The EU has renewed its remaining sanctions against Belarus for 1 year, until 28 February 2018. The sanctions include an arms embargo, and a travel ban and asset freeze on 4 people listed in connection with the disappearances of 2 opposition politicians, 1 businessman, and 1 journalist in 1999/2000. Renewing the measures, the EU Council reiterated that “tangible steps taken by Belarus to respect universal fundamental freedoms, rule of law, and human rights” will be key to the future of EU policy towards the country. In February 2016, the EU lifted most of its sanctions against Belarus (see previous blog).
The EU has implemented the sanctions on North Korea / DPRK that the UN Security Council imposed in November last year (see previous blog). These new sanctions include a cap on imports of coal from North Korea, a ban on imports of statues and several metals from North Korea, and a ban on exporting new helicopters and vessels to North Korea. They also tighten existing restrictions on North Korea, including by limiting North Korean diplomats to only one bank account in the EU, and requiring Member States to take further measures to prevent specialised nuclear or missile-related teaching being provided to North Koreans.
Prosecutors in the US are reported to be moving forwards with their investigation into alleged sanctions violations committed by Deutsche Boerse AG and its Luxembourg-based subsidiary Clearstream Banking SA. Clearstream is alleged to have acted as an intermediary between Iran’s Central Bank and JPMorgan by receiving interest payments and redemptions into its JPMorgan account on $1.67bn of bonds held on behalf of an Italian bank that was acting as a front for Iran’s Central Bank. There is no indication that JPMorgan knew the accounts were linked to Iran.
The prosecutors are said to be considering whether to charge Clearstream with violating US sanctions and making false statements to US regulators. If they find that Clearstream’s management knowingly withheld information, they may bring charges against individuals.
The EU has renewed the listings of the 7 people and 1 entity targeted by its Zimbabwe sanctions for a further year, until 20 February 2018. Currently the sanctions are suspended in respect of all listed people and entities except for Robert Mugabe, Grace Mugabe, and Zimbabwe Defence Industries. See Council Decision 2017/288 amending Council Decision 2011/101/CFSP and the EU’s notices here and here.
It has also introduced an exception to its arms embargo on Zimbabwe, allowing for the export of certain explosive substances where they are solely for use in Zimbabwe’s civilian mining and infrastructure projects. See Council Regulation 2017/284 amending Council Regulation 314/2004 and Council Decision 2017/288 amending Council Decision 2011/101/CFSP.
The General Court of the EU has rejected another challenge to the re-listing of entities after they have won their annulments challenging their initial listing on the EU’s Iran sanctions; Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines v Council (link to the judgment is here). The Court has held that the Council was entitled not only to re-list IRISL and some companies said to be connected with it, but that it could introduce new listing criteria that expressly target IRISL-connected companies after IRISL’s designation had been annulled (on which see previous blog). The judgment contains interesting comments on the probative value of witness evidence and the credibility and source of evidence. Maya Lester QC acted for the applicants.
Amazon has announced that it may have violated US sanctions on Iran by processing and delivering orders of consumer products to sanctioned people and entities located outside Iran. Amazon voluntarily reported the possible violations, and has said that it will cooperate with an investigation by US regulators. It has also said it will enhance its processes designated to identify transactions associated with people designated under the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act 2012.
OFAC has designated Venezuela’s Executive Vice President, Tareck El Aissami, as a Specially Designated Narcotics Trafficker. He is said to have facilitated shipments of narcotics from Venezuela, and in previous positions to have overseen narcotics shipments from Venezuela of over 1000kg on multiple occasions. His primary frontman Samark Lopez Bello has also been designated as an SDNT, along with his international network of companies, for his role in laundering drug proceeds and generating significant illicit profits on behalf of El Aissami. The details are here, and OFAC’s press release is here.
The US Treasury has increased the maximum civil penalties that may be imposed under relevant OFAC sanctions regimes to account for inflation. The increases are effective from today, and are set out in full here.