Archive for the ‘Sanctions’ Category

The United States Substantially Relaxes Existing Embargo on Sudan

Thursday, March 2nd, 2017 by Danielle McClellan

By: Cari N. Stinebower, Esq., cstinebower@crowell.com, 202-624-2757; Alan W.H. Gourley; Esq., agourley@crowell.com, 202-624-2561 and +44-20-7413-1342 (London Office); and Carlton Greene, Esq., cgreene@crowell.com, 202-624-2818.  All of Crowell & Morning LLP.

(Source: Crowell & Moring LLP)

On January 13, 2017, the United States suspended most of the comprehensive embargo that it has maintained on Sudan since the Clinton Administration. As described further below, new authorizations have been issued to permit U.S. persons to engage in most commercial activity with Sudan, including the exportation of most goods or services to Sudan and persons in Sudan, and to unblock property previously frozen under these sanctions. However, sanctions relating to the Darfur region of Sudan remain, and these, along with other sanctions programs relating to terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, may continue to affect transactions with Sudan.

 

Issuance of New Executive Order

On January 13, President Obama issued an (as-yet-unnumbered) Executive Order (EO) which announced the new U.S. policy changes towards Sudan. In recognition of a series of “positive actions” by the Government of Sudan, the EO announced that it would terminate most aspects of the two previous EOs-EO 13067 (Nov. 3, 1997) and EO 13412 (Oct. 13, 2006)-that had authorized the comprehensive embargo on Sudan. Importantly, however, this revocation will only occur on July 12, 2017 and only after the Secretary of State, in consultation with other Administration colleagues, publishes a notice that “the Government of Sudan has sustained the positive actions that gave rise to this order….”

 

Relaxation of OFAC Sanctions

In parallel to the new Executive Order, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) dramatically relaxed the existing restrictions imposed in the Sudanese Sanctions Regulations (SSR). Specifically, OFAC issued a final rule establishing a new General License (31 C.F.R. 538.540) (which it refers to as the “2017 Sudan Rule”), authorizing all transactions prohibited by the SSR, including transactions in which the Government of Sudan has an interest.

As OFAC has clarified in a Fact Sheet on its website, pursuant to the 2017 Sudan Rule, “U.S. persons will generally be able to transact with individuals and entities in Sudan, and the property of the Government of Sudan subject to U.S. jurisdiction will be unblocked.” In particular, this means that U.S. persons can:

  • Import goods or services of Sudanese origin.
  • Export most goods, technology, and services to Sudan (a separate licensing requirement may apply to goods or technology subject to the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) as summarized in the subsection below).
  • Engage in transactions with persons blocked pursuant to the SSR (designated by the tag [SUDAN]).
  • Engage in transactions in which the Government of Sudan has an interest.
  • Engage in “all transactions necessary to unblock any property or interests in property that were blocked pursuant to 31 C.F.R. 538.201”.
  • Engage in transactions relating to the petroleum or petrochemical industries in Sudan.

OFAC has clarified in a set of Frequently Asked Questions posted on its website that the 2017 Sudan Rule supersedes existing general licenses as well as existing specific licenses or pending specific license applications. U.S. persons need only now comply with the terms of the 2017 Sudan Rule and not with any additional conditions contained in pre-existing and more restrictive general or specific licenses.

The 2017 Sudan Rule did not remove all restrictions on transactions with Sudan. In particular, the following restrictions remain:

  • Export of Agricultural Commodities, Medicine, or Medical Devices: Due to a statutory restriction, exports or re-exports of agricultural commodities, medicine, or medical devices eligible for export under the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act (TSRA) “must be shipped within the 12 month period beginning on the date of the signing of the contract for export or reexport.”
  • Transactions with Other SDNs: While U.S. persons may now engage in transactions with persons designated pursuant to the SSR (identified with a [SUDAN] tag), the changes did not remove any other designations. U.S. persons, therefore, remain prohibited from engaging in virtually all transactions with persons remaining on the SDN list designated pursuant to other programs, including inter alia, Darfur ([DARFUR]), South Sudan ([SOUTH SUDAN]), terrorism ([SDGT]), or proliferation ([NPWMD]).
  • Other Agency Restrictions: OFAC’s 2017 Sudan Rule also did not affect any restrictions administered by other agencies, including but not limited to the export restrictions administered by the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) (see below).

 

BIS Relaxations

Simultaneously, BIS issued a new review policy for certain limited Sudan-related exports. BIS will continue to require a license for the export or re-export to Sudan of nearly all goods, technology, or software subject to the EAR that are specified on the Commerce Control List, and will continue to maintain its general policy of denial for applications to export or reexport most controlled items when intended for any end-user or end-use in Sudan, with two exceptions. BIS has now adopted a general policy of approval for the following two types of exports or reexports:

  • Civil Aircraft: items controlled only for AT reasons and “that are intended to ensure the safety of civil aviation or the safe operation of fixed-wing commercial passenger aircraft.”
  • Railroads: items controlled only for AT reasons that “will be used to inspect, design, construct, operate, improve, maintain, repair, overhaul or refurbish railroads in Sudan.”
  • This general policy of approval, however, does not apply to transactions involving “sensitive” end-users, including Sudan’s “military, police, and/or intelligence services and persons that are owned by or are part of or are operated or controlled by those services.”

