Sanctions Top-5 for the week ending 4 September 2020

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 Fatou Bensouda, the International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor, and Phakiso Mochochoko, the head of the ICC’s Jurisdiction, Complementarity and Cooperation Division as Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs) under Executive Order 13928. According to a US State Department news release, Bensouda and Mochochoko have “directly engaged in ICC efforts to investigate US personnel [accused of war crimes allegedly committed in Afghanistan, Poland, Romania or Lithuania following Afghanistan’s accession to the Rome Treaty in May 2003] without the consent of the United States” or materially supported those efforts.
  2. The US State Department and OFAC named a total of 11 entities and three individuals in Iran, China, Hong Kong, and the United Arab Emirates as SDNs under Executive Order 13846 for “knowingly engaging in a significant transaction for the purchase, acquisition, sale, transport, or marketing of petroleum or petroleum products from Iran.” According to a Treasury Department news release, several of the companies facilitated transactions on behalf of Hong Kong-based Triliance Petrochemical Co. Ltd., which OFAC sanctioned in January 2020.
  3. OFAC named four Venezuelan government officials as SDNs under Executive Order 13692 for undermining parliamentary elections scheduled for December 2020. The targets include two members of the National Electoral Council, the country’s Solicitor General, and a former governor accused of bribing opposition members of the National Assembly.
  4. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that Yang Ban Corporation, a trading company (with no apparent place of business), pleaded guilty to money laundering charges in connection with payments related to the company’s business with North Korea that were made through US correspondent accounts. According to the DOJ news release, the company admitted to falsifying shipping documents to conceal its North Korean sales.
  5. The US Departments of State, Treasury, and Commerce released a joint advisory on North Korea Ballistic Missile Procurement describing “key North Korean procurement entities and deceptive techniques employed in the operation and support of the regime’s ballistic missile program.” View the advisory here.


What’s going on with these ICC sanctions, and why now? As first mentioned here back in September 2018, erstwhile National Security Advisor John Bolton threatened sanctions against the ICC in retaliation for the investigation or prosecution of US nationals in connection with allegations made against members of the US military and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) stemming from the US-led invasion of Afghanistan. In April 2019, the ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber II rejected Bensouda’s request to open an investigation. (The US State Department had revoked Bensouda’s US visa the week before.) On 5 March 2020, the ICC’s Appeals Chamber reversed the lower chamber’s decision and authorized the investigation to move forward. Six months later, and here we are.

In announcing the sanctions, the US State Department warned that “[i]ndividuals and entities that continue to support Prosecutor Bensouda and Mr. Mochochoko materially risk exposure to sanctions.” (Presumably that means “materially support” (not “materially risk”) in light of the material assistance provision of Section 1(a)(i)(3) of Executive Order 13928.)

Windward is hosting a virtual training series on 15, 22, and 29 September on maritime sanctions risks and recent regulatory guidance from OFAC and the UK Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation. Join me for the kick-off on 15 September where I will talk about the latest shipping advisories and new compliance standards. Get more information here.

It’s here! Check out the first edition of “The Guide to Sanctions” published by Global Investigations Review, featuring a forward by the one and only Sigal Mandelker, former US Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. It was a big honor to work with co-editors Paul Feldberg, Rachel Barnes, Anna Bradshaw, Anahita Thoms, and David Mortlock and the many top-notch sanctions practitioners who contributed chapters. You can read an extract from the first edition at this link.

Did I miss something? Send me a message or comment on LinkedIn.

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

US attorney in Hong Kong specializing in economic sanctions, financial crimes. Sign up for emails: LinkedIn at: