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  • FinCEN issues advisory on Iranian efforts to evade U.S. sanctions

    Financial Crimes

    On October 11, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued an advisory for financial institutions on ways to help better detect and report the Iranian regime's efforts to evade U.S. sanctions through potentially illicit transactions. The advisory outlines deceptive practices used by the Iranian regime to evade sanctions, including front companies, fraudulent documents, transactions involving exchange houses, falsified shipping documents, and the use of virtual currencies, and warns financial institutions that FinCEN expects Iran to expand use of these practices following the November 5 return of sanctions previously suspended as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here on Executive Order 13846, issued last August reimposing sanctions against Iran.) The advisory also includes a series of red flags to help banks identify possible deceptive activity, and provides information for filing suspicious activity reports. FinCEN advises foreign financial institutions to consult the advisory to “better understand the obligations of their U.S. correspondents, to avoid exposure to U.S. sanctions, and to address the Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism risks that Iranian activity poses to the international financial system.”

    See here for continuing InfoBytes coverage of actions related to Iran.

    Financial Crimes FinCEN Iran Anti-Money Laundering Combating the Financing of Terrorism Sanctions Executive Order

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  • OFAC reaches settlement with national bank to resolve alleged non-egregious sanctions violations

    Financial Crimes

    On October 5, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced an approximate $5.3 million settlement with a national bank for alleged violations of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations, and the Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferators Sanctions Regulations. According to OFAC, the settlement resolves the bank’s potential civil liability for, among other things, allegedly processing net settlement payments for bank clients between January 2008 and February 2012, for which only 0.14 percent were attributable to interests of non-U.S. person entity members that were at various times identified on OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals List, sanctioned, or located in countries subject to OFAC’s sanctions programs.

    In arriving at the settlement amount, OFAC considered factors such as (i) prior to January 2012, the bank did not appear to have in place a process to independently assess participating member entities of the non-U.S. person entity for OFAC sanctions risk, despite allegedly receiving red flag notifications regarding OFAC-sanctioned members; (ii) staff members processing the net settlement transactions may have had actual knowledge of the members; and (iii) the bank is a large, commercially sophisticated financial institution.

    OFAC also considered numerous mitigating factors, including (i) managers and supervisors were not aware of the conduct; (ii) the total harm caused was “significantly less than the total value of the transactions”; (iii) the bank cooperated with the investigation and entered into a retroactive agreement to toll the statutes of limitations; and (iv) the bank has implemented several steps as part of its risk-based compliance program to prevent future violations. OFAC also noted that the bank voluntary disclosed the violations, and that the violations constitute a non-egregious case.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Sanctions Iran Settlement

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  • OFAC reaches $1.5 million settlement with electronics company for alleged Iranian sanctions violations

    Financial Crimes

    On September 13, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a $1.5 million settlement with a California-based electronics company for alleged violations of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations when it sold equipment to a Dubai-based distributor it knew or had reason to know distributed most, if not all, of its products to Iran. The settlement resolves litigation between the California company and OFAC stemming from a 2014 lawsuit challenging OFAC’s initial $4.07 million civil penalty. While the lower count ultimately granted summary judgment in favor of OFAC after finding enough evidence that the company knew the distributor’s business was primarily in Iran at the time the shipments were made, upon appeal, the D.C. Circuit reached a split decision in May 2017 setting aside OFAC’s initial penalty. While the appellate court affirmed that 34 of 39 shipments in question were in violation of the sanctions regulations, the company had produced emails indicating that the other shipments were intended for a retail store in Dubai. Because the penalty was calculated in such a way that the two shipments categories were “intertwined,” the court remanded the matter to OFAC for further consideration of the total penalty calculation.

    In arriving at the settlement amount, OFAC considered the following aggravating factors: (i) “the [a]lleged [v]iolations constituted or resulted in a systematic pattern of conduct”; (ii) the company exported goods valued at over $2.8 million; and (iii) the company had no compliance program in place at the time of the alleged violations. However, OFAC also considered mitigating factors such as the company’s status as a small business, the company not receiving a penalty or finding of a violation in the five years prior to the transactions at issue, and some cooperation with OFAC. OFAC further noted that following litigation, the company “took additional remedial actions to address the conduct that led to the [a]lleged [v]iolations, including terminating its relationship with [the Dubai-based distributor] and instituting an OFAC sanctions compliance program.”

    Financial Crimes Department of Treasury Sanctions OFAC Iran Courts Appellate Civil Money Penalties

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  • President Trump issues Iran-related executive order reimposing previously lifted sanctions; OFAC updates Iran-related FAQs

    Financial Crimes

    On August 6, President Trump announced the issuance of Iran-related Executive Order 13846 (E.O. 13846), which reimposes nuclear-related sanctions that were lifted in connection with the United States’ participation in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPA) of July 14, 2015. As previously covered in InfoBytes, President Trump announced his decision to withdrawal from the JCPA on May 8. Newly issued E.O. 13846 reimposes certain sanctions, effective August 7, concerning persons—including foreign financial institutions—who facilitate or provide “financial, material, or technological support for” areas including Iran’s trade in U.S. bank notes and precious metals, its automotive sector, and its currency. Sanctions targeting Iran’s energy sector, as well as transactions between foreign financial institutions and the Central Bank of Iran, will resume effective November 5. E.O. 13846 also revokes and supersedes several previously issued E.O.s.

    In response to E.O. 13846, OFAC released updates to its FAQs concerning the additional sanctions, along with amendments to existing FAQs concerning the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act of 2012. FAQs related to revoked E.O. 13622, Section 4 of E.O. 13628, and E.O. 13645 have been archived.

    See here for previous InfoBytes coverage on Iranian sanctions.

    Financial Crimes Department of Treasury OFAC Iran Sanctions Trump

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  • OFAC revokes JCPOA-related General Licenses

    Financial Crimes

    On June 27, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued an announcement revoking Iran-related General Licenses H and I (GL-H and GL-I) following President Trump’s May 8 withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. In conjunction with these changes, OFAC amended the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations to authorize certain wind-down activities through August 6 (GL-I) and November 4 (GL-H) related to, among other things, letters of credit and brokering services. In addition OFAC released updated FAQs related to the May 8 re-imposition of nuclear-related sanctions.

    See here for continuing InfoBytes coverage of actions related to Iran.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Iran Sanctions International

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  • OFAC adds Iranians to Specially Designated Nationals List

    Financial Crimes

    On May 30, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) made additions to the Specially Designated Nationals List under the Iranian Financial Sanctions Regulations and Global Terrorism Sanctions Regulations. OFAC’s additions to the designations identify nine individuals and entities that were found to have (i) committed serious human rights abuses on behalf of the Government of Iran; (ii) operated technology that facilitates monitoring that could assist in serious human rights abuses by the Government of Iran; or (iii) engaged, or acting on behalf of someone engaged, in censorship activities limiting the freedom of expression or assembly of citizens in Iran. As a result, all assets belonging to the identified individuals and entities subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked and must be reported to OFAC, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.

    See here for continuing InfoBytes coverage of actions related to Iran.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Department of Treasury International Iran Sanctions

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  • OFAC further expands Iranian sanctions, includes Hizballah-associated individuals

    Financial Crimes

    On May 17, U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) identified two Hizballah-associated individuals for their alleged role in financing terrorist networks, in addition to five companies owned or controlled by one of the designated individuals, as “Specially Designated Global Terrorists.” According to OFAC, the sanctions were issued pursuant to Executive Order 13224 (E.O. 13224), and designated individuals who had previously worked with the Central Bank of Iran, which was “recently identified as being complicit in facilitating the [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force’s (IRGC-QF)] access to hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. currency, to expand banking access between Iran and Lebanon.” As covered earlier in InfoBytes, on May 15 OFAC sanctioned the governor and a senior official of the Central Bank of Iran for allegedly funneling millions of dollars on behalf of the IRGC-QF to Hizballah. The May 17 actions are designed to “further restrict Hizballah’s access to the U.S. financial system and the Iranian regime’s network of regional proxy groups.” As a result, all assets belonging to the identified individuals and entities subject to U.S. jurisdiction must be blocked and reported to OFAC, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from dealing with them.

    Separately, on May 22, OFAC announced that five Iranian individuals who allegedly provided ballistic missile-related technical expertise on behalf of the IRGC-QF have also been sanctioned pursuant to E.O. 13224. In addition to freezing assets subject to U.S. jurisdiction and prohibiting U.S. persons from engaging in transactions with the individuals, “foreign financial institutions that knowingly facilitate significant transactions for, or persons that provide material or certain other support to, the individuals and entities designated [] 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.”

    See here for continuing InfoBytes coverage of actions related to Iran.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Sanctions Department of Treasury Iran International

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  • OFAC sanctions Iranian bank officials, Iraqi bank, and others for moving millions of dollars to Hizballah

    Financial Crimes

    On May 15, U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced it was imposing sanctions on the governor and a senior official of the Central Bank of Iran, an Iraqi bank and its chairman, and a key Hizballah official, for allegedly funneling millions of dollars on behalf of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) to Hizballah. 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 individuals and entities were designated as Specially Designated Global Terrorists. The actions, which follow a May 10 action taken against individuals and entities who materially assisted in the conversion of millions of U.S. dollars to fund IRGC-QF’s malignant activities, “seek to stifle Iran’s ability to abuse the U.S. and regional financial systems.”

    However, OFAC clarified that sanctions on the officials of the Central Bank of Iran do not extend to the bank itself. Following President Trump's decision to cease participation by the U.S. government in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, sanctions on the bank will be re-imposed August 7, and on November 5, additional sanctions will be re-imposed on persons knowingly engaging in certain significant transactions with the Central Bank of Iran.

    Visit here for additional InfoBytes coverage on Iranian sanctions.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Department of Treasury Sanctions Iran Iraq International

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  • OFAC adds Iranians to Specially Designated Nationals List

    Financial Crimes

    On May 10, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) made additions to the Specially Designated Nationals List under the Iranian Financial Sanctions Regulations and Global Terrorism Sanctions Regulations. OFAC’s additions to the designations identify nine individuals and entities that materially assisted in converting millions of U.S. dollars to fund the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force’s malignant activities. As a result, all assets belonging to the identified individuals and entities subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked and must be reported to OFAC, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from dealing with them.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Department of Treasury International Iran Sanctions

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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 Iran

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