 

Additional Risk Factors

In addition to the lingering sanctions and export control restrictions summarized above, there are additional risk factors to consider before undertaking any transactions with Sudan. These include, inter alia:

  • State Sponsor of Terrorism: These relaxations did not affect Sudan’s current designation as a state sponsor of terrorism.
  • Skepticism from the New Administration and the Hill: The continuation of the relaxations will be heavily dependent on the views of the incoming Administration. President Trump’s administration will be responsible for making the notification required in the EO and it could revoke these changes as quickly as President Obama’s administration implemented them.

OFAC Radically Expands Its Extraterritorial Jurisdiction with B Whale Ruling

Thursday, March 2nd, 2017 by Danielle McClellan

By: R. Clifton Burns, Esq., Bryan Cave LLP, Wash DC, Clif.Burns@bryancave.com, 202-508-6067

(Source: Export Law Blog. Reprinted by permission.)

The recent decision by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) to issue a finding of violation, but no fine, against B Whale, a member of the Taiwanese TMT Shipping Group represents a new high (or low, depending on your point of view) for OFAC’s general belief that it has jurisdiction over anyone anywhere in the world.  At issue was the transfer of Iranian oil from an Iranian vessel in international waters to a Monrovian-registered Liberian-flag ship owned by a Taiwanese company without any branches or business operations in the United States.

OFAC claimed that this was an illegal importation of Iranian goods into the United States in violation of section 560.201 of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (“ITSR”).  Say what?  According to OFAC, the foreign flagged ship in international waters became a part of the United States once TMT filed a bankruptcy petition in the United States, thereby placing all its assets under the control of the bankruptcy court.  Because, you see, the ITSR defines the United States in section 560.307 of the ITSR as “the United States, its territories and possessions, and all areas under the jurisdiction or authority thereof.”  I imagine that TMT, and probably the government of Taiwan, will be somewhat surprised to learn that real property owned by TMT in Taipei is now a part of the United States.  By this logic, a bankrupt’s trucks in foreign countries would become “areas” under the jurisdiction of the United States.  Certainly these absurd results demonstrate that “area” in section 560.307 means geographic areas and not simply any physical space somewhere in the world.

I am unable to find any precedent from OFAC itself or any other court or agency for such an expansive definition of the United States   Interestingly, Congress, when defining the scope of federal criminal law, stops far short of OFAC’s definition.  The definition of “United States” in the federal criminal code is defined as “all places and waters, continental or insular, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, except the Canal Zone.” See 18 U.S.C. § 5.  To cover ships, which are not “places and waters, continental and insular” the federal criminal codes defines the “special maritime and territorial jurisdiction” of the United States which covers ships on the high seas owned by at least one U.S. citizen or a foreign vessel with a scheduled departure or arrival in the United States “to the extent permitted by international law.”  See 18 U.S.C. § 7.  Ships owned by bankrupts aren’t either the United States or part of the special maritime jurisdiction as far as Congress was concerned.  It is hard to imagine that OFAC has the statutory authority to expand the scope of its jurisdiction in this fashion by calling every asset of a bankrupt anywhere on the face of the planet a part of “the United States.”

Not only does OFAC stretch the concept of “United States” beyond the breaking point, but also it does the same thing to the definition of “United States person.”  Whale B was found to have violated section 560.211 when it engaged in a transaction with a blocked Iranian vessel.  The violation occurred because OFAC decided that Whale B was a “United States person.” That term is defined in section 560.314 to cover a “person in the United States.”  And Whale B, a company organized under the laws of Taiwan and without any physical presence in the United States, was “in the United States” because it filed a bankruptcy case in the United States. It’s difficult to imagine where a principled limit could be drawn if filing a lawsuit in the United States means that a company is “in the United States.”  Is a company with a U.S copyright registration now “in the United States” and fully subject to U.S. sanctions? What if it has a dot com domain name issued by a U.S. registrar? Or it uses an email service that has servers in the United States?  Or it has a pending sales order it made with a U.S. company over the Internet?

And here’s one last comment on the B Whale shipwreck.  OFAC cites this as an aggravating factor: B Whale “took steps to conceal a ship-to-ship transfer of Iranian oil with an Iranian vessel on the SDN List … by … switching off the vessel’s automatic identification system during the time period corresponding with the ship-to-ship transfer.”  Apparently OFAC forgot that, because of the TMT bankruptcy, Whale B was subject to seizure and detention by foreign creditors in jurisdictions not interested in observing the automatic stay arising from the U.S. bankruptcy.  In such a situation, the more likely reason for turning off the AIS was the common practice of doing so to hide from foreign creditors, not from OFAC.

