Here are five things that happened this week in the world of economic sanctions that I think you should know about.
- The US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a pair of settlements with two subsidiaries of a Texas-based oil services conglomerate for violations of OFAC’s Ukraine and (defunct) Sudan sanctions regulations. In both cases, US-based employees of the companies facilitated exports from outside the United States to prohibited destinations. (If I’m not mistaken, this is the first time OFAC has brought a public enforcement action under Directive 4 of the sectoral sanctions program.) The settlement notices are available here and here.
- A US national pled guilty to violating US sanctions against North Korea by giving a presentation at a cryptocurrency conference in Pyongyang in April 2019. (Remember how easy traveling used to be?) According to the US Department of Justice (DOJ), the individual shared “technical advice on using cryptocurrency and blockchain technology to evade sanctions.”
- In a coordinated action with the government of Qatar, OFAC named seven individuals and one entity as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs) under Executive Order 13224 for their roles in a Hizballah-linked financial network.
- Norwegian prosecutors charged a dual German-Iranian national with violating Norway’s Iran-related sanctions. According to reports, the individual, who was working as a professor in a local university, gave Iranian visitors access to sensitive equipment and technology without an export control license.
- Hong Kong’s Financial Secretary, Paul Chan, told the South China Morning Post in an interview that “there is no definite timetable” for a proposal to incorporate elements of the PRC Anti-Foreign Sanctions Law into Hong Kong law. Chinese lawmakers were expected to pass the measure in August but held off at the last minute, as previously reported. “I don’t think it is worthwhile to speculate on whether this will be brought back again or not,” Chan reportedly said.
There’s a fine line between sharing information (which is OK under most OFAC regulations) and performing a service (which is not OK). That is the takeaway from the DOJ’s case against the US national who traveled to North Korea for the Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference in April 2019. (Can you imagine the schwag?) According to the DOJ, the presentation contributed to the North Korean government’s ability to overcome foreign sanctions by mining cryptocurrency. It probably didn’t help that the US Department of State specifically denied the individual’s request for authorization to travel to North Korea before the event.
Financial Secretary Paul Chan has been in the news a lot lately. He was among the local officials who spoke in favor of a local legislative process for incorporating the Anti-Foreign Sanctions Law into Hong Kong law. (The law does not currently apply in Hong Kong.) One could read his latest comments to suggest the proposal is not expected to move ahead anytime soon. I guess we’ll know when we know . . .