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.

Switzerland mirrors EU sanctions on 14 associates of DRC President Kabila

Switzerland has joined the EU in imposing asset freezes and travel bans on 14 associates of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s president Joseph Kabila. They were added to the EU’s sanctions over the course of 2016 and 2017.

President Kabila was due to stand down as President at the end of 2016, under a constitutional two-term limit. However, he has remained in power amidst growing concerns about human rights abuses against the civilian population. The newly listed people include incumbent and former ministers, provincial governors, and high-ranking members of the Congolese armed forces. They are accused of hindering the conduct of elections through acts of violence and repression, violating the rule of law, and committing serious human rights abuses.

The Swiss government’s press release is here.

133 suspected sanctions breaches reported in UK in 2017

In response to a written question in Parliament, the Government has said that 133 suspected sanctions breaches were reported to OFSI in 2017, with an approximate value of £1.4 billion. An earlier version of the reply had 118 suspected breach cases worth £117 million.  As of April 2017, 103 breaches had been reported since OFSI gained the ability to impose monetary penalties under the Policing and Crime Act 2017.  Text of the answer here.

US designates Burkina-Faso based group as a terrorist organisation

The US State Department has designated Burkina Faso-based group Ansarul Islam as a terrorist organisation. The group is said to have launched numerous attacks in northern Burkina Faso, including deadly attacks on police stations, a school director, and the country’s armed forces.

As a consequence of its inclusion on OFAC’s SDN List as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, Ansarul Islam is subject to a freeze on all of its assets within US jurisdiction, and US people and entities are prohibited from doing business with it.

The State Department’s press release is here, and the details of the listing are here.

Venezuelan oil company PDVSA replaces finance executive over US sanctions

Oil and gas.jpgVenezuela’s state-owned oil and natural gas company Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A (PDVSA) has replaced its Vice President of Finance, Simon Zerpa Delgado, reportedly over concerns that US sanctions on him had led to certain oil exports to the US being blocked. Mr Zerpa Delgado was sanctioned by OFAC on 26 July 2017, pursuant to Executive Order 13692, for his involvement in “Venezuelan Government corruption” (links to OFAC Notice and Treasury press release).

EU renews Zimbabwe sanctions until 20 Feb. 2019

EU2The EU has extended its sanctions on Zimbabwe until 20 February 2019, see Council Decision (CFSP) 2018/224. This decision to keep sanctions in place was taken so that the situation in Zimbabwe (given the change in leadership in December 2017) could become clearer.

As a result, EU travel restrictions and asset freezes will continue to be imposed on 7 people (Robert Mugabe, Grace Mugabe, Happyton Bonyongwe, Augustine Chihuri, Constantine Chiwenga, Perence Shiri and Phillip Sibando) and 1 entity (Zimbabwe Defence Industries). However, those sanctions are currently suspended, except in relation to Robert Mugabe, Grace Mugabe and Zimbabwe Defence Industries. The EU Notice explains that they may submit a request to the EU Council to seek a reconsideration of their respective listings before 1 November 2018, and may challenge the Council’s decision to renew in the EU General Court.

The EU has also taken the opportunity to update Robert Mugabe’s listing so that it now states “Former President”, see Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2018/223. UK OFSI Notice here.

US House passes Hamas human shields sanctions Bill

US HoR.jpgYesterday, the US House of Representatives passed the Hamas Human Shields Prevention Act by a 415-0 vote.

The Bill makes provision for sanctions (asset freezes and travel restrictions) to be imposed against members of, or those acting on behalf of, Hamas that are responsible for, or complicit in, the use of human shields by Hamas. An agency or instrumentality of a foreign state may also be sanctioned for significantly facilitating (directly or indirectly) any act with respect to such use of human shields.

The Bill also urges the US to use its influence at the UN Security Council to secure support for a resolution imposing multilateral sanctions against Hamas’s use of human shields. The next stage is for the Senate to vote on the Bill.

US FinCEN seeks sanctions against Latvia’s ABLV Bank

FinCEN.pngThe US Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) has issued a finding and notice of proposed rulemaking, pursuant to section 311 of the USA Patriot Act, to prohibit the opening or maintaining of a correspondent account in the US for, or on behalf of, Latvia’s ABLV Bank. FinCEN proposed this action on the basis that “ABLV is a foreign bank of primary money laundering concern” and that its illicit financial activity includes “transactions for parties connected to UN-designated entities, some of which are involved in North Korea’s procurement or export of ballistic missiles”. FinCEN press release here.

In November 2017, FinCEN issued a final rule under section 311 of the USA Patriot Act to sever China’s Bank of Dandong from the US financial system for acting “as a conduit for North Korea to access the US and international financial systems” (previous blog here).

OFAC Quarterly Reports on Iran & Sudan TSRA licences

OFAC3Pursuant to section 906(b) of the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000 (TSRA), OFAC has published Quarterly Reports (covering October 2015 – December 2017) on the number of licence applications it processed requesting authorisation to export agricultural commodities, medicine and medical devices to Iran and Sudan.