U.S. Antiboycott Compliance: New Federal List Published

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017 by Danielle McClellan

By: Melissa Proctor, Polsinelli PC

Companies doing business in the Middle East take note: The Treasury Department recently published its quarterly list of countries that currently require participation or cooperation with an international boycott, such as the Arab League‘s boycott of Israel.

Even though many of these countries are WTO members and were required to shut down their Arab League offices as a condition of membership, many boycott-related requests are still being issued by government agencies and companies in these countries. The countries that are designated on this list, which by the way are the very same countries that were listed in the Third Quarter list, are:

  • Iraq
  • Kuwait
  • Lebanon
  • Libya
  • Qatar
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Syria
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Yemen

To view the list, click here.

If you are not familiar with U.S. antiboycott requirements, Part 750 of the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) prohibits U.S. companies and their foreign affiliates from complying with requests related to a foreign boycott that is not sanctioned by the U.S. Government. Specifically, U.S. companies and their overseas affiliates are prohibited from agreeing to:

  1. Refuse to do business with or in Israel or with blacklisted companies
  2. Discriminate against other persons based on race, religion, sex, national origin or nationality
  3. Furnish information about business relationships with or in Israel or with blacklisted companies, or
  4. Furnish information about the race, religion, sex, or national origin of another person

Foreign boycott-related requests can take many forms, and can be either verbal or written. They can appear in bid invitations, purchase agreements, letters of credit and can even be seen in emails, telephone conversations and in-person meetings. Some recent examples of boycott-related requests include:

  • “Provide a certificate of origin stating that your goods are not products of Israel.”
  • “Provide the religion and nationality of your officers and board members.” 
  • “Suppliers cannot be on the Israel boycott list published by the central Arab League.”  
  • “Provide a signed statement from the shipping company or its agent containing the name, flag and nationality of the carrying vessel and its eligibility to enter Arab ports “

In addition, implementing letters of credit that contain foreign boycott terms or conditions is also prohibited under the EAR.

Antiboycott compliance is a key issue for U.S. companies doing business in the Middle East, and personnel on the front lines with customers and supply chain partners in these countries should be trained to identify potential foreign boycott-related requests and escalate them to senior compliance personnel or in-house counsel to determine the applicable OAC and IRS reporting requirements.

Companies that receive boycott-related requests must submit quarterly reports to the Office of Antiboycott Compliance (OAC) unless an exemption applies. Failing to timely report a boycott request or complying with the request itself can lead to the imposition of civil penalties by the OAC. The IRS also requires U.S. taxpayers to report their operations in countries that require participation or cooperation with an international boycott on IRS Form 5713 (International Boycott Report) – the forms are submitted annually with U.S. tax returns.  Failure to comply with the Internal Revenue Code’s antiboycott requirements can lead to the revocation of certain international tax credits and benefits.

© Polsinelli PC, Polsinelli LLP in California

US Oil & Gas Company Fined $25 Million from BIS & OFAC

Tuesday, December 20th, 2016 by Danielle McClellan

National Oilwell Varco, Inc., a Delaware corporation, and its Canadian subsidiaries, Dreco Energy Services, Ltd (Dreco) and NOV Elmar (NOV) have agreed to pay a combined $25 Million for violations of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations, and the Sudanese Sanctions Regulations.

The charges are as follows:

  • Between 2002 and 2005, National Oilwell Varco approved four Dreco commission payments to a UK based entity related to the sale and exportation of goods from Dreco to Iran. The four commission payments had a combined value of $2,630,091.
  • Between 2006 and 2008 National Oilwell Varco was involved in two transactions involving the sale and exportation of goods to Iran that totaled $13,596,980.
  • Between 2003 and 2007, Dreco knowingly exported (indirectly) goods from the US to fill seven orders from Iranian customers. The transactions totaled $526,480.
  • During 2007 and 2009, Dreco engaged in 45 transactions involving the sale of goods to Cuba totaling $1,707,964.
  • NOV engaged in two transactions between 2007 and 2008 involving the sale of goods or services to Cuba that totaled $103,119.
  • Finally, between 2005 and 2006 NOV engaged is a $20,928 transaction involving the exportation of goods from the US to Sudan.

OFAC considered the violations to be egregious since senior-level executives approved the commission payments and the NOV “willfully blinded” itself of the regulation violations by continuing to approve payments and communications. NOV will pay OFAC a settlement of $5,976,028, this will be deemed satisfied with its payment of $25,000,000 in relation to its settlement agreement between OFAC, BIS, and a Non-Prosecution Agreement (NPA).

OFAC considered the following to be aggravating factors:

  1. NOV’s conduct that gave rise to the Apparent Violations demonstrated at least reckless disregard for U.S. sanctions requirements;
  2. Senior managers at National Oilwell Varco, Inc. and Dreco knew or had reason to know that their respective business transactions giving rise to the ITSR-related apparent violations involved Iran;
  3. NOV’s conduct caused harm to sanctions program objectives by providing a significant and sustained economic benefit to the petroleum industries in Cuba, Iran, and Sudan;
  4. NOV is a large and sophisticated company that is engaged in the business of providing oilfield services around the world, including regions with high sanctions risk; and
  5. NOV’s compliance program at the time of the Apparent Violations was wholly inadequate.

OFAC considered the following to be mitigating factors:

  1. NOV had not received a Penalty Notice or Finding of Violation in the five years preceding the date of the earliest transaction giving rise to the Apparent Violations;
  2. NOV cooperated with OFAC’s investigation, including by agreeing to toll the statute of limitations for more than 2,600 days; and
  3. NOV has made efforts to remediate its compliance program and agreed to further compliance enhancements.

More Information: https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/CivPen/Documents/20161114_varco.pdf

Company Fined $4 Million for Exporting Seeds to Iran

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016 by Danielle McClellan

By: Danielle McClellan

PanAmerican Seed Company (PanAm) of West Chicago, Illinois, a division of Ball Horticultural Company has agreed to pay $4,320,000 to settle potential civil liability for alleged violations of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (31 C.F.R. part 560 ITSR). Its alleged that the company exported seeds, primarily of flowers, to two Iranian distributors on 48 different occasions between May 2009 and March 2012.

PanAm and Ball Horticultural employees (including several mid-level managers) were aware of the US economic sanctions involving Iran and the requirement to apply for licenses to export the seeds to Iran. PanAm concealed the shipments by shipping the seeds to consignees based in two third countries located in Europe or the Middle East, and then the Iranian customers arranged for the re-exportation of the seeds to Iran.

The maximum penalty for the violations would be $12 million, OFAC considered the following when applying the $4 million penalty:

OFAC considered the following to be aggravating factors:

  1. PanAm Seed willfully violated U.S. sanctions on Iran by engaging in, and systematically obfuscating, conduct it knew to be prohibited;
  2. PanAm Seed demonstrated recklessness with respect to U.S. sanctions requirements by ignoring its OFAC compliance responsibilities, despite substantial international sales and warnings that OFAC sanctions could be implicated;
  3. Multiple PanAm Seed and Ball Horticultural employees, including mid-level managers, had contemporaneous knowledge of the transactions giving rise to the Alleged Violations. They were aware that the seeds were intended for reexportation to Iran, and PanAm Seed continued sales to its Iranian distributors for nearly eight months after its Director of Finance learned of OFAC’s investigation;
  4. PanAm Seed engaged in this pattern of conduct over a period of years, providing over $770,000 in economic benefit to Iran;
  5. PanAm Seed did not initially cooperate with OFAC’s investigation, providing some information that was inaccurate, misleading, or incomplete; and
  6. PanAm Seed is a division of Ball Horticultural, a commercially sophisticated, international corporation.

OFAC considered the following to be mitigating factors:

  1. PanAm Seed has not received a Penalty Notice or Finding of Violation from OFAC in the five years preceding the earliest date of the transactions giving rise to the Alleged Violations, making it eligible for “first offense” mitigation of up to 25 percent;
  2. The exports at issue were likely eligible for an OFAC license under the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000;
  3. PanAm Seed took remedial steps to ensure future compliance with OFAC sanctions, including stopping all exports to Iran, implementing a compliance program, and training gat least some of its employees on OFAC sanctions; and
  4. PanAm Seed cooperated with OFAC by agreeing to toll the statute of limitations for a total of 882 days.

OFAC Information: https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/CivPen/Documents/20160913_panam.pdf

It’s Not A Good Time for Iran Violations: Company Fined Over $16 Million for Medical Supplies Exported to Iran, Sudan and Syria

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016 by Danielle McClellan

By: Danielle McClellan

Alcon Laboratories, Inc., (Fort Worth), Alcon Pharmaceuticals Ltd. (Fribourg, Switzerland) and Alcon Management, SA (Geneve, Switerland) (collectively, “Alcon”) have agreed to settle a potential civil liability with the US Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Controls (OFAC) and with the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS).

Between 2008 and 2011 Alcon exported end-use surgical and pharmaceutical products from their United States location to their sister companies in Switzerland and then along to distributors in Iran, Sudan and Syria. The charges are broken down as follows:

OFAC Charging Details

On 452 occasions Alcon violated the Sudanese Sanctions Regulations (SSR) when they sold and exported medical supplies to distributors in Sudan. On 61 occasions they violated the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (ITSR) when they sold and exported their products to Iranian distributors. Alcon will pay $7,617,150 related to the OFAC violations. The statutory maximum monetary penalty amount was $138,982,584 and the base penalty amount for the Apparent Violations was $16,927,000.

OFAC considered the following to be aggravating factors in this case:

  1. Alcon demonstrated reckless disregard for U.S. sanctions requirements by having virtually no compliance program, despite significant business involving the exportation of goods from the United States to Iran and Sudan, and by failing to take adequate steps to investigate a third-party freight forwarder’s cessation of shipments to Iran on behalf of Alcon;
  2. Alcon and its then-senior management knew of the conduct giving rise to the Apparent Violations; and
  3. Alcon is a sophisticated multinational corporation with extensive experience in international trade.

OFAC considered the following to be mitigating factors in this case:

  1. The harm to U.S. sanctions program objectives was limited because the exports involved medical end-use products that were licensable under the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000, and in fact had been previously and subsequently licensed by OFAC for Alcon;
  2. Alcon has no prior OFAC sanctions history, including receipt of a Penalty Notice or Finding of Violation in the five years preceding the date of the earliest transaction giving rise to the Apparent Violations, making it eligible for “first violation” mitigation of up to 25 percent;
  3. Alcon took remedial action by ceasing the unlicensed exports to sanctioned countries, initiating an internal investigation of the Apparent Violations, and instituting a robust compliance program that now includes:
    1. Updated or newly-created corporate export and trade sanctions compliance documents,
    2. Enhanced trade compliance training, and (c) enhanced compliance procedures for requesting OFAC licenses; and (4) Alcon substantially cooperated with OFAC’s investigation, including by providing detailed and well-organized information and entering into several statute of limitations tolling agreements with OFAC.

BIS Charging Details

Alcon has received 100 charges of Acting with Knowledge of a Violation, 45 charges of Unlicensed Reexports to Syria, and 43 Charges of Unlicensed Exports to Iran. In the cases of unlicensed exports, Alcon Pharmaceuticals (Switzerland) sent orders and invoices to Alcon labs (United States) with instructions to ship the orders to warehouses and distribution centers that it used in various countries, most specifically Switzerland. The facilities would receive the products and then Alcon Pharmaceuticals transferred and/or forwarded the items to Iran and Syria without required government licenses.

Alcon collectively has been accessed a civil penalty from BIS in the amount of $8,100,000, all of which is due, and will accrue interest if not paid on time. Alcon must also pay the penalty amount due to OFAC in a timely manner and comply with all of the terms related to the OFAC Settlement Agreement.

OFAC Information: https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/CivPen/Documents/20160705_alcon.pdf

BIS Information: https://efoia.bis.doc.gov/index.php/component/docman/doc_download/1068-e2466?Itemid=

3 Men & Illegal Exports to Syria

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016 by Danielle McClellan

By: Danielle McClellan

In November 2012, three individuals and one company were indicted with charges of criminal conspiracy, wire fraud, illegal export of goods, money laundering, and false statements. Until now the indictment remained under seal pending the arrest of the defendants.

Between 2003 and 2012, d-Deri Contracting & Trading (owned by Ahmad Feras Diri of London) was exporting goods originally from the US from Global Parts Supply (owned by Harold Rinko of Hallstead, PA) to his brother and business partner Moawea Deri who was located in Syria.  The goods purchased from Rinko’s US company were done so based on false invoices, undervalued and mislabeled goods.  Then the purchased goods were exported by falsely listing their identity and final geographic location on all documentation. The items would be shipped from the US to Jordan, the UAE, and the UK, and finally transshipped to Syria.

The items exported allegedly included:

  • a portable gas scanner used for detection of chemical warfare agents by civil defense, military, police and border control agencies;
  • a handheld instrument for field detection and classification of chemical warfare agents and toxic industrial chemicals;
  • a laboratory source for detection of chemical warfare agents and toxic industrial chemicals in research, public safety and industrial environments;
  • a rubber mask for civil defense against chemicals and gases;
  • a meter used to measure chemicals and their composition;
  • flowmeters for measuring gas streams;
  • a stirrer for mixing and testing liquid chemical compounds;
  • industrial engines for use in oil and gas field operations and a device used to accurately locate buried pipelines

Note: Nearly all exports to Syria will be denied, other than a few items categorized under humanitarian food and medicine. The goal of the embargo on Syria is to shut down the supply chain used by the Syrian state to support terrorism and create proliferate weapons of mass destruction, and in this specific case, chemical weapons.

Fast forward to this month, Ahmad Feras Diri (age 43) of London has plead guilty to conspiracy to illegally export items used to detect chemical warfare agents to Syria. He lost his extradition fight in the UK in November 2015 at which point he was brought to the US to face the charges. Diri admitted that he conspired to export items from the US through third party countries to customers in Syria without obtaining the required US Commerce Department licenses.

Harold Rinko (age 73 of Hallstead, PA) was indicted by a grand jury in November 2012 and admitted in court that he conspired to export the items from the US through third party countries to customers in Syria without an export license.

