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  • OFAC sanctions Russian oligarchs and government officials; releases new general licenses and updated FAQs

    Financial Crimes

    On April 6, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced its decision to sanction seven Russian oligarchs along with 12 companies they own or control, 17 senior Russian government officials, and a state-owned Russian weapons trading company and its Russian bank subsidiary, pursuant to the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017 (CAATSA) and Executive Orders 13661, 13662, and 13582. In a foreign policy statement released the same day, President Trump explained that the identified persons placed on the Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs) and Blocked Persons List engaged in actions that have reportedly contributed to “advancing Russia’s malign activities,” including (i) profiting from “Russia's destabilizing activities”; (ii) election meddling; (iii) undermining U.S. cybersecurity; (iv) engaging in weapons proliferation; (v) continuing to occupy Crimea; (vi) instigating violence in eastern Ukraine; and (vii) providing military equipment and support for the Government of Syria's continued attacks against Syrian citizens. Pursuant to OFAC’s sanctions, all property or interests in property of the designated persons along with any other entity owned 50 percent or more by one or more designated persons that is within U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and U.S. persons are “generally prohibited” from participating in transactions with these individuals and entities. Additionally, “non-U.S. persons could face sanctions for knowingly facilitating significant transactions for or on behalf of the individuals or entities blocked today.”

    The same day, OFAC issued two Ukraine-/Russia-related general licenses to “minimize immediate disruptions to U.S. persons, partners, and allies.” General License 12 authorizes through June 5 certain activities necessary to “wind down” operations, contracts, or agreements in effect prior to April 6 involving specified blocked persons. General License 13 authorizes through May 7 divestiture transactions with certain blocked persons to a non-U.S. person, as well as the facilitation of transfers of debt, equity, or other holdings involving listed blocked persons by a non-U.S. person to another non-U.S. person. OFAC also released eight new FAQs related to this action and published one updated FAQ related to CAATSA.

    Visit here for additional InfoBytes coverage on Ukraine/Russian sanctions.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Department of Treasury Sanctions CAATSA Russia Ukraine Trump

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  • OFAC sanctions Iranian nationals for malicious cyberattacks

    Financial Crimes

    On March 23, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), in coordination with the DOJ, imposed additional sanctions on an Iranian entity and 10 Iranian nationals, pursuant to Executive Order 13694, for conducting malicious cyberattacks against hundreds of U.S. and third-country universities for private financial gain. Nine of the identified individuals are connected to the Mabna Institute and are accused of misappropriating “economic resources or personal identifiers” to aid Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Pursuant to these sanctions, all property or interests in property of the designated persons within U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and U.S. persons are “generally prohibited” from participating in transactions with these individuals and entities. Additionally, as reported in a DOJ press release, the nine Iranians have also been indicted for engaging in malicious cyber-enabled activities. A tenth Iranian national was sanctioned for engaging in cyber-related actions targeting a U.S. media company.

    Visit here for additional InfoBytes coverage on Iranian sanctions.

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

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  • Treasury adjusts for inflation maximum civil monetary penalties assessed under OFAC sanction regulations

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On March 19, the U.S. Treasury Department published a final rule in the Federal Register that adjusts for inflation the maximum amount of civil monetary penalties that may be assessed by the Treasury’s Terrorism Risk Insurance Program, Office of Foreign Assets Control, and Financial Crimes Enforcement Network for violations of laws administered by those agencies. The rule became effective immediately.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Financial Crimes OFAC Civil Money Penalties Department of Treasury Federal Register Sanctions

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  • OFAC expands Russian sanctions in connection with election interference and cyber attacks

    Financial Crimes

    On March 15, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced its decision to sanction an additional five entities and 19 individuals, pursuant to Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017 (CAATSA) and Executive Order 13694 (E.O. 13694). The CAATSA sanctions target “cyber actors” who carried out cyber attacks on behalf of the Russian government, while E.O. 13694 designations target entities and individuals who interfered with the 2016 U.S. election. Pursuant to OFAC’s sanctions, all property or interests in property of the designated persons within U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and U.S. persons are “generally prohibited” from participating in transactions with these individuals and entities. As part of the announcement, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin stated that “Treasury intends to impose additional CAATSA sanctions, informed by our intelligence community, to hold Russian government officials and oligarchs accountable for their destabilizing activities by severing their access to the U.S. financial system.”

