Archive for the ‘Treasury Dept’ Category

Treasury/OFAC Announces Settlement Agreement With IPSA International Services, Inc.

Monday, October 16th, 2017 by Danielle McClellan

(Source: https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/OFAC-Enforcement/Pages/OFAC-Recent-Actions.aspx)

IPSA International Services, Inc. of Phoenix, Arizona agreed to settle its potential civil liability for 72 apparent violations of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. part 560 (ITSR). The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced IPSA’s settlement of $259,200 on August 7, 2017. The apparent violations include, on 44 separate occasions, IPSA’s importation of Iranian-origin services into the United States in apparent violation of § 560.201 of the ITSR, and on 28 separate occasions, IPSA’s engagement in transactions or dealings related to Iranian-origin services by approving and facilitating its foreign subsidiaries’ payments to providers of Iranian-origin services in apparent violation of §§ 560.206 and 560.208 of the ITSR.  OFAC concluded that IPSA did not voluntarily disclose these apparent violations, and that the apparent violations constitute a non-egregious case.

OFAC’s web notice is included below.

ENFORCEMENT INFORMATION FOR AUGUST 10, 2017

Information concerning the civil penalties process can be found in the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) regulations governing each sanctions program; the Reporting, Procedures, and Penalties Regulations, 31 C.F.R. part 501; and the Economic Sanctions Enforcement Guidelines, 31 C.F.R. part 501, app. A. These references, as well as recent final civil penalties and enforcement information, can be found on OFAC’s website.

ENTITIES – 31 CFR 501.805(d)(1)(i)

IPSA International Services, Inc. Settles Potential Civil Liability for Apparent Violations of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations: IPSA International Services, Inc. (IPSA), Phoenix, Arizona, has agreed to pay $259,200 to settle its potential civil liability for 72 apparent violations of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. part 560 (ITSR). [FN/1] The apparent violations involve, on 44 separate occasions, IPSA’s importation of Iranian-origin services into the United States in apparent violation of § 560.201 of the ITSR, and on 28 separate occasions, IPSA’s engagement in transactions or dealings related to Iranian-origin services by approving and facilitating its foreign subsidiaries’ payments to providers of Iranian- origin services in apparent violation of §§ 560.206 and 560.208 of the ITSR.

OFAC determined that IPSA did not voluntarily disclose the apparent violations, and that the apparent violations constitute a non-egregious case. The total transaction value of the apparent violations was $290,784. The statutory maximum civil penalty amount in this case was $18,000,000, and the base civil penalty amount was $720,000.

IPSA is a global business investigative and regulatory risk mitigation firm that provides due diligence services for various countries and their citizenship by investment programs. In March 2012, IPSA entered into an engagement letter and fee agreement with a third country with respect to its citizenship by investment program (“Contract No. 1”). In October 2012, IPSA’s subsidiary in Vancouver, Canada (“IPSA Canada”) entered into a similar contract with a government-owned financial institution in a separate third country (“Contract No. 2”). While the majority of the applicants to both of these programs were nationals from countries not subject to OFAC sanctions, some were Iranian nationals. Since most of the information about Iranian applicants could not be checked or verified by sources outside Iran, IPSA Canada and IPSA’s subsidiary in Dubai, United Arab Emirates subsequently hired subcontractors to conduct the necessary due diligence in Iran, and those subcontractors in turn hired third parties to validate information that could only be obtained or verified within Iran. Although it was IPSA’s foreign subsidiaries that managed and performed both Contract No. 1 and Contract No. 2, with regard to Contract No. 1, IPSA appears to have imported Iranian-origin services into the United States because the foreign subsidiaries conducted the due diligence in Iran on behalf of and for the benefit of IPSA. With regard to Contract No. 2, IPSA also appears to have engaged in transactions or dealings related to Iranian-origin services and facilitated the foreign subsidiaries’ engagement in such transactions or dealings because IPSA reviewed, approved, and initiated the foreign subsidiaries’ payments to providers of the Iranian-origin services.

The settlement amount reflects OFAC’s consideration of the following facts and circumstances, pursuant to the General Factors under OFAC’s Economic Sanctions Enforcement Guidelines, 31 C.F.R. part 501, app. A. OFAC considered the following to be aggravating factors: (1) IPSA failed to exercise a minimal degree of caution or care when it imported background investigation services of Iranian origin into the United States and when it reviewed, approved, and initiated its foreign subsidiaries’ payments to providers of Iranian-origin services, and the frequency and duration of the apparent violations constitute a pattern or practice of conduct; (2) at least one of IPSA’s senior management knew or had reason to know that it was importing and/or engaging in transactions or dealings related to services of Iranian origin; (3) the transactions giving rise to the apparent violations resulted in economic benefits to Iran, and the conduct underlying the apparent violations is not eligible for OFAC authorization under existing licensing policy [FN/2]; (4) IPSA is a commercially sophisticated company operating internationally with experience in U.S. sanctions; and (5) IPSA’s OFAC compliance program was ineffective in that it did not recognize or react to the risks presented by engaging in transactions that involved Iranian-origin background investigation services.

