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.

Russia appoints sanctioned person as US ambassador

Russia has appointed Anatoly Antonov, who is subject to EU and Canadian sanctions for his role in supporting Russia’s annexation of Crimea, as its ambassador to the US.  Antonov was Russia’s Deputy Defence Minister when Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, and became the country’s Deputy Foreign Minister in December last year. When he assumes office on 1 September, he will replace Sergei Kislyak – a key figure in claims that Russia interfered in the 2016 US presidential election.

OFAC fines American Export Lines for violating US sanctions on Iran

OFAC has fined American Export Lines (AEL), a US-based international freight forwarding and logistics company, $518,063 for violating US sanctions on Iran.  The violations, which AEL did not voluntarily disclose, are said to have occurred when AEL transhipped used and junked cars and parts from the US via Iran to Afghanistan on 140 occasions.  AEL’s conduct was aggravated by the fact that its President and co-owner knew and approved of the transhipments via Iran, but mitigated by the fact that none of the shipments appear to have had an end use in that country.

OFAC’s enforcement notice is here.

IPSA fined $259,200 by OFAC for Iran sanctions violations

IPSA International Services, Inc., a US-based risk management firm, has been fined $259,200 by OFAC for violating US sanctions on Iran.  The violations, worth $290,784, are said to have occurred when IPSA assisted two countries with their citizenship by investment programmes.  Some of the applicants to the programmes were Iranian nationals and, because most of the information about them could not be checked or verified from outside of Iran, IPSA and its subsidiaries engaged subcontractors, who in turn hired third parties, to validate their information.  As a result, OFAC found that IPSA had directly imported Iranian-origin services into the United States, or done so indirectly by reviewing, approving, and initiating payments to the providers of the Iranian origin services by its foreign subsidiaries.

The base penalty amount was $720,000 and the maximum penalty available was $18,000,000.  In aggravation, OFAC found that IPSA had not voluntarily disclosed the violations, that at least one of its senior management knew or had reason to know of the violations, and that the underlying conduct was not eligible for OFAC authorisation under an existing licence. In mitigation, OFAC said that IPSA had substantially cooperated with its investigation and taken significant remedial measures to prevent further violations from occurring in the future.

US designates Pakistani militant group Hizbul Mujahideen

The US Department of State has designated the Pakistani militant group Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation and Specially Designated Global Terrorist.  Formed in 1989, HM is said to be one of the largest and oldest militant groups operating in the region and has claimed responsibility for several attacks, including the April 2014 explosive attack in Jammu and Kashmir which injured 17 people.

The details of the listing are here.

Iran bans 2 footballers for playing against Israeli team

Iran has banned 2 members of its national football team, including its captain for life, after they played in a match between their Greek club Panionios and Israeli team Maccabi Tel Aviv.  Iran has said their participation in the game violated a longstanding unwritten rule that Iranian sportspeople should not compete against their Israeli counterparts.

In 2013, the United States published Iran General Licence F, which authorises US sportspeople to participate in competitions involving Iran.

US designates Mexican professional footballer in largest single narcotics listing

The US has sanctioned alleged Mexican narcotics kingpin Raul Flores Hernandez and his trafficking network.  Among those designated are Mexican professional footballer Rafael Marquez, Mexican singer Julion Alvarez, and 19 other people and 42 entities across a range of industries in the country.

The US Treasury’s press release states that this is the largest single Kingpin Act action against a Mexican drug cartel, and that it follows a multi-year joint investigation involving several US agencies and the government of Mexico. The details of the listings are here.

US sanctions Venezuelan officials, including previous President’s brother

The US has added 9 people to its SDN List for being involved in organising or otherwise supporting the creation of Venezuela’s Constituent Assembly, a rival body to Venezuela’s parliament with the power to rewrite the country’s constitution (see previous blog). The US views the Constituent Assembly as illegitimate, and designed “to further entrench [President Maduro’s] dictatorship”.

Among those designated are Adan Chavez, a high ranking official in the Constituent Assembly and brother of deceased former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and Bladimir Lugo Armas, a Commander in Venezuela’s Bolivarian National Guard who is said to have been responsible for violence against Venezuelan parliamentarians. The US Treasury’s press release is here, and details of Nicolas Maduro’s listing are here.

New UK sanctions reporting requirements now in force

As previously  reported, the UK has expanded the scope of requirements to inform HM Treasury of sanctions breaches (see previous blog), and those new requirements came into force yesterday (8 August 2017).

The European Union Financial Sanctions (Amendment of Information Provisions) Regulations 2017 now apply to “certain businesses and professions” including “independent legal professionals”, law firms, auditors, casionos, dealers in precious metals or stones, tax advisors, trust or company service providers, accountants, estate agents and others, who will commit an offence if they do not inform HMT if they know or have reasonable cause to suspect that a person has committed a sanctions offence or is a person who is the subject of an asset freeze.

The explanatory memorandum is here, and updated guidance at pages 17-21 of OFSI’s guidance document here.