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.

Canadian government endorses Magnitsky sanctions bill

The Canadian government has said that it supports a draft bill which, if passed through the Canadian legislature, would impose sanctions on human rights violators anywhere in the world.  The “Magnitsky-style” sanctions were recommended by a Canadian Parliamentary committee last month (see previous blog).  A Russian official responded to the Canadian government’s endorsement of the bill by saying that it would “not be left unanswered”.  The US, UK, and several other countries have already introduced Magnitsky sanctions on human rights violators in Russia and elsewhere.

Ukraine blocks access to Russian social networks & TV stations

Ukraine has blocked access to several Russian websites and imposed asset freezes and broadcasting bans on a number of Russian television channels.  The blocked websites include Russian search engine Yandex, social-networking sites Odnoklassniki and Vkontakte, and the websites of Russian cybersecurity firms Kaspersky Lab and DrWeb.

The Ukrainian government’s Security and Defence Council said that the ban was imposed in part to protect against entities “whose activities threaten the information and cyber security of Ukraine”.  Over 400 Russian entities have been sanctioned by Ukraine since Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region in 2014.

UK financial services industry group revises sanctions guidance

The UK’s Joint Money Laundering Steering Group (JMLSG), a non-governmental organisation whose aim is to promote good practice in countering money laundering, is consulting on proposed revisions to its anti-money laundering and terrorism financing guidance. The revisions account for the establishment of OFSI, and make a number of other changes to the guidance covering the range of UK sanctions powers, including exemptions, licencing regimes, and the rules on providing insurance.

The consultation documents are available here, and JMLSG invites comments by 26 May 2017.

US House of Representations approves new sanctions on N Korea

The US House of Representatives has approved new sanctions on North Korea, by a majority of 419 to 1.  The sanctions would prohibit ships and aircraft from using US ports if their port of origin has failed to comply with UN rules on shipments involving North Korea. They would also embargo all goods produced by North Koreans unless US authorities conclude that there was no slave labour involved in their production, and the US Department of State would also be charged with determining whether any non-US firms employing North Koreans should be made subject to sanctions for human trafficking.  In order for the new sanctions to become law, they must be passed by the Senate and signed by President Trump.

US to adopt sanctions and diplomacy-based strategy on North Korea

The Trump administration has announced that its strategy on North Korea will be to increase sanctions and diplomatic pressure until North Korea ends its nuclear and missile programmes.  The announcement came after Trump briefed all 100 US senators, who said that no specific military option was presented to them.  The South Korean president’s office also released a statement saying that South Korea and the US had agreed “to swiftly take punitive measures, including a new UN Security Council resolution, that are unbearable for the North” if North Korea continues to breach international law.

EU renews Burma/Myanmar sanctions for 1 year

The EU has renewed its sanctions against Burma/Myanmar for another year, until 30 April 2018.  The sanctions impose an embargo on providing Burma/Myanmar with arms and goods that might be used for internal repression.   Before April 2013, the EU also had trade, financial, and targeted sanctions in place, but those have now been lifted (see previous blog).

See Decision (CFSP) 2017/734 amending Decision 2013/184/CFSP.

ExxonMobil denied waiver of US sanctions ban on Russia oil joint venture

ExxonMobil, a US oil and gas corporation, and other US firms have been told that the US Treasury will not be issuing them with waivers authorising drilling prohibited by current US sanctions on Russia. ExxonMobil recently applied to the US Treasury for authorisation to resume its Arctic joint venture with Russian state-owned oil firm Rosneft, which was halted by the imposition of US sanctions on Russia in 2014.  ExxonMobil also applied for authorisation to operate in the Black Sea in July 2015, but its application was turned down.  The sanctions prohibit US firms from participating in projects that would involve them sharing certain technology with Russian firms.

UN Security Council threatens new sanctions on N Korea

The UN Security Council has condemned North Korea’s most recent ballistic missile test, and threatened to “take further significant measures including sanctions”.  In a statement, the Security Council demanded that North Korea fully comply with its obligations under the relevant UN resolutions, including immediately terminating its illegal ballistic missile and nuclear activities.