OFAC considered the following to be mitigating factors: (1) IPSA has no prior OFAC sanctions history in the five years preceding the earliest date of the transactions giving rise to the apparent violations; (2) IPSA undertook significant remedial measures by taking swift action to cease the prohibited activities, conducting an investigation to discover the causes and extent of the apparent violations, and adopting new internal controls and procedures to prevent reoccurrence of the apparent violations; and (3) IPSA substantially cooperated with OFAC’s investigation by conducting an internal look-back investigation for potential sanctions violations and submitting an investigation report to OFAC without receiving an administrative subpoena, promptly providing detailed additional information and documentation in a well-organized manner in response to OFAC’s multiple requests for information, and entering into a statute of limitations tolling agreement.

For more information regarding OFAC regulations, please go here.

CSE Global Limited and CSE TransTel Pte. Ltd. Pay Settlement for Apparent Violations Involving Iranian Companies

Monday, October 16th, 2017 by Danielle McClellan

By: Ashleigh Foor

A solely-owned subsidiary of CSE Global Limited (an international technology group), CSE TransTel Pte. Ltd., appears to have violated § 1705 (a) of IEEPA and § 560.203 of the ITSR and has agreed to pay a $12,027,066 settlement for the apparent 104 violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act 1 (IEEPA) and the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. part 560 (ITSR). The apparent violations occurred on or around June 4, 2012 through March 27, 2013 when TransTel appears to have involved at least six different financial institutions in the unauthorized exportation or re-exportation of services from the United States to Iran, a prohibition of § 560.204 of the ITSR.

OFAC concluded that TransTel did not voluntarily make known these apparent violations, which OFAC found to be grounds for a serious case. The maximum and base civil monetary penalty for the apparent violations was $38,181,161.

TransTel first signed contracts with and received purchase orders from Iranian companies starting August 25, 2010 through November 5, 2011. The purchase orders were for multiple energy projects taking place in Iran and/or Iranian territory. In order to carry out the orders to deliver and install telecommunications equipment, TransTel hired several Iranian companies to deliver these goods and services on its behalf.

Preceding these interactions with Iranian companies, CSE Global and TransTel opened separate Singapore bank accounts (the “Bank”). Then-Managing Director and CSE Global’s then-Group Chief Executive Officer signed and sent a letter titled “Sanctions – Letter of Undertaking” to the Bank with the following statement: “In consideration of [the Bank] agreeing to continue providing banking services in Singapore to our company, we, CSE TransTel Pte. Ltd … hereby undertake not to route any transactions related to Iran through [the Bank], whether in Singapore or elsewhere.”  The Bank continued to provide financial services to the company after receiving the Letter of Undertaking and around June 2012, less than two months after the Letter of Undertaking was delivered, TransTel began transferring USD funds related to its Iranian business.

On or around the dates of June 4, 2012 to March 27, 2013 Transtel appears to have violated § 1705 (a) of IEEPA and/or § 560.203 of the ITSR when it initiated 104 USD wire transfers totaling more than $11,111,000 involving Iran. Transfers from the Bank went to several different third-party contacts including Iranian vendors. There was never any mention of Iran, the Iranian projects, or any Iranian parties on documentations involved in these transactions.

The settlement amount reflects OFAC’s consideration of the following facts and circumstances, pursuant to the General Factors under OFAC’s Economic Sanctions Enforcement Guidelines, 31 C.F.R. part 501, app. A. OFAC considered the following to be aggravating factors:

(1) TransTel willfully and recklessly caused apparent violations of U.S. economic sanctions by engaging in, and systematically obfuscating, conduct it knew to be prohibited, including by materially misrepresenting to its bank that it would not route Iran-related business through the bank’s branch in Singapore or elsewhere, and by engaging in a pattern or practice that lasted for 10 months;

(2) TransTel’s then-senior management had actual knowledge of – and played an active role in – the conduct underlying the apparent violations;

(3) TransTel’s actions conveyed significant economic benefit to Iran and/or persons on OFAC’s List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons by processing dozens of transactions through the U.S. financial system that totaled $11,111,812 and benefited Iran’s oil, gas, and power industries; and

(4) TransTel is a commercially sophisticated company that engages in business in multiple countries.