Moawea Deri remains at large and is considered a fugitive but will likely remain in Syria as extradition is unlikely to occur.

“This extradition demonstrates HSI’s commitment to use all its resources to prevent sensitive and restricted technology from being exported to Syria through the black market,” said HSI Philadelphia Special Agent in Charge John Kelleghan. “No good comes of illegal exports to Syria, especially during this time of gross misgovernment and civil strife. As the principal enforcer of export controls, HSI will continue to do everything in its power to ensure that sensitive technology doesn’t fall into the wrong hands in Syria. I applaud our colleagues at the Department of Commerce, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, along with our law enforcement counterparts in the United Kingdom. This coordinated effort helped us make this complex investigation a success.”

More Information: https://www.ice.gov/news/releases/uk-resident-connected-syrian-export-scheme-extradited-us-face-federal-charges

Belgium Company Pays $350,000 after Exporting Coatings, Pigments and Paints to Iran

Wednesday, April 6th, 2016 by Danielle McClellan

By: Danielle McClellan

Chemical Partners Europe (CPE) S.A. of Brussels, Belgium has been charged with 6 counts of Evasion after exporting coatings, pigments and paints from the US to their facility in Brussels  and then to Iran. The exported items were suitable for use in nuclear facilities and had marine applications, making them subject to the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) as well as the Iranian Transactions Regulations (Governed by the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)).

Between January 2010 and March 2011, the company purchased the coatings, pigments and paints, valued at $244,358, from a US company and concealed the fact that the ultimate destination was actually Iran. The shipper’s export declarations filed listed CPE as the ultimate consignee and Belgium as the country of ultimate destination. Once CPE received the items they transferred them directly to Iran without proper authorization.

CPE has agreed to pay $350,000 to settle the charges; they will not be debarred. Charging Letter

BIS & OFAC Slightly Relax Controls on Cuba

Wednesday, April 6th, 2016 by Danielle McClellan

By: Danielle McClellan

On March 16, 2016, the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) published a final rule amending the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) by allowing vessels departing the US on temporary sojourn to Cuba with cargo for other destinations to travel to Cuba under a license exception instead of having to obtain a license for the cargo. The rule also allows exports of certain items to persons authorized by the Department of the Treasury to establish and maintain a physical or business presence in Cuba. Finally, the rule adopts a licensing policy of case-by-case review for exports and reexports of items that would enable or facilitate export of items produced by the private sector in Cuba (subject to certain limitations).

Specific Changes to the EAR:

This rule revises § 736.2(b)(8) of the EAR, which prohibits shipments from transiting certain destinations, to explicitly state that the prohibition does not apply if a license or license exception authorizes the in-transit shipment.

  • This rule revises § 740.15(d)(6) of the EAR to authorize temporary sojourn to Cuba of a vessel carrying cargo destined to other countries provided that such cargo departs with the vessel at the end of its temporary sojourn to Cuba, does not enter the Cuban economy and is not transferred to another vessel while in Cuba.
  • This rule revises § 740.21(e) to remove the individual references to categories of persons authorized by OFAC to establish and maintain a physical or business presence in Cuba pursuant to 31 CFR 515.573, and to authorize exports and reexports to all such persons and to persons whose physical or business presence is authorized by a specific license issued by OFAC.
  • This rule revises § 746.2(b)(3)(i), to add a paragraph(b)(3)(i)(D), which sets a policy of case-by-case review of items that will enable or facilitate export from Cuba of items produced by the Cuban private sector.
  • It also revises Note 1 to clarify that the license condition described therein is intended to preclude use of items authorized by licenses bearing that condition from being reexported from Cuba or being used to enable or facilitate exports from Cuba that primarily generate revenue for the state.

Federal Register Notice: https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2016-03-16/pdf/2016-06019.pdf
In addition to the changes to the EAR, The Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is amending the Cuban Assets Control Regulations to further implement these changes along with facilitating travel to Cuba for authorized financial transactions, and authorize additional business and physical presence in Cuba.

Specific Changes to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations:

