On 12 March 2020, OFAC designated Switzerland-based oil broker and Rosneft subsidiary TNK Trading International SA (“TNK Trading”) as a Specially Designated National (“SDN”) pursuant to Executive Order 13850 for operating in the oil sector of the Venezuelan economy. The action follows OFAC’s February 18, 2020 designation of another Rosneft subsidiary, Rosneft Trading SA (“Rosneft
What can we learn from recent SDN designations by the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) on multinationals such as subsidiaries of COSCO and Rosneft Trading S.A.?
OFAC has shown a willingness to impose, then lift, sanctions on major companies that play an…
On February 26, 2020, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a $7,829,640 settlement with Switzerland-based Société Internationale de Télécommunications Aéronautiques (SITA) for 9,256 violations of the Global Terrorism Sanctions Regulations (GTSR). The settlement, which concerns SITA’s provision of computer services and software subject to U.S. jurisdiction for the benefit of sanctioned airlines, is the latest OFAC enforcement action to highlight the importance of sanctions compliance for software and digital service providers inside and outside the United States.
The takeaway: Non-U.S. providers of software and digital services should avoid the provision of U.S.-origin products or the involvement of U.S.-based infrastructure or subsidiaries in activities with U.S.-sanctioned customers and territories, unless licensed under, or exempted from, OFAC regulations.
Effective February 27, 2020, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Department of the Treasury issued General License (GL) Number 8 to authorize certain humanitarian transactions involving the Central Bank of Iran (CBI). As discussed further below, GL No. 8 and other measures taken by the US Government should now facilitate transfers, transactions, and certain activities related to the exportation and reexportation of agricultural commodities, medicines, and medical devices to Iran. Before issuance of GL No. 8, humanitarian trade from the United States and involving U.S. persons had been significantly and negatively affected based on the US Government’s “maximum pressure” campaign against the Government of Iran.
On February 18, 2020, OFAC designated Switzerland-based oil broker Rosneft Trading SA (“Rosneft Trading”), a subsidiary of Rosneft Oil Company, as a Specially Designated National (“SDN”) for “operating in the oil sector of the Venezuelan economy,” under Executive Order 13850. The US government had been weighing possible sanctions against Rosneft entities due to their activity in Venezuela for months. A US official stated during a briefing that Rosneft Trading handled more than half of Venezuela’s oil exports and took steps to conceal those shipments, and that this sanctions designation was “a reaction to the growing and increasingly central role of Rosneft in the affairs of Venezuela, particularly in the course of the last year.” Illustrating the policy deliberations that appear to have preceded this designation, a US Department of Energy official stated that this action was viewed as not likely to destabilize global oil markets, which have seen recent price declines.
OFAC also sanctioned Didier Casimiro, Rosneft Trading’s Chairman and President, who a State Department press release notes “also serves as Rosneft’s Vice President for Refining, Petrochemical, Commerce and Logistics.” It is noteworthy that the US government intentionally targeted an officer and director of the Rosneft parent entity. Mr. Casimiro’s profile on Rosneft’s website confirms that he holds that VP position, along with membership on the board of Rosneft and a small number of shares of Rosneft. The Rosneft web page listing other positions held by board members states that Mr. Casimiro “is Chairman of the Board of Directors at PJSC Saratov Oil Refinery, PJSC NC Rosneft – МP Nefteproduct, CJSC Rosneft-Armenia, LLC RNY, Rosneft Trading S.A., LLC «RNCommerce», LLC «RN-Refining», Chairman of the Supervisory Board at PRJSC LINIK, member of the Board of Directors at SLAVNEFT, Slavneft-YANOS PJSC, Rosneft Global Trade S.A., JSC SPIMEX, Rosneft Techno S.A., PJSOC Bashneft, LLC «RNForeign Projects», Nayara Energy Limited.” The designation of Mr. Casimiro, if he continues to hold these senior positions within Rosneft and other organizations, could potentially add compliance complications in doing business with Rosneft or those other organizations, along with the direct and more significant impact of these sanctions actions on Rosneft Trading and Mr. Casimiro himself.
On January 31, 2020, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) lifted sanctions on China-based COSCO Shipping Tanker (Dalian) Co., Ltd. (COSCO Dalian), five affiliates, and one individual who were named as Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs) in September 2019 for knowingly engaging in a significant transaction for the transport of oil from Iran. Despite last week’s reprieve, another COSCO subsidiary, COSCO Shipping Tanker (Dalian) Seaman and Ship Management Co., Ltd., as well as several affiliates and their executives, remain on the SDN List.
The September 2019 designations disrupted parts of the global shipping market, leading to a significant increase in some rates. OFAC’s announcement came several days before the scheduled expiration on February 4, 2020 of a general license authorizing US persons to engage in transactions for the maintenance or winding down of certain transactions with COSCO Dalian.
On January 23, 2020, the US State Department and the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) named six companies based in Hong Kong, China, and Dubai as Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs) under Executive Order (EO) 13846 for engaging in transactions involving Iran’s petroleum sector and the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC).
OFAC’s designations target two Hong Kong-based trading companies, Triliance Petrochemical Co. Ltd. (Triliance) and Sage Energy HK Limited; Shanghai-based Peakview Industry Co. Limited; and Dubai-based Beneathco DMCC. The four companies are accused of transferring millions of dollars to NIOC, which was previously designated as an SDN, for Iranian petroleum purchases.
Concurrently, the State Department announced the designation of Triliance and another Hong Kong company, Jiaxiang Industry Hong Kong Limited, and China-based Shandong Qiwangda Petrochemical Co. Ltd. (Shandong Qiwangda). for knowingly engaging in a significant transaction for the purchase, acquisition, sale, or transport of petrochemical products from Iran, following the expiration of China’s Significant Reduction Exception in May 2019. The designations also included two executive officers of Triliance and Shandong Qiwangda.
In December 2019, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a revised policy regarding voluntary disclosure of export control and sanctions violations by business organizations (VSD Policy). The VSD Policy encourages business organizations – which now include financial institutions – to self-disclose “all…
On January 10, 2020, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) named Beijing-based Pamchel Trading Beijing Co. Ltd., its Seychelles-based affiliate, and a Chinese vessel and vessel operator as Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs) pursuant to Executive Order (EO) 13871 of May 8, 2019, for engaging in significant transactions involving Iran’s metals sectors. OFAC also designated 13 Iranian steel and iron manufacturers, an Oman-based supplier, and three Iranian aluminum and copper companies under EO 13871. The announcement signaled an increasingly aggressive posture toward Iran’s metals industry and the foreign firms who engage with it.
Concurrently, the US President issued a new EO (EO 13902) authorizing sanctions on, among others, persons operating in the construction, mining, manufacturing, or textiles sectors of the Iranian economy; persons who knowingly engage “in a significant transaction for the sale, supply, or transfer to or from Iran of significant goods or services used in connection with” those sectors; and persons who have “materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of” any person designated as an SDN under the EO or entities owned 50% or more by them. Notably, the EO also authorizes sanctions on correspondent and payable-through-accounts of foreign financial institutions that have “knowingly conducted or facilitated any significant financial transaction” involving activities targeted by the EO.
On December 31, 2019, the US District Court for the Northern District of Texas threw out a $2 million fine issued in 2017 by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) under the Ukraine-Related Sanctions Regulations (URSR), 31 C.F.R. § 589. The much-awaited opinion held that OFAC did not provide “fair notice” that the URSR prohibited dealing in contracts signed by a sanctioned individual on behalf of a non-sanctioned company, prior to the issuance of the penalty.
In reaching its decision, the Court concluded that the language of the URSR did not “’fairly address’ whether a US entity receives a service from [a Specially Designated National (SDN)] when that SDN performs a service enabling the US person to contract with a non-blocked entity.” Moreover, public statements made by relevant US government officials in 2014—some of which could be read to conflict—did not “create ascertainable certainty” of OFAC’s intention with respect to the URSR’s application. (The Court also held that contemporaneous reports by media outlets were not probative of OFAC’s regulatory intent.)