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.

New UK sanctions reporting compliance form

OFSI1OFSI has published a new form to help individuals and organisations to comply with the UK financial sanctions reporting requirements that came into force on 8 August 2017 (previous blog).

The form enables reporting of frozen assets, information about a suspected designated person an sanctions breaches. It gives information about the information OFSI requires in each of those areas. See OFSI blog here.

USA issues new Venezuela Executive Order; increases sanctions

US Flag3.jpgYesterday, US President Trump announced that he had increased sanctions on Venezuela by issuing a new Executive Order, prohibiting US persons from transacting in:

(i) The purchase of any debt owed to the Venezuelan government (including accounts receivable);

(ii) Any debt owed to the Venezuelan government that is pledged as collateral after 21 May 2018 (including accounts receivable); and

(iii) The sale, transfer, assignment, or pledging as collateral by the Venezuelan government of any equity interest in any entity in which the Venezuelan government has a 50% or greater ownership interest.

Last week, OFAC sanctioned (inter alia) a number of current and former officials of the Venezuelan government (previous blog).

OFAC sanctions current & former officials of Venezuelan government

OFAC2Today, OFAC designated Venezuelan national Diosdado Cabello Rondón (First-Vice President of President Maduro’s political party), pursuant to Executive Order 13692, for being a current or former official of the Government of Venezuela. OFAC also designated 3 other individuals – José David Cabello Rondón (Mr Rondón’s brother), Marleny Josefina Contreras Hernández (Mr Rondón’s wife), and Rafael Alfredo Sarria Diaz (Mr Rondón’s “front man”) – for being current or former officials of the Government of Venezuela, or for acting for or on behalf of designated individuals as key figures in Mr Rondón’s “corruption network”. As a result, US travel bans and asset freezing measures apply to all designated individuals.

OFAC also sanctioned 3 Florida-based companies that are owned or controlled by Mr Diaz, namely: SAI Advisors Inc; Noor Plantation Investments LLC; and 11420 Corp (asset freezes imposed). Furthermore, 14 properties in Florida and New York, owned by Mr Diaz directly or through his companies have been blocked. See OFAC Notice and US Treasury press release.

Third countries align with EU’s Iran, DPRK and DRC sanctions

EU5.jpgOn 12 April 2018, the EU adopted, firstly, Council Decision (CFSP) 2018/568, which extended for 1 year its Iran human rights sanctions (previous blog), and, secondly, Council Implementing Decision (CFSP) 2018/569, which amended the statements of reasons relating to 2 people on its Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) sanctions list (previous blog). In relation to the Iran Decision, the EU has announced that Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Moldova have aligned themselves with that measure. In relation to the DRC Decision, the EU has announced that Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Moldova and Armenia have aligned themselves with that measure.

On 19 April 2018, the EU adopted Council Decision (CFSP) 2018/611, which added 4 people to its North Korea sanctions list (previous blog). The EU has announced that Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Moldova and Armenia have aligned themselves with that measure.

OFAC sanctions “Hizballah financing network and Iranian conduit”

OFAC3Yesterday, OFAC designated “Hizballah financier” Mohammad Ibrahim Bazzi and “Hizballah’s representative to Iran” Abdallah Safi-Al-Din as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs), pursuant to Executive Order 13224. The following 5 companies were also designated as SDGTs for being owned or controlled by Mr Bazzi: Global Trading Group NV (Belgian energy services conglomerate); Euro African Group LTD (Gambia-based petroleum and petroleum products company); Africa Middle East Investment Holding SAL (Lebanon-based); Premier Investment Group SAL Offshore (Lebanon-based); and Car Escort Services S.A.L. Off Shore (CES) (Lebanon-based import/export company; also linked to another SDGT). As a result, asset freezing measures have been imposed on all individuals and companies designated in this action. See OFAC Notice and US Treasury press release.

These designations follow President Trump’s decision last week to cease US participation in the JCPOA and to reimpose US sanctions on Iran. They have been made in “furtherance of the goal of addressing the totality of Iran’s malign activities and regionally destabilizing behaviour, including that of Hizballah”, and they “complement” 3 other recent OFAC actions, see here, here and here.

EU to launch US-Iran sanctions blocking legislative procedure tomorrow

Jean-Claude Juncker.jpgIn light of President Trump’s decision to cease US participation in the JCPOA and to reimpose US sanctions on Iran, the President of the EU Commission Jean-Claude Juncker has announced that, tomorrow at 10.30am, the EU Commission will “[launch] the process [of activating] the ‘blocking statute’ from 1996”, in order to “protect European companies” from the extraterritorial effects of US sanctions. Furthermore, that a decision had been made to “allow the European Investment Bank to facilitate European companies’ investment in Iran”.

US designates ‘ISIS in the Greater Sahara’ and its ‘leader’

US Department of StateYesterday, the US Department of State designated ISIS in the Greater Sahara (ISIS-GS) as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation, pursuant to s 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The Department also designated ISIS-GS and its “leader”, Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, as Specially Designated Global Terrorists, pursuant to section 1(b) of Executive Order 13224 (asset freezes imposed).

ISIS-GS is “primarily based in Mali” and operates “along the Mali-Niger border”. The group has claimed responsibility for several attacks, including the 4 October 2017 attack on joint US-Nigerian patrol in the region of Tongo Tongo, Niger, which is said to have killed 4 US soldiers and 5 Nigerian soldiers. See OFAC Notice and US Department of State press release.

EU meets with Iran over JCPOA and next steps

Federica Mogherini.jpgIn Brussels yesterday, EU High Representative Federica Mogherini met with the Foreign Ministers of France (Jean-Yves Le Drian), Germany (Heiko Maas), the UK (Boris Johnson) and Iran (Mohammad Javad Zarif) to discuss a workplan for the “continued, full and effective implementation of the Iran nuclear deal”, in light of President Trump’s decision last week to withdraw US participation from the deal and to reimpose US sanctions on Iran.

In a press conference following the ministerial meeting, Federica Mogherini stated that an EU blocking statute was on the agenda for discussion (today, 16 May 2018) with the College of the European Commission.