  • OFAC is amending section 515.565(b) to remove the requirement that people-to-people educational travel be conducted under the auspices of an organization that sponsors such exchanges. This section now authorizes individuals to travel to Cuba provided that, among other things, the traveler engage while in Cuba in a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities that are intended to enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities, and that will result in meaningful interaction between the traveler and individuals in Cuba.
  • OFAC is amending section 515.571 to remove the limitation on the receipt of compensation in excess of amounts covering living expenses and the acquisition of goods for personal consumption by a Cuban national present in the United States in a non- immigrant status or pursuant to other non-immigrant travel authorization issued by the U.S. government. New section (a)(5)(i) explicitly authorizes the receipt of any salary or other compensation consistent with the individual’s non-immigrant status or other non-immigrant travel authorization, provided that the recipient is not subject to any special tax assessment by the Cuban government in connection with the receipt of the salary or other compensation.
  • New section 515.571(e) authorizes all transactions related to the sponsorship or hiring of a Cuban national to work in the United States and provides that an employer may not make additional payments to the Cuban government in connection with the sponsorship or hiring of a Cuban national. Section 515.571(e) also authorizes transactions in connection with the filing of an application for non- immigrant travel authorization. OFAC is also making conforming edits in section 515.560(d)(3) and the Note to section 515.565(a)(5).
  • OFAC is adding section 515.585(c) to authorize individuals who are persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction and who are located in a third country to engage in the purchase or acquisition of merchandise subject to the prohibitions in section 515.204, including Cuban-origin goods, for personal consumption while in a third country, and to receive or obtain services from Cuba or a Cuban national that are ordinarily incident to travel and maintenance within a third country. This provision does not authorize the importation of such merchandise into the United States, including as accompanied baggage. OFAC is making a conforming change to section 515.410.
  • OFAC is amending section 515.584(d) to authorize U-turn transactions in which Cuba or a Cuban national has an interest to be conducted through the U.S. financial system. This provision authorizes funds transfers from a bank outside the United States that pass through one or more U.S. financial institutions before being transferred to a bank outside the United States where neither the originator nor the beneficiary is a person subject to U.S. jurisdiction. Transactions through the U.S. financial system that do not meet these criteria, including all transactions where the originator or beneficiary is a person subject to U.S. jurisdiction, remain prohibited unless otherwise authorized or exempt under the Regulations.
  • OFAC is also making conforming edits to section 515.584(e), regarding unblocking of certain previously blocked funds transfers.
  • OFAC is adding new section 515.584(g) to authorize U.S. banking institutions to process U.S. dollar monetary instruments presented indirectly by Cuban financial institutions. Correspondent accounts used for transactions authorized pursuant to this section may be denominated in U.S. dollars. This section does not authorize banking institutions subject to U.S. jurisdiction to open correspondent accounts for banking institutions that are nationals of Cuba.
  • OFAC is adding new section 515.584(h) to authorize banking institutions to open and maintain accounts solely in the name of a Cuban national located in Cuba for the purposes only of receiving payments in the United States in connection with transactions authorized pursuant to or exempt from the prohibitions of this part and remitting such payments to Cuba. This provision would allow, for example, a Cuban national author located in Cuba to open an account with a bank or online payment platform in the United States to receive payments for sales of her book. This provision is in addition to the two existing authorizations for banking institutions to operate certain accounts on behalf of certain Cuban nationals. See Note to paragraph (a) of section 515.571(a)(5) and section 515.585(b).
  • To avoid confusion, OFAC also is making conforming edits to the Note to section 515.571(a)(5) to clarify that all three account authorizations extend to banking institutions.
  • OFAC is amending section 515.573 to authorize additional persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction to establish a business and physical presence in Cuba.
  • OFAC amended section 515.573 to authorize certain persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction to establish a physical presence, such as an office or other facility, in Cuba, to facilitate authorized transactions. OFAC is now expanding this authorization to include the following additional categories of persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction: entities engaging in non-commercial activities authorized by section 515.574 (Support for the Cuban People); entities engaging in humanitarian projects set forth in section 515.575(b) (Humanitarian projects); and private foundations or research or educational institutes engaging in transactions authorized by section 515.576.
  • OFAC is also adding a note to clarify that the activities that may be carried out by exporters of items exported or reexported pursuant to authorization by the Department of Commerce or OFAC, or that are otherwise exempt, at a physical presence authorized by this section include the assembly of such items.
  • OFAC is adding a new provision in section 515.565 to authorize the provision of educational grants, scholarships, or awards to a Cuban national or in which Cuba or a Cuban national otherwise has an interest. This could include, for example, the provision of educational scholarships for Cuban students to pursue academic studies for a degree. OFAC is also adding a note to section 515.575(b) to clarify that the existing authorization includes provision of grants or awards for humanitarian projects in or related to Cuba that are designed to directly benefit the Cuban people as set forth in that section. Telecommunications and internet- related services.
  • OFAC is amending section 515.578 to allow the importation of Cuban-origin software. OFAC is also making several technical and conforming edits. In particular, OFAC is correcting a typographical error in section 515.533(d)(2).
  • OFAC is also conforming the language of the general authorization in section 515.559(d) to the corresponding authorization in section 515.533(d).

