During the past
few weeks there have been a number of important developments in varoius US
economic sanctions programs adminsitered by the US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). The following is a summary of some of the key
developments and links to the relevant documents.
of Iran Sanctions Relief Under Iran Nuclear Agreement
widespread interest in the timing of the implementation of the sanctions relief
called for under the July 2015 multilateral agreement with Iran. This
agreement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), is commonly referred
to as the Iran nuclear agreement.
discussed in our previous update, on
October 18, 2015 the United States and the EU marked “Adoption Day” of the
JCPOA. On that day Iran formally began to implement its extensive obligations
to dismantle significant portions of its nuclear program.
has completed these obligations, as verified by the IAEA, the “Implementation
Day” milestone will be reached under the JCPOA, and the JCPOA sanctions relief
will take place. There is widespread speculation as to when Implementation Day
will occur. Numerous Iranian government officials and some EU government
officials have suggested that sanctions relief will take place as early as
January 2016. In our view January 2016 is optimistic, given the numerous steps
that Iran must implement to comply with the JCPOA and since everything related
to the JCPOA has taken much longer than anticipated.
As we have
previously noted, after Implementation Day there will be very few changes in the broadest US sanctions on
Iran that are applicable to US persons, companies and US-origin products.
Rather, the changes will primarily involve the easing of US secondary
(extraterritorial) sanctions on Iran, and the lifting of primary sanctions on
Iran imposed by the EU and other countries.
Treasury Department Statement and Guidance on Iran Business Activities
the interest in Iran-related business expressed by many companies, on November
25, 2015 the US Treasury Department spokesperson for the Office of Terrorism
and Financial Intelligence issued a statement on sanctions relief under the
JCPOA, which noted:
companies and individuals will not be subject to U.S. sanctions if they engage
in initial discussions about potential business opportunities or travel to Iran
to examine the possibilities of business relationships after sanctions are
lifted. However, entering into contracts involving Iran prior to Implementation
Day may be sanctionable. For this reason, we recommend the companies seek
expert guidance before executing any contract or beginning a formal business
relationship involving Iran prior to Implementation Day.”
The Treasury spokesperson also referred to OFAC guidance released on Adoption Day stating that before JCPOA
implementation, a non-US person may be penalized under US sanctions if they
enter into a contract involving Iran or its government, even if the contract is
made contingent on the JCPOA sanctions relief. As always, whether US primary or
secondary (extraterritorial) sanctions apply to a non-US person depends upon a
number of factors involving the parties and activities involved.
statement appears to strike a balance between encouraging non-US companies to
consider the possibility of re-engaging with Iran in certain areas, after the
JCPOA sanctions relief is implemented, and reminding companies that primary and
secondary sanctions are still in place.
Sanctions Temporarily Suspended
30, 2015 the United States temporarily suspended its sanctions targeting
certain Belarusian companies and the EU suspended most, but not all, of its
sanctions against Belarus the following day. These measures are particularly
significant for petroleum and petrochemical companies, which had been unable to
engage in many transactions in Belarus due to the pervasive and non-transparent
roles the sanctioned entities play, particularly Belneftekhim (the Belarusian
State Concern for Oil and Chemistry).
suspension of US sanctions on these entities should mitigate this compliance
challenge, though certain transactions may still be prohibited if they involve
President Lukashenko or any other person who remains on OFAC's List of
Specially Designated Nationals (“SDN list”). However, companies should bear in
mind that it is possible the US or EU will not renew the respective sanctions
suspensions when they expire in April and February 2016.
detailed explanation of the US and EU suspension of the Belarus sanctions is
government has signaled that it will continue to try to clear the way for US
companies and financial institutions to engage in the transactions relating to
Cuba that are now authorized under the recent amendments to US sanctions,
although most transactions remain prohibited. We summarized the last major
round of Cuba sanctions relief and related guidance in our September
further small step in this direction, on November 25, 2015 OFAC added a new
item to its frequently asked questions guidance for the Cuba, available here. This
new guidance is intended to assist US financial institutions in becoming more
comfortable in processing payments related to authorized travel to and from
Cuba. It reads in part as follows:
Is a financial institution required to independently verify that an
individual’s travel is authorized when processing Cuba travel-related
financial institution may rely on U.S. travelers to provide their
certifications of authorized travel directly to the person providing travel or
carrier services when processing Cuba travel-related transactions, unless the
financial institution knows or has reason to know that the travel is not
authorized by a general or specific license.
Sanctions Relating to Conflicts in Africa
There have been a number of recent developments in US sanctions relating to
various African conflicts.
First, on November 12, 2015, President Obama issued Executive Order 13710 terminating the
OFAC sanctions program targeting former Liberian President Charles Taylor and
other persons. President George W. Bush had originally established this program
in 2004. Along with the lifting of the Liberia sanctions program, a number of
individuals now playing significant roles in Liberia’s companies and political
scene were removed from the SDN list.
on November 23, 2015, President Obama issued Executive Order 13712 creating
a US sanctions program for specified individuals in Burundi. Four individuals
were immediately designated under the order, two being senior Burundi
government officials and two being two senior opposition figures that earlier
this year had led a failed coup seeking to overthrow the current government.
Additional individuals may be designated for contributing to instability,
undermining democratic processes, violating human rights or committing acts of
violence in Burundi.
States, in many cases acting alongside the UN or EU, has recently imposed or
updated targeted sanctions on individuals and entities involved in several
other conflicts in African countries. These include the sanctions programs for
the Central African Republic (established in 2014), Cote-d’Ivoire (2006), the Democratic
Republic of the Congo (2006), Somalia (2010), South Sudan (2014) and Zimbabwe
Sanctions Network Providing Support to Syrian Government and Facilitating Oil
Purchases from ISIL
25, 2015, the US Treasury Department added four individuals and six
entities to the SDN List for allegedly providing support to the Government of
Syria, acting pursuant to Executive Order 13582 of 2011. All assets of the
designated persons that are located in the US or that are in the control of US
persons must be blocked (frozen) and US persons are generally prohibited from
engaging in transactions with the designated persons.
explained in the Treasury Department’s statement, the designations were made
for various reasons, including facilitation of oil purchases by the Syrian
Government from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS). One of
the designated individuals is a Russian national who has served for many years
as president of the World Chess Federation (FIDE). OFAC also added to the SDN
List a Syrian engineering company, a Russian bank, a trading company and
several other companies owned by the individuals that were designated.
Updates List of Medical Supplies Eligibile to be Exported to Iran Under a
OFAC recently published an updated list of medical supplies that are
eligible to be exported to Iran under the general license contained in OFAC’s
Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (ITSR).
Items that are included on OFAC’s list of medical supplies do not require a
specific license to be obtained from OFAC prior to being exported or reexported
to Iran, but can be exported to permissible customers in Iran under the
authority of the general license.
list includes a number of new cardiology, radiology and other medical products,
including CPAP systems and contraceptives.
To reflect that this list now contains a broader category of items than basic
medical supplies, OFAC also changed the name of the list to “List of Medical
Supplies” from “List of Basic Medical Supplies”.
Labels: Cuba, OFAC, Sanctions; Iran, Sanctions; Syria