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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.

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  • OFAC further expands sanctions in connection with Ukrainian conflict

    Financial Crimes

    On January 26, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced its decision to sanction an additional 21 individuals and nine entities, pursuant to four executive orders (see Executive Orders 13660, 13661, 13662, and 13685), in connection with the United States’ support of Ukraine’s “sovereignty and territorial integrity” and opposition to Russia’s occupation of Crimea. Among other things, the financial sanctions target Russian government officials, Russian business executives, and Ukrainian separatist leaders involved with Russia’s occupation as part of efforts to hold responsible individuals accountable. Also sanctioned are nine technology, construction, and shipping firms supporting Russia’s occupation. As part of the announcement, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin stated that “[t]he U.S. government is committed to maintaining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and to targeting those who attempt to undermine the Minsk agreements.” He further indicated that “[t]hose who provide goods, services, or material support to individuals and entities sanctioned by the United States for their activities in Ukraine are engaging in behavior that could expose them to U.S. sanctions.” 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.”

    Visit here for additional InfoBytes coverage on Russian and Ukrainian sanctions.

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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. 

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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 Assesses $2 Million Penalty Against International Oil and Gas Company for Violations of Ukraine-Related Sanctions

    Financial Crimes

    On July 20, the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) announced a $2 million civil money penalty assessed against an international oil and gas company, including two of its U.S. subsidiaries, for alleged violations of OFAC’s Ukraine-Related sanctions regulations. OFAC claims that, in May 2014, the company impermissibly dealt in services of a senior official of the Government of the Russian Federation who had been placed on the List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDNs) by signing eight legal documents related to oil and gas projects in Russia with the individual. Although the company claimed that it believed such actions were permissible, OFAC noted that the “plain language of the Ukraine-Related Sanctions” clearly indicates otherwise. In particular, OFAC stated that the sanctions blocked “any property and interests in property, and prohibited any dealing in any property and interests in property, of a person so designated.” In addition, the sanctions expressly forbid U.S. persons from “any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services from any such person,” and, according to OFAC, do not differentiate between an individual’s “personal” and “professional” capacity—a distinction the company tried to make.

    Thus, concluded OFAC, information available at the time of the alleged violations “clearly put [the company] on notice that OFAC would consider executing documents with an SDN to violate the prohibitions in the Ukraine-Related Sanctions Regulations.” The $2 million penalty was the largest that OFAC could impose under statute. OFAC imposed the penalty based on the following factors: (i) the company did not voluntarily self-disclose the violations; (ii) the company demonstrated reckless disregard for U.S. sanctions requirements by disregarding clear warning signs; (iii) the company’s senior-most executives knew of the official’s status as an SDN when it executed the legal documents; (iv) the company caused significant harm to the sanctions program by dealing with a senior official of the Russian Federation; and (v) the company is a sophisticated and experienced oil company that has global operations and routinely deals in goods, services and technology subject to U.S. economic sanctions and export controls.

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  • OFAC Sanctions Russian Individuals and Companies in Connection with Ukrainian Conflict

    Federal Issues

    On December 20, Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) announced its decision to sanction seven individuals and eight entities in connection with Russia’s occupation of Crimea and the conflict in Ukraine. OFAC also identified 26 subsidiaries of Russian banks as subject to sanctions already in place on their parent companies. Among other things, the sanctions prohibit U.S. residents, citizens, and financial institutions from participating in various financial dealings with the companies. As explained by John E. Smith, acting director of Treasury’s sanctions enforcement office, the sanctions were introduced “in response to Russia's unlawful occupation of Crimea and continued aggression in Ukraine” in order to “maintain pressure on Russia by sustaining the costs of its occupation of Crimea and disrupting the activities of those who support the violence and instability in Ukraine.” Concurrent with today’s announcement, OFAC also issued a Russia/Ukraine-related General License 11, which authorizes certain transactions “necessary to requesting, contracting for, paying for, receiving, or utilizing a project design review or permit from FAU Glavgosekspertiza Rossii’s office(s) in the Russian Federation.”

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  • OFAC Announces New Ukraine-Related Designations, Includes Russian National Bank

    Federal Issues

    On March 11, OFAC updated its Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs) list comprising of individuals and entities including a Russian national bank, Russian National Commercial Bank. The SDN list identifies persons and entities with which U.S. citizens and permanent residents are prohibited from doing business and whose assets or interests in assets that come within U.S. jurisdiction must be frozen.

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  • President Obama Signs Law Allowing Authority To Implement Ukraine-Russian Sanctions

    Federal Issues

    On December 18, President Obama signed into law H.R. 5859, the “Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014.” First introduced in the House on December 11, the bill gives the President the authority to impose sanctions against countries, entities, and individual persons that pose potential threats to financial stability through excessive risk-taking with the Russian market. The bill provides authority for sanctions against foreign persons, including executive officers of an entity, relating to (i) banking transactions; (ii) investing in or purchasing equity or debt instruments; (iii) U.S. property transactions; and (iv) Export-Import Bank of the United States assistance. Finally, the bill directs the President to “use U.S. influence to encourage the World Bank Group, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and other international financial institutions to invest in and stimulate private investment in such projects.”

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  • OFAC Publishes Initial Ukraine-Related Sanctions Regulations

    Federal Issues

    On May 8, OFAC issued regulations to implement recent Executive Orders establishing sanctions against Russian individuals and entities related to the situation in Ukraine. The Ukraine-Related Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. Part 589, implement Executive Order 13660 of March 6, 2014, Executive Order 13661 of March 17, 2014, and Executive Order 13662 of March 20, 2014. Consistent with its prior practice, OFAC published the regulations in abbreviated form and plans to provide a more comprehensive set of regulations, which may include additional interpretive and definitional guidance and additional general licenses and statements of licensing policy.

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  • Treasury Implements Additional Russia Sanctions

    Consumer Finance

    On April 28, the Treasury Department announced additional sanctions in response to developments in Ukraine by designating seven Russian government officials and 17 entities, including numerous financial institutions, pursuant to Executive Order 13661. That order authorizes sanctions on, among others, officials of the Russian Government and any individual or entity that is owned or controlled by, that has acted for or on behalf of, or that has provided material or other support to, a senior Russian government official. The designated individuals will be subject to an asset freeze and a U.S. visa ban, and the companies will be subject to an asset freeze. In addition, the Department of Commerce imposed additional restrictions on 13 of the companies by imposing a license requirement with a presumption of denial for the export, re-export or other foreign transfer of U.S.-origin items to the companies. Further, the Departments of Commerce and State tightened review of export license applications for any high-technology items that could contribute to Russia’s military capabilities, and plan to revoke any existing export licenses that meet the tightened conditions.

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