 

OFAC considered the following to be mitigating factors:

(1) TransTel has not received a penalty notice, Finding of Violation, or cautionary letter from OFAC in the five years preceding the date of the earliest transaction giving rise to the apparent violations;

(2) TransTel and CSE Global have undertaken remedial steps to ensure compliance with U.S. sanctions programs; and

(3) TransTel and CSE Global provided substantial cooperation during the course of OFAC’s investigation, including by submitting detailed information to OFAC in an organized manner, and responding to several inquiries in a complete and timely fashion.

This enforcement action reflects compliance obligations for all companies that conduct business in OFAC-sanctioned jurisdictions or process transactions through or related in any way to the United States. Prior to signing agreement letters, representatives should be certain they and their company are willing and able to abide by rules set forth.

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

Treasury Releases List of Boycotted Countries

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014 by Brooke Driver

By: Brooke Driver

The Department of Treasury released the most current list of countries which require or may require participation in, or cooperation with, an international boycott, which includes:

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

This list relates to the US antiboycott provisions in the IRS tax code that prohibit US persons in the US and abroad from complying with the Arab League boycott of Israel. While the Commerce Department does not publish a similar list for its antiboycott rules in the Export Administration Regulations, this Treasury list is certainly a clear indicator of where companies should focus their limited compliance resources when it comes to the EAR antiboycott rules.

Treasury Department Releases Foreign Sanctions Evaders List

Thursday, March 13th, 2014 by Brooke Driver

By: Brooke Driver

On February 6, the Treasury Department released its new Foreign Sanctions Evaders List, which you should incorporate into your screening process for selecting potential international clients and associates. The list identifies foreign individuals and entities that have either violated, attempted to violate, conspired to violate or caused a violation of U.S. economic and financial sanctions on Syria or Iran or facilitated deceptive transactions for or on behalf of persons subject to such sanctions. Individuals and entities included on the list are prohibited from working with U.S. commercial or financial systems. Likewise, U.S. persons or companies are forbidden to directly or indirectly enter into business relations with any of the listed parties unless OFAC grants permission or the transaction is exempt under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.

To view the list, click here: http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/SDN-List/Pages/fse_list.aspx.

Treasury Identifies Countries Requiring Cooperation With an International Boycott

Thursday, January 17th, 2013 by Danielle McClellan

By: John Black

Once again the Treasury Department has identified the countries cooperating with an international boycott that raises issues related to claiming foreign tax credits under the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), specifically section 999(a)(3) of the IRS Code of 1986. The countries are:

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

The IRS antiboycott rules come into play in many of the same situations in which the antiboycott provisions in Part 760 of the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) come into play. While the Commerce Department does not publish a list of countries for its EAR Part 760 antiboycott rules, as a practical matter the IRS list certainly represents many of the highest risk countries for EAR purposes so it is a good starting point for the focus of your EAR antiboycott compliance program. For EAR compliance purposes, US persons should also be aware that certain other Moslem countries cooperate with the Arab League boycott of Israel and present antiboycott compliance issues. These other countries include Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia and Pakistan.

For the actual Federal Register notice go to http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-11-16/html/2012-27737.htm

Illegal Stripping at Standard Chartered Bank Nets $327 Million for OFAC+ Violations

Thursday, January 17th, 2013 by Danielle McClellan

By: John Black

(Editor’s Note: That is perhaps one of the most attention grabbing export control headlines ever.)

On December 10, 2012 the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in the US Treasury Department announced a $132 million settlement agreement with Standard Chartered Bank (SCB) to settle alleged violations of US trade embargoes and sanctions. The $132 million OFAC settlement is part of a combined global settlement of $327 million with federal and local government partners. The settlement is related to alleged violations by the London and Dubai offices of SCB of a number of U.S trade embargoes and sanctions programs, including those relating to Iran, Burma, Libya and Sudan and the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Sanctions Regulations.

“Today’s settlement is the result of an exhaustive interagency investigation into Standard Chartered Bank’s attempts to violate U.S. sanctions programs through the ‘stripping’ from payment messages of critical information,” said OFAC Director Adam J. Szubin. “We remain committed to working with our partners in the regulatory and law enforcement community to ensure that the U.S. financial systems are protected from the risks associated with this type of illicit financial behavior.”

According to OFAC, from 2001 to 2007, SCB’s London head office and its Dubai branch engaged in stripping practices that interfered with the implementation of U.S. economic sanctions by financial institutions in the United States, including SCB’s New York branch. In London, those practices included omitting or removing references to US-sanctioned locations or entities from payment messages sent to U.S. financial institutions. SCB replaced the names of ordering customers on payment messages with special characters, effectively obscuring the true originator and sanctioned party in the transaction; and forwarding payment messages to US financial institutions that falsely referenced SCB as the ordering institution. In Dubai, the practices included sending payment messages to or through the United States without references to locations or entities that the US banks would have spotted as creating US sanctions issues. As a result, millions of dollars of payments were routed through U.S. banks for or on behalf of sanctioned parties in apparent violation of U.S. sanctions.

