About Michael O'Kane

Michael O’Kane is a partner and Head of the Business Crime team at leading UK firm Peters & Peters. Described as ‘first-rate’ (Legal 500 2012), he “draws glowing praise from commentators” (Chambers 2013) for handling the international aspects of business crime, including sanctions, extradition and mutual legal assistance. Called to the Bar in 1992 and prior to joining Peters & Peters he was a senior specialist prosecutor at the Crown Prosecution Service Headquarters(CPS). At CPS HQ he was a key member of a small specialist unit responsible for the prosecution of serious and high profile fraud, terrorist and special interest criminal matters including the Stansted Airport Afghan hijacking and the prosecution of Paul Burrell (Princess Diana’s butler). Michael joined Peters & Peters in 2002. He became a partner in May 2004, and Head of the Business Crime team in May 2009. Since joining Peters & Peters, Michael has dealt with a wide range of business crime matters. He has particular expertise in international sanctions, criminal cartels, extradition, corruption, mutual legal assistance, and FSA investigations. Described as“ an influential practitioner in fraud and regulatory work, so much so that he is top of the referral lists of many City firms for independent advice for directors” (The Lawyer’s Hot 100 2009), he was recognised as one of the UK’s most innovative lawyers in the 2011 FT Innovative Lawyer Awards and included in the list of the UK's leading lawyers in 'The International Who's Who of Asset Recovery 2012. In 2012 he was the winner of the Global Competition Review Article of the Year. Michael regularly appears on television and radio to discuss his specialist areas and he is the author of the leading textbook on the UK Criminal Cartel Offence “The Law of Criminal Cartels-Practice and Procedure” (Oxford University Press 2009). Recent/Current Sanctions Work • Representing 109 individuals and 12 companies subject to designation by the European Council under targeted measures imposed against Zimbabwe. This is the largest and most complex collective challenge to a sanctions listing ever brought before the European Court. • Acting for a former Egyptian Minister and his UK resident wife, challenging their designation by the European Council of Ministers under targeted measures brought against former members of the Egyptian Government. • Advising a company accused in a UN investigation report to have breached UN sanctions imposed in relation to Somalia. • Advising a UK company in relation to ongoing commercial relationships with an Iranian company listed under both EU and UN sanctions. • Advising an individual in relation to a UK investigation for alleging breaching nuclear export controls.

EU implements UN additions to its terrorism and CAR sanctions

The EU has added Fared Saal to its sanctions on ISIL & Al-Qaida, implementing a UN listing from earlier this month.  Fared Saal is said to be a member of ISIL, who has taken part in attacks that led to the deaths of large numbers of civilians. See Commission Implementing Regulation 2017/1094 amending Council Regulation 881/2002.

It has also implemented the UN’s listing of Hissene Abdoulaye on its sanctions against the Central African Republic (see previous blog).  He is said to have become one of the main leaders of armed militias in the country’s capital Bangui. See Council Implementing Regulation (EU) 2017/1090 implementing Council Regulation 224/2014 and Council Implementing Decision 2017/1103 implementing Council Decision 2013/798/CFSP.

Queen’s Speech announces UK International Sanctions Bill

Prime Minister Theresa May announced today that a new international sanctions bill will form part of the UK’s legislative programme “geared towards making a success of Brexit”, to allow the UK “to continue to comply with our international obligations”.

The Queen’s Speech (link here) included the International Sanctions Bill among the new Brexit-related draft legislation, which will “support our role as a permanent member of the UN Security Council and a leading player on the world stage, by establishing a new sovereign UK framework to implement international sanctions on a multilateral or unilateral basis. The Bill will return decision-making powers on non-UN sanctions to the UK, and enable the UK’s continued compliance with international law after the UK’s exit from the EU. The UK Government has issued a consultation document about the content of this new sanctions bill (see previous blog).

EU renews Crimea & Sevastopol sanctions

The EU has renewed its territorial sanctions on Crimea and Sevastopol for another year, until 23 June 2018.  The sanctions include prohibitions on the import of products originating in, export of certain goods and technologies to, investment in, and tourism in Crimea and Sevastopol. The sanctions are a response to what the EU says is “the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol by the Russian Federation”. On renewing the sanctions (statement here), the EU Council reiterated that the EU “remains fully committed to fully implement its non-recognition policy” of any competing claim to Ukraine’s sovereignty over the regions.

See Council Decision (CFSP) 2017/1087 amending Council Decision 2014/386/CFSP.

EU develops cybersanctions

The EU Council has agreed to develop a framework for a joint EU diplomatic response to malicious cyber activities, which will if necessary include new sanctions measures under the CFSP.  The EU’s agreement is a response to what it says is “the increased ability and willingness of state and non-state actors to pursue their objectives through malicious cyber activities”, and it said that states “should not knowingly allow their territory to be used for internationally wrongful acts using Information and Communication Technologies”. The Council’s press release is here.

Arab states not seeking to include their latest sanctions listings on UN list

It is reported that Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, who imposed sanctions on Qatar and several Qatar-linked people and entities last week (see previous blog), are not also seeking to have them included on the UN’s sanctions list. The new listings, which affect 59 people and 12 entities said to be linked to terrorism, came days after the 4 states cut off their relations with Qatar, having accused it of supporting terrorism and Iran.  However, while it would be difficult to gain the required support for the listings at UN level, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry suggested on Wednesday that there may be more Qatar-linked sanctions to come.

Qatar-linked AQ sanctions imposed by Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and UAE

Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE have jointly designated 59 people and 12 entities as supporters of al-Qaida and associated organisations.  Many of the new listings are Qatar-linked people and entities, and follow a decision by those 4 countries last week to bar all traffic with Qatar, eject its diplomats, and require all Qatari citizens to leave within 14 days, in response to what they say is Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood and other groups they deem to be terrorist organisations. A list of the newly designated people and entities is here.

UN imposes new DPRK sanctions

Last Friday the UN Security Council imposed new sanctions on 18 DPRK officials and entities in response to North Korea’s most recent ballistic missile tests. The UN press release is here, and a link to the new resolution (2356 (2017)) is here.

The EU’s implementing measures (published today) are Commission Regulation 2017/970 amending Council Regulation 329/2007 and Council Decision 2017/975 implementing Council Decision 2016/849.

The sanctions subject listed people and entities to an asset freeze and travel ban in all UN countries.  Among those newly listed are Cho Il-U, said to be in charge of DPRK’s foreign espionage activities, the Vice Director of its Propaganda and Agitation department, and the Strategic Rocket Force of the Korean People’s Army, which is responsible for the country’s ballistic missile programmes.  The US representative to the UN Security Council, which sponsored the resolution, warned that the pressure on DPRK would not cease until it ended its illegal activities, and China’s representative expressed support for the “double strengthening” of the non-proliferation regime.

Separately, OFAC also designated 3 people and 6 entities said to be responsible for financing and supporting North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. The details are here.

EU renews Syria sanctions for 1 year

The EU has renewed its sanctions on Syria for another year, until 1 June 2018.  The sanctions impose asset freezes and travel bans against people supporting or associated with the Syrian regime or oppression in the country.  In addition, the entries for several listed people and entities have been amended.

See Council Implementing Regulation 2017/907 implementing Council Regulation 36/2012 and Council Decision 2017/917 amending Council Decision 2013/255/CFSP.