    The same day, OFAC amended General License No. 1, “Authorizing Certain Transactions with the Federal Security Service” and reissued it as “Cyber General License No. 1A” (GL 1A). OFAC also published four updated FAQs relating to the agency’s sanctions and GL 1A and CAATSA.

    Visit here for additional InfoBytes coverage on Russian sanctions.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Sanctions International Department of Treasury CAATSA Russia

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  • President Trump issues Executive Order prohibiting Venezuelan cryptocurrency transactions; OFAC sanctions additional Venezuelan officials

    Financial Crimes

    On March 19, President Trump issued an Executive Order (E.O.) prohibiting transactions within the U.S. that involve any digital currency issued by, for, or on behalf of the Venezuelan government since January 9, and authorizing the U.S. Treasury Department to “employ all powers” necessary to carry out the E.O.’s provisions. President Trump issued the E.O. in conjunction with E.O. 13692 and E.O. 13808 and because of recent steps taken by Venezuelan President Maduro to “circumvent U.S. sanctions” by issuing a digital currency that the Venezuelan legislature “denounced as unlawful.” The E.O. took effect on March 19 at 12:15 p.m. EDT.

    On the same day, the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced additional sanctions pursuant to E.O. 13692 against four current or former Venezuelan government officials as part of “ongoing efforts to highlight the economic mismanagement and endemic corruption that have been the defining features of the Maduro regime.” Pursuant to OFAC’s sanctions, all assets belonging to the designated persons within U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and U.S. persons are “generally prohibited” from participating in transactions with these individuals. OFAC also published answers to several related FAQs concerning President Trump’s E.O., as well as new FAQs related to virtual currency.

    Visit here for additional InfoBytes coverage on Venezuelan sanctions.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Department of Treasury Sanctions Cryptocurrency Trump International

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  • OFAC reissues North Korean Sanctions Regulations

    Financial Crimes

    On March 1, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) published a final rule in the Federal Register to amend and reissue the North Korea Sanctions Regulations in their entirety. The final rule implements Executive Orders 13687, 13722, and 13810, references the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act of 2016 and the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017, and provides the Treasury Secretary, “in consultation with the Secretary of State, additional tools to disrupt North Korea’s ability to fund its weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs.” All property and interests in property of the Government of North Korea and the Workers’ Party of Korea are blocked, transactions by U.S. persons involving the sanctioned entities are generally prohibited, and “all transactions within the United States, including all financial transactions that transit the U.S. financial system, must comply with OFAC regulations.” Among other things, the final rule (i) incorporates several general licenses previously only available on OFAC’s North Korea Sanctions page; (ii) adds several new general licenses; (iii) adds and expands provisions to provide the public with a more comprehensive set of regulations; (iv) updates certain regulatory provisions; and (v) makes other technical and conforming changes. The final rule takes effect March 5, 2018. Also released the same day were updates to OFAC’s North Korea-related FAQs.

    See here for previous InfoBytes coverage on North Korean sanctions.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Sanctions International Department of Treasury CAATSA

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  • OCC announces enforcement action against Washington-based bank citing BSA/AML compliance deficiencies

    Financial Crimes

    On February 28, the OCC issued a consent order against a Washington-based bank for deficiencies related to its Bank Secrecy Act/Anti-Money Laundering (BSA/AML) compliance program. The consent order requires the bank to, among other things, (i) maintain a Compliance Committee responsible for ensuring the bank adheres to the consent order’s provisions; (ii) appoint a BSA officer who will ensure compliance with the requirements of the BSA and the Office of Foreign Assets Control’s rules and regulations; (iii) implement an enhanced BSA/AML Risk Assessment Program, including the adoption of written policies to ensure the timely review of BSA/AML suspicious activity alerts and the implementation of an automated suspicious activity monitoring system; (iv) conduct a risk-based “Look-Back” to determine whether suspicious activity was timely identified and reported by the bank; (v) develop policies and procedures for enhanced customer due diligence to monitor information for risk; (vi) implement an independent BSA/AML audit program; and (vii) create a comprehensive training program for appropriate bank personnel. The bank did not admit to any wrongdoing in the consent order.

