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 charges Iranian national with $115m sanctions evasion scheme

US Department of Justice.jpgThe US Department of Justice (Southern District of New York) has announced that Iranian national Ali Sadr Hashemi Nejad has been charged with allegedly participating in a scheme to evade US sanctions against Iran; specifically, “a scheme in which more than $115 million in payments for a Venezuelan housing complex were illegally funnelled through the US financial system for the benefit of Iranian individuals and entities”.

Geoffrey Berman, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, stated that Mr Nejad had “created a network of front companies and foreign bank accounts [(in Switzerland, Turkey and the British Virgin Islands)] to mask Iranian business dealings in Venezuela and evade US sanctions”.

New US Executive Order prohibiting transactions with Venezuelan digital currencies

Trump5.jpgUS President Trump has issued a new Executive Order, which takes additional steps to address the situation in Venezuela. In particular, it prohibits US persons from transacting/dealing with “any digital currency, digital coin, or digital token, that was issued by, for, or on behalf of the Government of Venezuela on or after January 9, 2018”. The “Government of Venezuela” is stated as including the Central Bank of Venezuela, as well as the state-owned oil and natural gas company, Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PdVSA).

Acting concurrently, OFAC has released new FAQs related to this Executive Order (which confirms that both the ‘petro’ and the ‘petro-gold’ fall within this Executive Order), as well as a set of new Digital Currency-related FAQs. Furthermore, OFAC has added 4 individuals to its Venezuela sanctions list: Willian Antonio Contreras (‘Vice Minister of Internal Commerce’), Nelson Reinaldo Lepaje Salazar (‘Head of the Office of the National Treasury’), Americo Alex Mata Garcia (‘Alternate Director on the Board of Directors of the National Bank of Housing and Habitat’), and Carlos Alberto Rotondaro Cova (‘Former President of the Board of Directors of the Venezuelan Institute of Social Security’). See OFAC Notice here.

We previously reported that OFAC had published an FAQ relating to US person involvement in the Venezuelan government’s digital currency – the petro – which was launched in February 2018.

New UN Experts Report on DPRK sanctions

UN4The Panel of Experts assigned to the UN Security Council’s DPRK Sanctions Committee has published its Final Report (2018), which offers (inter alia) a series of recommendations for designation.

In respect of North Korea continuing to have “access to the international financial system”, the following individuals and entities have been recommended for designation: Han Hun Il (Edward Han), Ri Ho Nam, Ri Ik (Li Ik), Wang Zhi Guo, Pak In Su, Kim Chang-Hyok and Kim Su-Gwang, as well as ‘International Global System’ and ‘International Golden Services’. The Panel has also reiterated its recommendations in previous reports for the designation of ‘Pan Systems’.

The Report also recommends the ‘Nuclear Weapons Institute’ for designation, on the basis that it is engaged in the nuclear-related programme of the DPRK (it is said to be led by designated person Ri Hong-Sop, and a subordinate company to the designated entity, Munitions Industry Department).

Furthermore, the Panel has recommended that the following 3 individuals should be designated for having violated paragraphs 11 and 14 of UNSC Resolution 2375 (2017) (namely, engaging in the illicit transfer to the DPRK of refined petroleum products by way of ship-to-ship transfers): Shih-Hsien Chen, Boby Julian Akbari (captain of the designated vessel: ‘Billions No. 18’ – see previous blog here) and Wang Songchang (captain of the vessel: ‘Lighthouse Winmore’, which was seized by South Korean authorities earlier this year – see previous blog here).

EU implements 2 new UN entries to Somalia sanctions list

EU5.jpgOn 8 March 2018, the UN Security Council added 2 people to its Somalia and Eritrea sanctions list, Ahmad Iman Ali and Abdifatah Abubakar Abdi, for alleged links with Al-Shabaab (previous blog here). The EU has implemented those two new entries by adopting Council Implementing Decision (CFSP) 2018/417 and Council Implementing Regulation (EU) 2018/413.

US sanctions Russia for ‘interference with 2016 US elections and malicious cyberattacks’

US Treasury Building.jpgToday, OFAC designated 5 entities and 19 individuals to counter “Russia’s continuing destabilizing activities, ranging from interference in the 2016 U.S. election to conducting destructive cyber-attacks, including the NotPetya attack” (a cyber-attack that was attributed to the Russian military on 15 February 2018). Links to the OFAC Notice and US Treasury press release.

3 entities and 13 individuals were designated pursuant to Executive Order 13694, as amended, which targets cyber actors, including those involved in interfering with election processes or institutions (asset freezes imposed).

The remaining 2 entities and 6 individuals were designated pursuant to section 224 of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which targets cyber actors operating on behalf of the Russian government (asset freezes imposed).

In addition, OFAC has amended Cyber General License No. 1, and reissued it as Cyber General License No. 1A (the changes are limited to adding CAATSA authorities). Furthermore, 4 FAQs relating to the new licence, and 1 CAATSA-related FAQ in respect of the present action, have been updated.

Third countries align with EU’s ISIL and Al-Qaeda sanctions

EU4The EU has announced that Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Liechtenstein, the Republic of Moldova, Armenia and Georgia have aligned themselves with Council Decision (CFSP) 2018/283. That decision added 1 person (French national, ‘Fabien Clain’) to the EU sanctions list in respect of ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaeda (previous blog here).

Sanctioned jurisdictions pose greater money laundering risk in HMT Notice

HM TreasuryHM Treasury has published an Advisory Notice identifying a number of jurisdictions with “strategic deficiencies” in their anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing regimes, and has advised firms to consider a number of measures in accordance with the risks. Of the 11-listed jurisdictions, 6 are currently subject to UN, EU or US sanctions (North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen).