On April 24, 2024, President Biden signed HR 815, “Making emergency supplemental appropriations for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2024, and for other purposes,” into law (the “National Security Supplemental” or the “NSS”). The National Security Supplemental appropriates funds to provide security assistance to Ukraine, Israel, and US partners in the Indo-Pacific and humanitarian aid for Gaza. Alongside the appropriations measures, the National Security Supplemental includes the “21st Century Peace through Strength Act”, a collection of fourteen sanctions, export controls, and related regulatory measures targeting Iran, Russia, and China, in addition to areas of concern including narcotics trafficking, terrorist financing, and misuse of information and communications technology and services (“ICTS”).

In this post, we assess these new developments and the areas where they will likely have the greatest impact.Continue Reading President Signs Expansive Sanctions Bill Into Law; Doubling of Limitations Period for IEEPA Violations Likely to Have Major Impact

On December 14, 2023, a new UK Iran sanctions regime originally announced in July 2023 came into effect as The Iran (Sanctions) Regulations 2023 (“New Iran Regulations”) and The Iran (Human Rights) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (“Iran Human Rights Regulations”) were revoked.  The new regime has been developed to respond to an escalation in threats from the Iranian regime, including efforts to undermine peace and security across the Middle East and plots against individuals on UK soil.  The new regime also incorporates new trade sanctions targeting Iran’s drone programme that strengthen existing export restrictions on drone components and new powers to introduce transport sanctions on ships involved in contravening existing sanctions or that are owned or controlled by sanctioned individuals.Continue Reading New UK Iran Sanctions Regime Comes into Force

On June 9, 2023, the US Departments of Commerce, Justice, State, and the Treasury published a joint advisory and guidance (the “Guidance”) related to Iran’s procurement, development, and proliferation of unmanned aerial vehicles (“UAVs”).  Notably, the agencies warned industry participants that key components of Iranian UAVs are US-origin technologies, some of which are “low-technology items” that are designated as EAR99, i.e., not included on the Commerce Control List (“CCL”), Supplement No. 1 to part 774 of the EAR.  The Guidance provides specific Harmonized System (HS) codes that exporters/reexporters may use to identify items that are of diversion/transshipment concern.

Further, the agencies provided clear guidance on the US government’s expectations for private industry compliance programs, identified numerous red flags for industry participants, and highlighted several best practices for how to address a red flag. 

This Guidance is the most recent activity in a series of measures implemented by US government agencies to disrupt Iran’s UAV program.  The Guidance may signal an increased focus on both US and non-US manufacturers and suppliers of commodities that can be used in the production of UAVs.Continue Reading New US Interagency Guidance Targets Iranian UAVs and Compliance Risks

On February 24, 2023, the US government announced a range of new export controls, sanctions, and tariffs to coincide with the first anniversary of Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine. These actions by the US Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), the US Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), the US Department of State, and the White House reflect the continued efforts of the US – in coordination with its allies – to impose costs on Russia for the war.

Each successive round of US export controls and sanctions presents new compliance challenges, against the backdrop of heightened enforcement risk resulting from aggressive, well-coordinated US government actions. US and non-US entities and individuals who engage in transactions related to Russia or Belarus should pay close attention to this complex and evolving regulatory framework. Additionally, entities and individuals exporting to Iran should take note of the expanded scope of the US Export Administration Regulations (EAR) under a new Iran Foreign Direct Product (FDP) Rule.Continue Reading US Imposes Additional Export Controls, Sanctions, and Tariffs targeting Russia, Belarus, and Iran On First Anniversary of Russia’s War Against Ukraine

On June 15, 2022, the United Kingdom will introduce a strict civil liability standard for violations of UK financial sanctions committed after that date.  In anticipation of this important change to the enforcement powers of HM Treasury’s Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI), the OFSI enforcement and monetary penalties for breaches of financial sanctions guidance (Monetary Penalties Guidance) has been updated and will take effect from June 15.  OFSI Director, Giles Thomson, also has outlined OFSI’s enforcement approach in light of these imminent changes in a blog post.

For more information on how these developments could impact your organization, contact the author of this post, Alexandra Melia, in Steptoe’s Economic Sanctions team in London.Continue Reading UK Updates Sanctions Enforcement Guidance in Readiness for Imminent Introduction of Strict Civil Liability for Financial Sanctions Breaches

On December 8, 2021, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a $133,860 settlement with an unnamed individual for apparent violations of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (ITSR). According to OFAC’s settlement notice, the individual, who was located in the United States, received four payments in his personal bank account on behalf of an Iranian company for the sale of Iranian-origin cement clinker to a company in a third country.

OFAC also found that the individual coordinated the payment and the shipment of goods with a family member at the Iranian company. The settlement notice remarks that, although the payments involved a family member, they fell outside of the general license for personal remittances, at 31 CFR § 560.550, which only applies to “noncommercial” activity.Continue Reading OFAC Enters into Rare Settlement with Individual over Iranian Payments and Facilitation

On August 25, 2020, the US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) published a final decision by the Undersecretary, affirming an Administrative Law Judge’s (ALJ) imposition of a US $ 31.4 million civil monetary penalty on Nordic Maritime Pte. Ltd., a Singapore-based marine seismic company, and its chairman (together, the “Respondents”), for knowingly exporting highly controlled equipment to Iran. This final decision follows the Undersecretary’s previous decision vacating and remanding the initial penalty as disproportionate to that imposed in similar cases (Remand Order). Our previous blog post discussing this unusual action is available here.

By way of background, the ALJ, in his initial recommended decision and order (RDO) dated February 7, 2020, found the Respondents liable for violating the Export Administration Regulations (EAR), and recommended a civil monetary penalty of US $ 31.4 million. The Respondents then appealed the ALJ’s decision to the Undersecretary, whose first decision, including the Remand Order, was published in March 2020. In that decision, the Undersecretary affirmed the ALJ’s findings on liability, but vacated the penalty and remanded it back to the ALJ for reexamination because the “analysis of damages in the RDO [was] incomplete.” The Undersecretary also listed a number of cases settled with proportionally lower penalties to guide the ALJ on remand. The ALJ then ordered additional briefing focused on the penalty amount, and reinstated the original penalty with a fuller justification in a subsequent RDO dated July 15, 2020. The Undersecretary affirmed the US $ 31.4 million civil monetary penalty in its entirety.Continue Reading BIS Undersecretary Affirms USD 31.4 Million Penalty on Singaporean Company for Iran Sanctions Violations

On June 5, 2020, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) published four new Iran-related frequently asked questions (FAQs) regarding Executive Order (EO) 13902 of January 14, 2020, “Imposing Sanctions with Respect to Additional Sectors of Iran.”

In relevant part, EO 13902 authorizes sanctions against any person the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State, determines to operate in the construction, mining, manufacturing, or textiles sectors in Iran (and any additional sectors that may in the future be designated by the US government). In addition, EO 13902 authorizes sanctions against any persons or foreign financial institutions engaged in sanctionable activity related to the targeted sectors such as providing material assistance to a blocked person or knowingly engaging in a significant transaction in connection with a targeted sector.Continue Reading OFAC Clarifies Sanctions on Iranian Domestic Humanitarian / Safety Activity

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.Continue Reading OFAC Removes Secondary Sanctions on COSCO Division Targeted for Iran Oil Imports

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.Continue Reading OFAC Hits Companies in Hong Kong, China, and Dubai with Secondary Sanctions for Iran Oil Trading