    Financial Crimes OCC Bank Secrecy Act Anti-Money Laundering Enforcement OFAC SARs

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  • OFAC sanctions target North Korea’s shipping and trading industry

    Financial Crimes

    On February 23, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed additional sanctions targeting the North Korean shipping and trading industry. The sanctions include the designation of 27 entities, 28 vessels, and one individual consistent with the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017. Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin stated, “Treasury is aggressively targeting all illicit avenues used by North Korea to evade sanctions, including taking decisive action to block the vessels, shipping companies, and entities across the globe that work on North Korea’s behalf. This will significantly hinder the Kim regime’s capacity to conduct evasive maritime activities that facilitate illicit coal and fuel transports, and erode its abilities to ship goods through international waters.” All property or interests in property held by the sanctioned individual and entities within U.S. jurisdiction must be blocked, and transactions between the designated persons and Americans are also prohibited.

    Separately, OCAC issued a global shipping advisory in conjunction with the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Coast Guard to, among other things, (i) outline methods employed by North Korea to facilitate illicit transactions to evade sanctions; (ii) list due diligence steps companies should employ to monitor illicit North Korean activity and mitigate the risk of potentially engaging in prohibited activity or transactions; and (iii) provide an overview of penalties associated with violating U.S. or UN sanctions.

    See here for previous InfoBytes coverage on North Korean sanctions.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Sanctions CAATSA International Department of Treasury

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  • OFAC updates Venezuela-related FAQs, addresses new debt prohibitions

    Financial Crimes

    On February 12, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced the release of updated FAQs to provide additional guidance on debt-related prohibitions outlined in Executive Order 13808 (E.O. 13808). Specifically, under E.O. 13808, U.S. persons (along with persons within the U.S.) are prohibited from “engaging in transactions related to, providing financing for, or otherwise dealing in new debt” with maturities longer than 90 days for Venezuela’s state-owned oil company or 30 days for other segments of the Government of Venezuela. “New debt” is defined as debt created on or after August 25, 2017, which includes the extension of credit for the sale of goods or services. OFAC cautioned that receiving payments outside of the stipulated maturity payments is generally prohibited. The FAQs also address the handling of certain late payments related to new debt incurred by the state-owned oil company or the Government of Venezuela.

    See here for previous InfoBytes coverage of Venezuelan sanctions.

    Financial Crimes OFAC International

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  • OFAC issues sanctions against persons involved in Hizballah financial network

    Financial Crimes

    On February 2, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions against six individuals and seven entities for providing financial support to terrorists or acts of terrorism. Issued pursuant to Executive Order 13224, which “provides a means by which to disrupt the financial support network for terrorists and terrorist organizations by authorizing the U.S. government to designate and block the assets of foreign individuals and entities that commit, or pose a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism,” the sanctions target the business operations of Hizballah and serve to further Treasury’s continued measures to “sever Hizballah from the international financial system.” OFAC stressed that, pursuant to the Hizballah Financial Sanctions Regulations, it has the authority to “prohibit or impose strict conditions on the opening or maintaining in the [U.S.] of a correspondent account or a payable-through account by a foreign financial institution that knowingly facilitates a significant transaction for Hizballah, or a person acting on behalf of or at the direction of, or owned or controlled by, Hizballah.” All property, or interests in property, held by the sanctioned individuals and entities within U.S. jurisdiction will be blocked, and transactions between the sanctioned individuals and entities and Americans are also “generally prohibited.”

    Financial Crimes OFAC Sanctions Department of Treasury International

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