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.

Trump signs Nicaragua Sanctions Act into law

Trump3Yesterday (20 December), US President Donald Trump signed into law the Nicaragua Human Rights and Anticorruption Act of 2018, which instructs the US to oppose international loans to the Nicaraguan government, unless they are sought for the purposes of addressing basic human needs or promoting democracy in Nicaragua. The Act also imposes targeted sanctions (asset freezes and travel bans) on any foreign person, including any current or former Nicaraguan government official, determined to be responsible for (inter alia) serious human rights violations and corruption. See Statement by President Trump.

Last month, pursuant to a new Nicaragua-related Executive Order, OFAC sanctioned Rosario Maria Murillo De Ortega (Vice President of Nicaragua and First Lady) and Nestor Moncada Lau (national security advisor to the President and Vice President) for their roles in serious human rights abuses and corruption (see previous blog).

First UN Mali sanctions listings

UNSCYesterday (20 December), the UN Security Council added 3 individuals to its Mali sanctions list: Ahmoudou Ag Asriw, Mahamadou Ag Rhissa, and Mohamed Ousmane Ag Mohamedoune (travel bans only). These are the first designations to have been made under the UN’s Mali sanctions. See UN Press Release.

OFAC and Zoltek reach $7.8m settlement over Belarus sanctions violations

OFAC3Missouri-based holding company Zoltek Companies Inc, which owns US-based Zoltek Corporation and Hungary-based Zoltek Vegyipari ZRT, has agreed to pay $7,772,102 to OFAC for violating US sanctions on Belarus. Specifically, between January 2012 and October 2015, Zoltek Corporation approved 26 purchases of acrylonitrile, a chemical used in the production of carbon fibre, between Zoltek Vegyipari ZRT and JSC Naftan, a Belarusian entity which OFAC designated in August 2011 pursuant to Executive Order 13405. See OFAC Notice and Enforcement Information.

US sanctions 22 Russians over ‘malign activities’ & 12 added to Section 231 CAATSA list


Yesterday (19 December), OFAC sanctioned 18 Russian nationals and 4 Russia-based entities in response to “Russia’s continued disregard for international norms”:

(i) Victor Alekseyevich Boyarkin, a former officer of Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), was designated pursuant to Executive Orders (EO) 13661 and 13662 (asset freeze and travel ban) for acting on behalf of sanctioned oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

(ii) Alexander Aleksandrovich Malkevich and Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova, as well as the entities Nevskiy News LLC, Economy Today LLC, Federal News Agency LLC and USA Really were designated pursuant to EO 13694 (asset freeze and travel ban) for being linked to Project Lakhta– a broad Russian effort that includes the previously designated Internet Research Agency (IRA), which has sought to “interfere in political and electoral systems worldwide”.

(iii) 15 members of the GRU were designated under Section 224 of CAATSA (asset freeze and travel ban) for their “involvement in a wide range of malign activity”, including attempting to interfere in the 2016 US election, efforts to undermine international organisations (e.g. WADA and OPCW) through cyber-enabled means, and carrying out the Novichok assassination attempt against the Skripals in Salisbury, UK. See OFAC Notice and US Treasury Press Release.

The US Department of State has also added 12 individuals and entities from the present OFAC action to the List of Specified Persons under Section 231 of CAATSA for being part of, or operating for or on behalf of, the intelligence sector of the Russian government. As a result, any person who knowingly engages in a significant transaction with any of these 12 individuals and entities will be subject to CAATSA Section 231 sanctions. See State Department Press Release.

US continues Global Magnitsky sanctions for 1 year

White House2In December 2017, US President Donald Trump issued Executive Order (EO) 13818, which imposes asset freezes and travel bans on persons responsible for serious human rights abuses or corrupt acts anywhere in the world. The EO implements the provisions of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.

Yesterday (18 December), President Trump continued for 1 year the sanctions contained within EO 13818. See White House Press Release.

OFAC add 9 to South Sudan sanctions list

US Treasury BuildingOFAC has added 3 individuals and 6 entities to its South Sudan sanctions list, pursuant to Executive Order 13664 (asset freeze and travel ban).

Israel Ziv and Obac William Olawo were designated for being “leaders of entities whose actions have the purpose or effect of expanding or extending the conflict in South Sudan”. Those designated entities are: Global N.T.M Ltd (Israel-based); Global Law Enforcement and Security Ltd (Israel-based); Global IZ Group Ltd (Israel-based); Golden Wings Aviation (South Sudan-based); Crown Auto Trade (South Sudan-based); and Africana General Trading Ltd (South Sudan-based). The third sanctioned individual, Gregory Vasili Dimitry, was designated for “actions that have undermined peace, stability, and security in South Sudan”. See OFAC Notice and US Treasury Press Release.

4 South Koreans charged with importing North Korean coal in breach of UN sanctions

S Korea2.jpg4 South Koreans have been charged in South Korea with importing around £4.55million worth of coal and pig iron from North Korea in violation of UN sanctions. The sanctions prohibiting North Korean exports of coal, iron, and lead were introduced in August last year (see previous blog).

Prosecutors in South Korea allege that forged certificates of origin from Russian ports were used to give the impression that the commodities came from Russia, before being shipped on.

OFAC fines Jereh Group for violating US sanctions on Iran

OFAC2OFAC has announced a $2,774,972 settlement with Chinese company Yantai Jereh Oilfield Service Group Ltd and its affiliated companies (the “Jereh Group”) for violating US sanctions on Iran. Yantai is a provider of oil field services and manufacturer of related equipment.

Between around 2 October 2014 and 4 March 2016, on at least 11 occasions Jereh Group is said to have (re)exported or attempted to (re)export US-origin goods ultimately intended for Iran, by way of China. Similarly, it is also said to have exported certain US-origin items for use in the production of goods in China, with reason to know that the goods were ultimately destined for Iran.

In its press release, OFAC reports that, beginning in late 2013, a former Jereh Group Sales Executive and a former Business management arranged meetings with Iranian customers and developed a scheme utilising intermediary companies in China and the UAE to sell and ship goods, many of which relied upon US-origin items, to Iran. In addition, it says that an external review of Jereh Group’s compliance programme in 2015-16 noted that its controls were “largely non-existent and, when in place, were ineffective and easily circumvented”, adding that “the circumvention could and did go undetected”. According to OFAC, the violations did not cease until the US Bureau of Industry and Security sanctioned several Jereh Group companies and related individuals in March 2016.

OFAC found that Jereh Group had not voluntarily disclosed the violations, and that they constituted an egregious case. The base penalty amount was $3,083,302.