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.

US prosecutors may pursue Deutsche Boerse sanctions case

deutsche-boerse-1Prosecutors 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.

EU renews Zimbabwe listings and adds exception to arms embargo

zimbabwe-victoria-falls-1The 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.

OFAC designates Venezuela’s Vice President as a narcotics trafficker

venezuela-caracas-1OFAC 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.

OFAC issues Finding of Violation to B Whale Corporation

oil-tanker-1OFAC has issued a Finding of Violation to B Whale Corporation (BWC), a shipping company based in Taiwan and member of the TMT Group of Shipping Companies, for violating US sanctions on Iran.  The violation occurred when BWC’s vessel, the M/V B Whale, transferred 2,086,486 barrels of crude oil from a vessel owned by the National Iranian Tanker Company, which is identified on OFAC’s SDN List.  OFAC’s enforcement notice is here.

The transaction took place while BWC was involved in bankruptcy proceedings in the US.  OFAC determined that BWC was a US person within the scope of its sanctions on Iran because it was present in the US for those proceedings when the transaction occurred.  In addition, the vessel B Whale was subject to US sanctions because it was property under the jurisdiction of a US court, and therefore the transfer of oil constituted an import from Iran to the US.

OFAC’s found BWC’s conduct to have been aggravated by its reckless disregard for US sanctions, attempts to conceal the transfer, and the significant benefit provided by the transaction to Iran, but mitigated by its clean sanctions record and the fact that all of its assets had been liquidated in bankruptcy.

EU & UK foreign ministers reaffirm commitment to Russia sanctions

federica-mogherini-1EU foreign ministers have reaffirmed their commitment to continuing sanctions against Russia until it complies with its obligations under the Minsk peace agreements.  The G7 nations also took this position when they met in May last year (see previous blog).

Speaking today, the EU’s High Representative Federica Mogherini said that although she “cannot say where the US administration stands on this…I can say where the Europeans stand on this”.  Setting out the UK’s position, UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson stated that “The UK will be insisting that there is no case for the relaxation of the sanctions, every case for keeping up the pressure on Russia”.

NatWest resumes banking for RT news channel

natwest-1In October 2016, UK bank NatWest informed state-owned Russian news channel RT (formerly Russia Today) that it would no longer be providing it with banking services in the UK.  NatWest is now reported to have changed its position, following discussions with RT.

EU new information about people listed on Egypt sanctions

egypt-cairo-1The EU Council has notified all people listed on the EU’s sanctions on people said to have misappropriated Egyptian state funds that the Council holds new information concerning them on file, and that they may submit a request to the Council before 17 February 2017 to obtain the information relating to them.  A link to the notice is here.

EU renews Tunisia sanctions

tunisia-1The EU has renewed its asset freezing measures on people “responsible for the misappropriation of Tunisian state funds” for a year, until 31 January 2018.  Currently, there are 48 people listed on these sanctions, which were first introduced on 31 January 2011.  It has also updated the information relating to 2 listed people, Sirine Ben Ali and Mohamed Mabrouk.

See Implementing Regulation 2017/149 implementing Regulation 101/2011 and Decision 2017/153 amending Decision 2011/72/CFSP. The EU’s notices to the listed people are here and here.  They may submit a request to the Council before 31 October 2017, together with supporting information, that the decision to list them on the sanctions be reconsidered.