In addition, SCB’s New York branch settled charges related to eight apparent violations of the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Sanctions Regulations (FNKSR).

Under the settlement agreement, SCB is required to put in place and maintain policies and procedures to minimize the risk of the recurrence of such conduct in the future. SCB is also required to provide OFAC with copies of submissions to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (Board of Governors) relating to the OFAC compliance review that it will be conducting as part of its settlement with the Board of Governors.

US Publishes Rules to Prohibit Foreign Subsidiaries of US Companies from Doing Business with Iran

Thursday, January 17th, 2013 by Danielle McClellan

By: John Black

As we described in past issues, on December 26, 2012, the United States published a Federal Register notice to revise the Iranian Transaction and Sanctions Regulations (ITSR) to prohibit foreign-based subsidiaries of US companies from being involved in most activities with Iran. The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in the US Treasury Department revised the ITSR to implement elements of the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 and multiple executive orders.

One of the key changes is that a new section 560.215 was added to the ITSR to prohibit entities owned or controlled by a United States person and established or maintained outside the United States from “knowingly” engaging in activities in which US persons have long been prohibited from engaging. These entities outside the United States, let’s call them foreign subsidiaries, are “owned or controlled by a US person if the US person:

  • Holds a 50 percent or greater equity interest by vote or value in the entity;
  • Holds a majority of seats on the board of directors of the entity; or
  • Otherwise controls the actions, policies, or personnel decisions of the entity.

Now, foreign subsidiaries, like US persons, are prohibited from knowingly engaging in any transaction directly or indirectly with Government of Iran or any person subject to the jurisdiction of Iran (for example, any entity located in Iran). “Knowingly” means having actual knowledge or reason to know. If you combine “reason to know” with engaging “indirectly” in an activity, you have a broad prohibition that could create huge compliance challenges for large and complex organizations.

There are two key exemptions from this new prohibition on foreign subsidiaries. The first applies to certain activities related to the natural gas pipeline from the Shah Deniz natural gas field in Azerbaijan’s sector of the Caspian Sea to Turkey and Europe (and related pipeline projects). The second exemption applies to authorized intelligence activities of the US Government, which frees up the US CIA and its affiliates from having to file voluntary disclosures for actions in Iran.

The ITSR includes a “winding down” general license provision that gives foreign subsidiaries a short time period to end their activities involving Iran. ITSR 560.555 authorizes activities normally incident to winding down newly prohibited activities through March 8, 2013 as long as no US persons are involved in those activities.

On a related point, section 4 of an October 9, 2012 Executive Order says that the penalties for a foreign subsidiaries violations may be assessed against the owning/controlling US company but the penalties will not be applied if the US person divests or terminates its business with the entity by February 6, 2013.

When the US Government imposed its trade embargo on Iran back in the mid-1990’s it intentionally allowed foreign subsidiaries to do business with Iran as long as the US parent company was not involved. Not only are those days gone, but now US persons face the difficult, and in some cases nearly impossible, task of ending their foreign subsidiaries activities in Iran or ending their ownership/control of the foreign subsidiary. Good luck will be needed for this impossible task, even for those companies who began ending their Iran activities long before these new rules entered into force.

For the complete Federal Register notice go to http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/fr77_75845.pdf

Treasury Lists Countries Requiring Cooperation With an International Boycott

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012 by Holly Thorne

The Department of the Treasury published a current list of countries which require or may require participation in, or cooperation with, an international boycott (within the meaning of section 999(b)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986).  The purpose of this list is to provide guidance regarding compliance with the antiboycott compliance aspects of the US tax code.  While this advice is not technically specific to the antiboycott provisions in Part 760 of the Export Administration Regulations (EAR), it certainly is a reasonable basis for a company to use when it decides how to allocate its compliance resources for compliance with the EAR antiboycott rules.

Treasury identified the following countries that “require or may require participation in, or cooperation with, an international boycott (within the meaning of section 999(b)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986),” e.g., the Arab boycott of Israel:

– Kuwait

– Lebanon

– Libya

– Qatar

– Saudi Arabia

– Syria

– United Arab Emirates

– Yemen

Iraq is not included in this list, but its status with respect to future lists remains under review by the Department of the Treasury.

Treasury Lists – Countries Requiring Cooperation with an International Boycott

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011 by Holly Thorne

The Department of the Treasury has published a current list of countries which require or may require participation in, or cooperation with, an international boycott (within the meaning of section 999(b)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986).

The countries are:

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

Republic of Iraq is not included in this list, but its status with respect to future lists remains under review by the Department of the Treasury.

While this list officially applies to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) antiboycott rules, it is a reasonable indicator of the high risk countries for the EAR antiboycott regulations.