On August 6, 2018, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) released a new Executive Order to implement the previously announced re-imposition of U.S. sanctions for Iran. There were no major surprises, with the Executive Order paralleling the guidance released on May 8, 2018 when the President announced his decision to cease the United States’ participation in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and to begin re-imposing the U.S. nuclear-related sanctions that had been lifted, following a wind-down period.
On December 20, 2017, President Trump issued Executive Order 13818 (the “E.O.”) implementing provisions of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act (“Global Magnitsky Act”) (enacted into law in December 2016), which provided for sanctions relating to gross human rights violations or government officials linked to corruption. The E.O. authorizes the imposition of sanctions on non-U.S. persons determined to be responsible for, complicit in, or have engaged in (directly or indirectly) “serious human rights abuse,” corruption, or “the transfer or the facilitation of the transfer of the proceeds of corruption,” or to have attempted to engage in or materially support such acts.
The E.O. applied sanctions designations to 13 persons and, separately, the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) imposed sanctions on 39 additional individuals and entities around the world. This includes individuals and entities from 13 countries and territories spanning the continents of Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America.
Following President Trump’s trip to Asia, sanctions policies for North Korea continue to evolve. The U.S. government has strengthened sanctions through legislation and Presidential Executive Orders. Further, it is enforcing its secondary sanctions against companies doing business with the North Korean regime, thus far targeting banks, businesses and individuals. The UN Security Council has approved resolutions imposing sanctions on North Korea in reaction to its nuclear and missile tests. Aggressive enforcement by the United States and actions by China and other Asian countries in light of the UN resolutions should be expected. Indeed, President Trump recently tweeted that China would be “upping” sanctions against North Korea.
Below is a summary of key pronouncements from the U.S. government, UN, and other countries.
On November 8, 2017, the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) and the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (“BIS”) announced amendments to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (“CACR”) and Export Administration Regulations (“EAR”). In addition, the State Department published a list of entities and subentities deemed to be under the control or to act on behalf of the Cuban military, intelligence, or security services or personnel. These steps implement the changes to the Cuba sanctions program announced by the President in his June “National Security Presidential Memorandum on Strengthening the Policy of the United States Toward Cuba” (“NSPM”). The changes reflect adjustments to the broader Cuba reform initiated by former President Obama in January 2015. A majority of the general license and guidance issued since that time remain in effect.
The key changes to the Cuba sanctions program are as follows:
This week, the U.S. government took several steps to implement sections of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017 (CAATSA), with implications for Russia-related sanctions and their enforcement. On October 27, 2017, the Department of State (DoS) published guidance on sanctions with respect to Russia’s Defense and Intelligence Sectors under Section 231 of CAATSA. In addition, on October 31, 2017, DoS published guidance on how it would view secondary sanctions for investments in special Russian crude oil projects and energy export pipelines. Separately, the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) amended Directive 4 of the Ukraine/Russia related sanctions and published updated FAQs relating to the amended Directive as well as new guidance on CAATSA sections 223(a), 226, 228, 233.
Effective October 12, 2017, the Sudanese Sanctions Regulations (SSR) have been revoked in recognition of the Government of Sudan’s (GOS) sustained positive actions in stopping conflict and improving humanitarian access in Sudan. This latest action makes permanent the general license issued in January 2017. However, Sudan remains designated as a “State Sponsor of Terrorism” and accordingly, key restrictions remain.
Today, President Trump issued an Executive Order (E.O.) providing for sanctions against the Government of Venezuela. The sanctions are structured similar to existing sectoral sanctions on the Russian petroleum sector and target financial transactions with the Government of Venezuela.
On June 29, 2017, the U.S. Treasury Department announced new steps applying pressure on North Korea in relation to its proliferation activities. Specifically, this involved (1) sanctions designations against Chinese shipping company Dalian Global Unity Shipping Co., Ltd. and two Chinese individuals; and (2) anti-money laundering special measures against China’s Bank of Dandong. All were involved in business with North Korea according to the Treasury Department’s announcement.
The Special Measures for Bank of Dandong under Section 311 of the USA PATRIOT Act prohibit U.S. financial institutions from maintaining correspondent accounts for, or on behalf of, that bank. This would prevent access to the U.S. banking system for dollar transactions or wiring services.
None of the sanctioned parties appear to be systemically important companies for China, but the sanctions may be intended, or viewed, as an effort by the Trump Administration to pressure China into doing more to restrain North Korea’s nuclear activities.
Effective January 17, 2017, a new general license authorizes a broad range of activities previously prohibited under the Sudanese Sanctions Regulations (SSR), including most transactions with individuals and entities in Sudan and the unfreezing of all property of the Government of Sudan subject to U.S. jurisdiction. This is a dramatic change to a longstanding and comprehensive U.S. sanctions regime, with relevance to banks, the energy sector and a range of companies and investors with interests in the Middle East and Northern Africa (MENA).