Federal Register Notice: https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2016-03-16/pdf/2016-06018.pdf

A Few Things That Can Be Exported to Cuba

Tuesday, March 29th, 2016 by Danielle McClellan

By: Danielle McClellan

BIS has released a final rule revising the licensing policy from possible approval on a case-by case-basis to a general policy of approval for exports and reexports of the following to Cuba:

  • Telecommunications items that would improve communications to, from, and among the Cuban people;
  • Certain commodities and software to human rights organizations or to individuals and non-governmental organizations that promote independent activity intended to strengthen civil society in Cuba;
  • Commodities and software to U.S. news bureaus in Cuba whose primary purpose is the gathering and dissemination of news to the general public; and
  • Agricultural items that are outside the scope of “agricultural commodities” as defined in part 772 of the EAR (such as insecticides, pesticides and herbicides) as well as agricultural commodities not eligible for License Exception Agricultural commodities (AGR) (such as those that are specified in an entry on the Commerce Control List, i.e., are not designated EAR99).
  • Items that are necessary to ensure the safety of civil aviation and the safe operation of commercial aircraft engaged in international air transportation, including the export or reexport of such aircraft leased to state-owned enterprises. Given a substantial increase in air travel to and from Cuba, BIS is making the change to emphasize the importance of civil aviation safety and to recognize that access to aircraft used in international air transportation that meet U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and European Aviation Safety Agency operating standards by Cuban state-owned enterprises contributes to that safety.

This rule also amends the exceptions to the general policy of denial by also adopting a case-by-case review policy for exports and reexports of some of the following:

  • Exports and reexports to state-owned enterprises, agencies, and other organizations of the Cuban government that provide goods and services for the use and benefit of the Cuban people.
  • Exports and reexports of items for agricultural production, artistic endeavors (including the creation of public content, historic and cultural works and preservation), education, food processing, disaster preparedness, relief and response, public health and sanitation, residential construction and renovation and public transportation.
  • Exports and reexports of items for use in construction of: facilities for treating public water supplies, facilities for supplying electricity or other energy to the Cuban people, sports and recreation facilities, and other infrastructure that directly benefits the Cuban people.
  • Additionally, it includes exports and reexports to wholesalers and retailers of items for domestic consumption by the Cuban people.

The rule also adds the term “reexport” to the existing statement of a policy of case-by-case review of applications for aircraft or vessels on temporary sojourn to Cuba. Finally, this rule will consolidate the statements of licensing policy for exports and reexports to Cuba (previously the policies were in six different paragraphs spread in different places with inconsistent wording).

Additionally, OFAC released a final rule coordinating with these changes set forth by BIS. OFAC is making amendments to the Cuba Sanctions Regulations with respect to non-agricultural export trade financing and travel and related services:

  • Section 515.533(a) will remove the former limitations on payment and financing terms for all exports from the United States or reexports of 100 percent U.S.-origin items from a third country that are licensed or otherwise authorized by the Department of Commerce, other than exports of agricultural items or commodities. As required by the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000, 22 U.S.C. 7207(b)(1), such agricultural exports continue to be authorized only if one of the payment and financing terms specified in the statute are used.
  • Section 515.584 will add an authorization for depository institutions to provide financing for such authorized exports and making a conforming change to section 515.421.
  • Carrier services by air: section 515.572 will be amended to authorize the entry into blocked space, code-sharing, and leasing arrangements to facilitate the provision of carrier services by air authorized pursuant to section 515.572(a)(2), including the entry into such arrangements with a national of Cuba.
  • Temporary sojourn: section 515.533 will be amended to authorize travel-related and other transactions directly incident to the facilitation of the temporary sojourn of aircraft and vessels as authorized by the Department of Commerce for travel between the United States and Cuba, including by certain personnel required for normal operation and service on board a vessel or aircraft or to provide services to a vessel in port or aircraft on the ground.
  • Transactions related to information and informational materials: section 515.545 will be  expand the general license authorizing travel- related and other transactions that are directly incident to the export, import, or transmission of informational materials to include professional media or artistic productions in Cuba. Such productions include media programs (such as movies and television programs), music recordings, and the creation of artworks. OFAC is removing a restriction in an existing general license and explicitly authorizing transactions relating to the creation, dissemination, or artistic or other substantive alteration or enhancement of informational materials, including employment of Cuban nationals and the remittance of royalties or other payments. OFAC also is making a conforming change to section 515.206.
  • Professional meetings: section 515.564 will now authorize travel-related and other transactions to organize professional meetings or conferences in Cuba.
  • Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions: section 515.567 will now authorize travel-related and other transactions to organize amateur and semi-professional international sports federation competitions and public performances, clinics, workshops, other athletic or non-athletic competitions, and exhibitions in Cuba. OFAC is also removing the existing requirements for certain events that all U.S. profits from the event after costs be donated to an independent nongovernmental organization in Cuba or a U.S.-based charity and that workshops and clinics be organized and run, at least in part, by the authorized traveler.
  • Humanitarian projects: section 515.575 will expand the list of authorized humanitarian projects to include disaster preparedness and response.

BIS Notice: https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2016-01-27/pdf/2016-01557.pdf

OFAC Notice: https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2016-01-27/pdf/2016-01559.pdf