HM Treasury’s Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI) has published a revised version of its Monetary penalties for breaches of financial sanctions guidance (Guidance), which came into force on January 28, 2022.  The new Guidance will be used to assess any potential financial sanctions breaches of which OFSI becomes aware on or after that date.

Significant diplomatic capital has been invested by the EU, the United States, the UK and NATO in developing policies to deter Russia from invading Ukraine. Sanctions have been the main focus of discussion. EU Member States agreed in Council Conclusions that potential sanctions will include “a wide array of sectoral and individual restrictive measures that would be adopted in coordination with partners”, and UK Prime Minister Johnson stated before parliament that the UK and its allies are considering “imposing coordinated and severe sanctions, heavier than anything we have done before against Russia”.

However, what exactly such statements mean remains unclear. Furthermore, government officials have explicitly refused to give any information when asked about the details, and those who have given information did so under the condition of anonymity. To help companies plan ahead in light of such uncertainty and to help assess the risk of exposure to EU/UK sanctions, we outline below what EU/UK sanctions may be adopted, and key indicators that may influence both the severity and timing of such sanctions.

Continue Reading Assessing Potential EU and UK Sanctions Against Russia

On December 8, 2021, the UK government announced a package of measures to revise certain aspects of the UK’s export control regime following the completion of a regime review by the government.  The measures include revisions to the licensing criteria for strategic export controls, an expansion in the scope of the military end-use control and a tightening of controls on exports to China.  Taken together, the measures represent a significant reworking of the UK export control regime.  Affected businesses should carefully analyze the new requirements to ensure that they remain compliant, particularly given substantial revisions to the licensing criteria for strategic export controls, which have been applied with immediate effect.

Continue Reading UK Announces Measures To Rework Export Control Regime

On August 9, 2021, the United States, United Kingdom and Canada announced further coordinated sanctions to mark one year since the allegedly fraudulent 2020 Belarusian presidential election in response to the continued undermining of democracy and human rights violations by the Lukashenko regime.  The new sanctions follow the imposition by the United States, United Kingdom, European Union and Canada, on June 21, 2021, of targeted financial sanctions against dozens of individuals and entities as well as EU sectoral-style sanctions against certain sectors of the Belarusian economy, as discussed in our June 28, 2021 blog post.

Continue Reading US, UK and Canada Announce Additional Sanctions on Belarus

On August 5, 2021, HM Treasury’s Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (“OFSI”) announced a GBP 50,000 monetary penalty against TransferGo Limited (“TransferGo”) for multiple breaches of The Ukraine (European Union Financial Sanctions) (No. 2) Regulations 2014 (the “UK Regulations”).

According to OFSI’s penalty report, TransferGo, a fintech company,

On March 22, 2021, the EU, UK, US and Canada announced a range of coordinated sanctions to crack down on alleged serious human rights abuses in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).  The coordinated announcements comprised measures of various types, including asset freezes and travel bans against individuals and entities alleged to be involved in serious human rights violations against Uyghurs and other minority groups in the XUAR.  The measures elicited the swift imposition of retaliatory sanctions by China against a group of EU individuals and institutions.

Continue Reading EU, UK, US and Canada Announce Coordinated Xinjiang Sanctions

On 12 January 2021, UK Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, announced a package of measures intended to ensure that British organisations in the public and private sector are not complicit in – or profiting from – human rights violations against Uyghur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region.

The UK has worked in coordination with the Canadian government on the new measures, which were introduced in response to growing evidence of gross human rights violations, including extra-judicial detention and forced labour, in the Xinjiang region of China.

Announcing the measures in a statement to the House of Commons, the UK foreign Secretary stated that the aim of the measures is to ensure that “no company that profits from forced labour in Xinjiang can do business in the UK, and no UK business is involved in their supply chains.”

The measures reflect a number of recommendations the Conservative Human Rights Commission  made to the UK government in its report on human rights in China, The Darkness Deepens: The Crackdown on Human Rights in China 2016 – 2020, which was published on 13 January 2021. The measures also build on a raft of US actions introduced to combat forced labour in China, which we discussed in greater detail in previous client alerts (here, here, here and here).

Continue Reading UK Government Announces New Measures to Combat Forced Labour and Human Rights Abuses in Xinjiang

In its 2019-2020 Annual Report (the Report), the UK’s sanctions office (the UK Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI)) revealed that, between April 2019 and March 2020, it had received 140 voluntary disclosures of potential sanctions violations related to transactions worth a total of £982 million.  This represents a record number of reports, and an

In light of the recent protests in Iran, a UK press report has recently drawn attention to a motion – known as Early Day Motion 483 – filed in October by a Conservative Party MP to designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (“IRGC”) as a terrorist organisation.

The motion calls upon the UK Government to include the IRGC on the list of “proscribed organisations” and to impose “punitive measures” against its individuals.  Since its filing, the motion has collected 70 signatures from MPs from various parties, including the Conservative Party, the Labour Party, the Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru, the Liberal Democrat Party and the Democratic Unionist Party.

While Early Day Motions can be debated, most are not.  Instead they are typically used to draw attention to a particular topic or to record the views of those MPs that lend their signatures.  For example, the official UK Parliament website notes that during the 2015-2016 parliamentary session a total of 1,457 Early Day Motions were filed.  With the House of Commons back in session after the Christmas break, it remains to be seen whether Early Day Motion 483 gets debated. 
Continue Reading UK MPs Seek to Designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a Terrorist Organisation

A couple of recent news items throw into sharp relief what we long have noted here at the International Compliance Blog—that economic sanctions are a key tool of a country’s national security and foreign policy, and can serve as an instrument by which to influence a broad array of events.

First, take a look at this photo:

President Donald Trump receives a briefing on a military strike on Syria from his National Security team

This is an official White House photo of President Trump and members of his administration receiving a top secret briefing, in the Secure Compartmentalized Information Facility (SCIF) at the President’s Mar-a-Lago estate, regarding the recent cruise missile strikes against Syria.  The New York Times, BBC, and CNN have scrutinized the photo to decipher its implications for various palace intrigues, noting which administration officials were in the room, who was not in the room, and who was seated where.

Palace intrigues aside, the photo raises an interesting question for our purposes—why were Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in the room?

Both the Times and BBC have speculated that they were included in the briefing because they were at Mar-a-Lago to meet with Xi Jinping, the President of China, and were invited simply because they were already onsite.

But let’s consider a different view—that the Treasury and Commerce Secretaries attended because the Treasury and Commerce Departments are part of the national security apparatus of the United States. 
Continue Reading What’s in a Photo? And Thoughts on the UK Sanctions Scene