financial Crimes Sanctions Department of Treasury OFAC DOJ Indictment Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security

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  • FinCEN Releases Advisory Alert for Financial Institutions, OFAC Issues Sanctions Against South Sudanese Government Officials

    Financial Crimes

    On September 6, the Treasury Department issued a press release announcing multiple actions taken in response to the “continued deterioration of the humanitarian situation in South Sudan.” Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Sigal Mandelker, stated, “These actions send a clear message to those enriching themselves at the expense of the South Sudanese people that we will not let them exploit the U.S. financial system to move and hide the proceeds of their corruption and malign behavior.”

    Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). FinCEN issued an advisory (FIN-2017-A004) to financial institutions to address concerns that certain South Sudanese senior political figures may potentially move assets using the U.S. financial system. FinCEN projects that since 2013—when a new political conflict began in Sudan—certain senior political officials from both the government and opposition parties have “engaged in and profited from corrupt practices.” The advisory provides due diligence guidance for U.S. financial institutions, issues a reminder regarding suspicious activity report filing obligations, and warns financial institutions to “assess the risk for laundering of the proceeds of public corruption associated with specific particular customers and transactions.”

    Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). Pursuant to Executive Order 13664, which blocks the property of certain persons with respect to South Sudan and authorizes sanctions against persons who threaten the peace, security, or stability of South Sudan, OFAC issued sanctions against three government officials and three entities owned by one of the sanctioned individuals. The identified individuals’ actions include, among other things, (i) “actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, and stability of South Sudan”; (ii) “actions or policies that have the purpose or effect of expanding or extending the conflict in South Sudan or obstructing reconciliation or peace talks or processes”; and (iii) “obstruction of the activities of international peacekeeping, diplomatic, or humanitarian missions in South Sudan, or of the delivery or distribution of, or access to, humanitarian assistance.” The sanctions prohibit any U.S. individual from dealing with the designated entities and individuals, and further states that “all of these individuals’ and entities’ assets within U.S. jurisdiction are blocked.” Additionally, individuals designated under Executive Order 13664 are banned from entry into the U.S.

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  • President Trump Imposes Additional Venezuelan Sanctions

    Financial Crimes

    On August 24, President Trump announced the issuance of new sanctions against Venezuela. Executive Order 13808 “Imposing Additional Sanctions with Respect to the Situation in Venezuela,” adds additional restrictions to those declared in Executive Order 13692. The sanctions prohibit transactions related to the following:

    • “new debt with a maturity of greater than 90 days” in conjunction with the Venezuelan state-owned oil and natural gas company (state-owned company);
    • “new debt with a maturity of greater than 30 days, or new equity, of the Government of Venezuela, other than debt” in conjunction with the state-owned company;
    • “bonds issued by the Government of Venezuela prior to the effective date of this order”;
    • “dividend payments or other distributions of profits to the Government of Venezuela from any entity owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, by the Government of Venezuela;
    • “[t]he purchase, directly or indirectly, by a [U.S.] person or within the [U.S.], of securities from the Government of Venezuela, other than securities qualifying as new debt with a maturity of less than or equal to 90 days [for state-owned company debt] or 30 days [for other Government of Venezuela debt].”

    On August 25, OFAC also issued four General Licenses containing additional provisions: (i) General License 1 imposes a wind-down period through September 24, 2017 for contracts and other agreements that were effective prior to the Executive Order's effective date; (ii) General License 2 authorizes certain transactions involving a specifically listed holding company; (iii) General License 3 authorizes dealings in certain specified Government of Venezuela-related bonds that would otherwise be prohibited; and (iv) General License 4 allows new debt transactions related to “the provision of financing for, and other dealings in new debt related to the exportation or reexportation, from the [U.S.] or by a U.S. person . . . of agricultural commodities, medicine, medical devices, or replacement parts and components for medical devices,” provided compliance with the outlined requirements and limitations. OFAC also published answers to several related frequently asked questions concerning the additional sanctions.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Sanctions Department of Treasury

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  • OFAC Settles Alleged Iran Sanction Violations with Singapore-Based Oilfield Services Company

    Financial Crimes

    On August 24, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced that it had reached a $415,350 settlement with a Singaporean oilfield services company for an alleged 55 violations of Iran sanctions regulations. OFAC asserted that the company “exported or attempted to export 55 orders of oil rig supplies from the [U.S.] to Singapore and the United Arab Emirates, and then re-exported or attempted to re-export these supplies to four separate oil rigs located in Iranian territorial waters” from approximately October 2011 through February 2013. OFAC alleged that each instance of this conduct, which the company did not voluntarily self-disclose, violated OFAC’s Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations. Had the company not settled, OFAC determined that civil monetary penalties ranged from approximately $923,000 to $13.75 million. In establishing the penalty, OFAC considered that the company: (i) failed to act with an appropriate level of caution by exporting goods to oil rigs located in Iranian territorial waters; (ii) aided the development of Iran's energy resources; (iii) “is a large, sophisticated company with 14 offshore drilling rigs doing business throughout the world;” and (iv) “did not have an OFAC compliance program in place at the time of the transactions.” As for mitigating factors, OFAC determined that: (i) the company has no prior sanctions history with OFAC; (ii) the company took remedial action by implementing an OFAC compliance program; and (iii) the company cooperated with the investigation and entered into a tolling agreement with OFAC.

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