Sanctions Top-5 for the week ending 26 February 2021

Nicholas Turner
3 min readMar 1, 2021

Here are five things that happened this week in the world of economic sanctions that I think you should know about.

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  1. The US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) named Saudi Arabia’s former Deputy Head of General Intelligence Presidency and the country’s Rapid Intervention Force, a royal protective detail, as Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs) under Executive Order 13818 (Global Magnitsky) for their roles in the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. (OFAC sanctioned 17 individuals involved in the case in November 2018.) Meanwhile, the US State Department announced visa restrictions on 76 Saudi individuals as part of a new “Khashoggi Ban” program targeting individuals “believed to have been directly engaged in serious, extraterritorial counter-dissident activities” on behalf of foreign governments.
  2. OFAC named two additional members of Myanmar’s State Administrative Council as SDNs under Executive Order 14014. According to a State Department news release, the sanctions follow a violent crackdown against protesters and mass arrests after the country’s military coup in early February 2021.
  3. EU Minister for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell announced that the EU Council agreed to impose sanctions on individuals responsible for the “arrest, sentencing and persecution” of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny, under the recently created EU Global Human Rights Sanctions program.
  4. The EU Council added 19 individuals to the EU Sanctions List for their roles in undermining democracy and violating human rights in Venezuela.
  5. The US State Department announced visa bans against the former Prosecutor General of the Slovak Republic and his son pursuant to Section 7031(c) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act. According to a State Department news release, the former official “was involved in corrupt acts that undermined rule of law and the Slovak public’s faith in their government’s democratic institutions, officials, and public processes.”


How does the State Department’s new Khashoggi Ban compare to the Magnitsky Sanctions? The former is a State Department-initiated program built on pre-existing authority to deny visas for US foreign policy reasons under Section 212(a)(3)© of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The determinations are non-public (but are reported to Congress), which means the impact is limited to visa bans, with limited public shaming apart from a general description of the conduct. On the other hand, the evidentiary bar is fairly low.

In more serious cases, there is Section 7031(c) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, which also includes a visa ban, but with the option for public designations. Both options lack the punch of the Magnitsky Sanctions, which combine visa bans with asset freezes and a prohibition on dealing with US persons. According to the State Department announcement, the Khashoggi Ban is focused on activities “that suppress, harass, surveil, threaten, or harm journalists, activists, or other persons perceived to be dissidents” or their families or close associates. Those activities may or may not qualify for the other two programs.

The New York Times reported a few more details about that specific license OFAC granted to billionaire Dan Gertler, who was sanctioned for corruption under the Global Magnitsky Sanctions program in December 2017 (more on that here). According to the report, Gertler agreed to hire external monitors and share information with the US government about his companies’ finances in exchange for the one-year license. Piece of cake.

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(The views expressed are my own and do not constitute legal advice. Photo from Vladislav Reshetnyak.)



Nicholas Turner

US attorney in Hong Kong specializing in economic sanctions, financial crimes. This is an archive of briefings published between 2017 and 2022.