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  • International Financial Institution Sanctions Two French Companies for Corruption in Developing Countries

    Financial Crimes

    An international financial institution recently sanctioned two French companies for separate allegations of corruption in developing countries. On November 30, the financial institution announced that a French digital security company, was debarred for 2.5 years for “corrupt and collusive practices” related to a project that would establish a national ID system in Bangladesh. As part of its Negotiated Resolution Agreement (NRA), the company acknowledged “improper payments to a sub-contractor and collusive misconduct to obtain and modify bid specifications to narrow competition and secure the award of the contract.” The company was credited for its “extensive cooperation” with the financial institution’s investigation, including voluntarily acknowledging the misconduct, proactively conducting an internal investigation, holding individuals accountable, and taking “preliminary steps to improve its governance and compliance procedures.”

    On December 5, the financial institution separately announced that a French manufacturing company, was debarred for two years for a “corrupt practice” related to a project that would improve electricity infrastructure in the Congo. The financial institution's investigation found evidence that the company “made improper payments to an employee of a consulting company to influence a tender process.” Under the NRA, the manufacturing company’s parent company was also “conditionally non-debarred” for an 18-month probationary period. The holding company for the entities agreed to pay €6.8 million to the Congo, and the companies agreed to develop and implement a “group-wide integrity compliance program.” The holding company was credited for its “ongoing cooperation” with the financial institution's investigators, “acceptance of responsibility,” and “voluntary corrective and remedial actions.”

    Financial Crimes Sanctions Anti-Corruption

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  • OFAC Issues License and Guidance on Amended Ukrainian/Russian Sanctions

    Financial Crimes

    On November 28, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) released General License 1B to address amendments made to Directives 1 and 2 (Directives) of its Ukrainian/Russian-related Sectoral Sanctions. The amendments were made in accordance with the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017 (CAATSA). (See previous InfoBytes coverage on Directives here.) The Directives prohibit U.S. persons from dealings in certain equity and debt of persons determined by OFAC to be part of the Russian financial and energy sectors. According to a Treasury press release, General License 1B addresses the decrease in the maturity dates of debt transactions prohibited by Directive 1 from 30 days to 14 days, and the decrease in the maturity dates of debt transactions prohibited by Directive 2 from 90 days to 60 days. General License 1B authorizes transactions by U.S. persons, wherever located, and transactions within the United States that involve derivative products whose value is linked to an underlying asset that constitutes prohibited debt issued by person subject to Directives 1, 2 or 3 of the Sectoral Sanctions, including those issued on or after November 28 that have the reduced maturity dates targeted by CAATSA. OFAC also released updated FAQs to answer questions related to the Ukrainian-/Russian-related amended directives. 

    Financial Crimes OFAC Sanctions Department of Treasury CAATSA

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  • OFAC Penalizes Dental Supply Company for Violations of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations

    Financial Crimes

    The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) announced that it entered into a $1.2 million settlement with a U.S. dental supply company for alleged violations of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (ITSR). According to the December 6 announcement, between November 2009 and July 2012, two of the company’s subsidiaries exported 37 shipments of dental supplies to distributors in other countries with “knowledge or reason to know that the goods were ultimately destined for Iran.” OFAC determined that the alleged violations were non-egregious.

    In determining the settlement amount, OFAC considered multiple factors, including that (i) the subsidiaries acted willfully in violation of the ITSR because employees concealed their knowledge that the goods were destined for Iran; (ii) subsidiary supervisory personnel actively concealed their awareness of the apparent violations from their U.S. parent company; and (iii) the U.S. company is “commercially sophisticated” with knowledge of OFAC’s regulations. OFAC also considered numerous mitigating factors, including (i) the fact that the U.S. company has not received a penalty from OFAC in the previous five years; (ii) the harm to the ITSR program was limited; and (iii) the U.S. company cooperated with the investigation and took remedial steps. 

    Financial Crimes OFAC Sanctions Settlement Department of Treasury

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  • OFAC Expands North Korean Sanctions

    Financial Crimes

    On November 21, the day after President Trump placed North Korea back on the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed additional sanctions in an action to “disrupt North Korea’s illicit funding of its unlawful nuclear and ballistic missile programs.” The sanctions were issued against one individual, 13 entities, and 20 vessels pursuant to Executive Order 13810 and Executive Order 13722. The sanctioned entities have commercial ties to North Korea or operate transportation networks in the country, and the sanctioned individuals are “involved in the exportation of workers from North Korea, including exportation to generate revenue for the Government of North Korea.” All property held by the sanctioned individuals and entities within U.S. jurisdiction was frozen, and transactions between the sanctioned individuals and entities and Americans are also “generally prohibited.” 

