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.

Ukraine imposes travel ban on Russia’s Eurovision contestant

Ukraine has prohibited Russia’s Eurovision contestant from entering the country, preventing her from taking part in the competition that is due to be hosted in Kiev in May this year.  The singer, Julia Samoilova, said that she performed in Crimea in 2015; Ukraine has accused her of entering Crimea illegally, having entered the country from Russia and not through Ukraine. Leading Russian politicians have called for the contest to be boycotted.

UK withdraws Iran export guidance following JCPOA

In light of the substantial lifting of EU sanctions on Iran under the JCPOA nuclear deal signed in 2015, the UK’s Export Control Organisation (ECO) has withdrawn its Iran List.  The list provided information about certain entities, companies, and organisations in Iran for exporters concerned about the possible end-use of their goods.  In future, exporters may use the end user advice service, which can be accessed via the SPIRE export licensing system.

The ECO’s notice is here.

UK implements EU changes to export controls on capital punishment goods

The UK’s Export Control Organisation has amended its rules on the export of goods which could be used for capital punishment, torture, or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, implementing changes made to the EU’s export controls in November 2016 (see Regulation 2016/2134).  The goods in question are found in Annexes II and III of the Export Control Order 2008. As a result of the changes, there are new prohibitions on:

  • transit of Annex II, and in some circumstances Annex III, goods within the customs territory of the union;
  • the provision of brokering services related to Annex II goods;
  • the provision of training related to Annex II goods;
  • the display or offering for sale of any Annex II goods at an exhibition or fair within the EU; and
  • the sale or purchase of advertising time or space for Annex II goods.

It also introduces more flexible licensing for Annex III goods, which are goods with potentially legitimate uses.  The ECO’s notice to exporters is here.

Turkey threatens sanctions on the Netherlands

Turkey has threatened to impose economic sanctions on the Netherlands, in response to its decision to ban President Erdogan from speaking to rallies of overseas Turkish people in its territory.  Turkey has already suspended high-level diplomatic relations with the Netherlands, banned the Dutch ambassador from Turkey, and blocked Dutch diplomatic flights from entering Turkish airspace. Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus has said: “pressure will continue against the Netherlands until they make up for what they did. We’ve started with the political, diplomatic sanctions, and economic sanctions may follow,” he said.

ZTE agrees $1.2bn fine for US sanctions violations

ZTE (Zhongxing Telecommunications Equipment Corporation and ZTE Kangxun Telecommunications Ltd), a Chinese telecoms company, has agreed with OFAC, BIS and the DOJ in the USA to plead guilty to civil and criminal charges of violating US sanctions on Iran and North Korea, and pay a combined $1.2bn in fines ($300m of which is suspended).  It also agreed to a 7-year suspended denial of export privileges, and to dismiss 4 senior officials who were involved in the violations.

A 5-year-long investigation found that ZTE had conspired to evade US sanctions by incorporating US components into its equipment and illegally shipping it to Iran, and by making 283 shipments of telecoms equipment to North Korea.  ZTE is also said to have used “isolation companies” to conceal the use of controlled US-components, intentionally failed to mention them on customs declarations, employed people to specifically remove incriminating evidence from internal communications, and caused its lawyers to unintentionally lie to US officials.

ZTE was first penalised by US authorities in March 2016, when US companies were prohibited from selling to it without a specific licence, and non-US companies were prohibited from selling products to it which contained a significant percentage of US-made components (see previous blog).  The US Department of Commerce will recommend that the requirement for a licence to do business with ZTE be lifted if ZTE complies with the terms of its settlement agreement.

Potential new EU sanctions on DRC

The EU has informed the Democratic Republic of Congo that it is ready to impose new targeted sanctions in response to the serious human rights violations that have recently occurred in the country, the refusal of President Joseph Kabila to stand down at the end of his term, and the general blockage of the December 2016 political agreement.  The Council has invited the High Representative to initiate work on new measures which would target those responsible for the human rights violations or incitements to violence, and those obstructing a consensual and peaceful solution to the crisis in DRC. The Council’s press release is here.

UN report finds evidence of widespread N Korea sanctions evasion

north-korea-1-pyongyangA new unpublished UN report is said to have found that North Korea is using a network of front companies to “[flout] sanctions through trade in prohibited goods, with evasion techniques that are increasing in scale, scope, and sophistication”.  The report also criticises Member States for lacking the “political will” to back up the tougher sanctions on North Korea that were introduced last year (see previous blog), failing to commit the resources necessary for their effective implementation.

EU renews Belarus sanctions

belarus-minsk-1The 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).

See Council Regulation 2017/331 amending Council Regulation 765/2006 and Council Decision 2017/350 amending Council Decision 2012/642/CFSP.  The EU’s notice to listed people is here.