    See here for previous InfoBytes coverage on North Korean sanctions.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Sanctions International

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  • OFAC Sanctions Ten Additional Venezuelan Officials Connected to Venezuela’s Electoral Process

    Financial Crimes

    On November 9, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions against ten current or former officials of the government of Venezuela for “undermining electoral processes, media censorship, or corruption in government-administered food programs in Venezuela.”  The designation follows October 15, 2017 state elections in Venezuela, which were “marked by numerous irregularities that strongly suggest fraud helped the ruling party unexpectedly win a majority of governorships.”  Under the sanctions, issued pursuant to Executive Order 13692 (see previous InfoBytes coverage here), all assets belonging to the identified individuals subject to U.S. jurisdiction are frozen, and U.S. persons are prohibited from having any dealings with them.

    See additional InfoBytes coverage on previously issued Venezuelan sanctions here and here.

    Financial Crimes Department of Treasury OFAC Sanctions

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  • FinCEN Announces Final Rule Restricting North Korea’s Access to U.S. Financial System; Issues Advisory Regarding North Korean Strategies

    Financial Crimes

    On November 2, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued a final rule (Rule) under Section 311 of the USA PATRIOT ACT, which prohibits U.S. financial institutions from processing transactions for foreign correspondent accounts involving a Chinese bank (Bank) that was suspected of facilitating illicit North Korean financial activity and laundering funds to finance North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. U.S. financial institutions are also instructed to apply enhanced due diligence to foreign correspondent accounts to prevent them from being used to process transactions involving the Bank. The Rule is effective 30 days after its publication in the Federal Register.

    In tandem with the issuance of the Rule, FinCEN issued an advisory (FIN-2017-A008) to warn U.S. financial institutions about strategies used by North Korean enterprises as a means to gain access to international financial systems, including (i) the use of a network of global financial representatives; (ii) trade-based payment schemes; (iii) front and shell companies; (iv) surge activity cycles; and (v) financial institutions that operate in areas bordering North Korea. The advisory’s regulatory guidance is designed to assist financial institutions in identifying and reporting suspicious activity by North Korea and its financial institutions. The guidance follows a September 26 announcement by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control that imposed additional sanctions on North Korean banks and individuals connected to global North Korean financial networks. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.)

    Financial Crimes FinCEN Sanctions Anti-Money Laundering Federal Register

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  • OFAC Sanctions North Korean Officials, Amends Global Terrorism Sanctions Regulations

    Financial Crimes

    On October 26, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions on an additional seven individuals (pursuant to Executive Order 13687) and three entities (pursuant to Executive Order 13722) connected to the North Korean government for ongoing human rights abuses. According to Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin, the sanctions target “financial facilitators who attempt to keep the regime afloat with foreign currency earned through forced labor operations.” The sanctions freeze all property or interests in property within U.S. jurisdiction, and transactions by U.S. persons involving these individuals and entities are also “generally prohibited.” Please see here for previous InfoBytes coverage on North Korean sanctions.

    Separately, on October 30, OFAC released amendments to its Global Terrorism Sanctions Regulations to include recently identified officials, agents, and affiliates connected to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The amendments take effect upon publication in the Federal Register on October 31 and are issued pursuant to the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017 (CAATSA). See previous InfoBytes coverage on CAATSA here.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Sanctions

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  • Treasury Department Issues New Sanctions, Launches Terrorist Financing Targeting Center in Middle East

    Financial Crimes

    On October 25, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke before the Future Investment Initiative Conference about the newly established Terrorist Financing Targeting Center initiative (Center), co-chaired by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. Mnuchin praised the new Center, stating, “The creation of this Center is a major step forward in our ability to disrupt the finances and operations of terrorist organizations” and calling the Center “a catalyst for additional multilateral actions against terrorist financiers. The Center is a result of a strategic agreement, signed in May, between Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the State of Kuwait, the Sultanate of Oman, the Kingdom of Bahrain, the State of Qatar, and the U.S.

    Additionally, the Treasury Department also announced the imposition of sanctions against “nine individuals and entities that finance and facilitate terrorism” and aid other transnational threats in the Middle East.

    Financial Crimes Sanctions Department of Treasury Combating the Financing of Terrorism

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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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