President Trump has given his first address to the UN General Assembly, in which he made several comments relating to sanctions. He again criticised the JCPOA nuclear deal with Iran, describing it as “an embarrassment to the US” and creating further uncertainty about the deal’s future. World leaders have called on President Trump not to undermine the deal, which enjoys near-universal support among UN Member States.
The President also said that he would not lift the US trade embargo on Cuba until Cuba made “fundamental reforms”. In June, President Trump reinstated some of the sanctions on Cuba that were lifted by President Obama (see previous blog), chilling a relationship that had begun to thaw under the previous administration. In addition, he warned that the US was prepared to take further action against the administration of President Maduro of Venezuela, which the US describes as a dictatorship (see previous blog).
At the end of last month, OFAC fined US insurance and financial services company AIG $148,698 for violating US sanctions on Cuba, Iran, and Sudan. OFAC said that although AIG’s compliance programme included recommendations for when to use exclusion clauses in its insurance policies where US sanctions were involved, the scope of most of those exclusion clauses was too narrow. As a result, AIG provided insurance coverage to parties that were engaging in shipments to or from Cuba, Iran, and Sudan, primarily under global insurance policies.
OFAC’s enforcement notice is here.
On Friday President Trump signed an Executive Order introducing new sanctions measures against Cuba, reinstating some of the measures that had been lifted by President Obama. The new sanctions do not re-impose the trade embargo but increase US restrictions on travel to Cuba, prohibiting privately planned trips and limiting travel again to authorised educational trips. The measures prohibit transactions between US travellers in Cuba and entities related to the Cuban military, intelligence, or security services, including the Grupo de Administración Empresarial (GAESA), which is in involved in many sectors of the Cuban economy.
OFAC has published a new set of FAQs on the changes here.
OFAC has announced two settlement agreements relating to violations of US sanctions on Iran and Cuba.
Aban Offshore Limited
Aban has agreed to pay $17,500 for violating US sanctions on Iran in 2008 when its Singapore subsidiary ordered oil rig supplies from the US, with the intention of re-exporting them from the UAE to a rig in Iranian territorial waters. OFAC determined that Aban did not voluntarily self-disclose the violation, but that it constituted a non-egregious case. In mitigation, OFAC also noted that Aban displayed substantial cooperation with OFAC’s investigation, including by conducting its own internal investigation into potential prior violations of sanctions. OFAC’s enforcement notice is here.
An individual & Alliance for Responsible Cuba Policy Foundation
OFAC has issued a $10,000 fine to an individual acting in his personal capacity and Alliance, on whose behalf the individual also acted. They are said to have violated US sanctions on Cuba by engaging in unauthorised travel-related transactions during business travel to Cuba in 2010 and 2011. Although OFAC found the individual’s conduct to have been wilful, it noted that the violations appeared to cause minimal harm to US sanctions objectives. OFAC’s enforcement notice is here.
OFAC has updated its FAQ on US sanctions against Cuba to provide guidance on the “180-day rule” that applies to vessels visiting Cuba (FAQs 86-90, link here), and has also de-listed several people and entities from its Cuba sanctions. The 180-day rule prohibits any vessel that enters a port or place in Cuba with the purpose of trading in goods or services from loading or unloading freight at a US port for 180 days after it leaves Cuba.
The new guidance sets out several exceptions to the 180-day rule, including when the trade was authorised under the Cuban Assets Control Regulations or where the vessel has entered a port for the purpose of licensed educational activities. It stipulates that the exceptions to the 180-day rule do not in and of themselves authorise shipments to or from Cuba.
OFAC has fined US firm National Oilwell Varco (NOV), and its subsidiaries Dreco and Elmar, $5,976,028 in settlement of their civil liability for allegedly violating US sanctions on Iran, Cuba, and Sudan. The settlement is concurrent with a settlement agreement between NOV and the Department of Commerce, and a Non-Prosecution Agreement (NPA) with the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas. NOV’s settlement with OFAC will be deemed satisfied by its payment of $25,000,000 under the NPA.
OFAC determined that, between around 2002 and 2009, NOV repeatedly engaged in transactions involving the sale and export of goods to Iran, Cuba, and Sudan. NOV is said to have wilfully blinded itself to Dreco’s deliberate non-identification of Iran in its communications with NOV. It found NOV’s conduct to have been aggravated by, among other factors, the fact that it did not voluntarily disclose the violations, that senior management knew or had reason to know that several of the transactions were benefitting Iran, and that it is a large and sophisticated company involved in regions of high sanctions risk that had a wholly inadequate compliance programme in place. OFAC found NOV’s conduct to have been mitigated by its cooperation with the investigation into its conduct, and its efforts to remediate its compliance programme.
OFAC’s penalty notice is here.
The USA has further eased its sanctions on Cuba (see previous blog). The amendments (among other things) remove limits on the value of goods that authorised travellers to Cuba may bring back with them to the US for personal use, including a $100 cap on the value of alcohol and cigars, allow people subject to US jurisdiction to engage in joint medical research with Cuban nationals, and waive the prohibition on foreign vessels docking at US ports within 180 days of visiting Cuba. The US Treasury press release is here.
The US has extended its trade sanctions on Cuba for another year, until 14 September 2017. In December 2014, President Obama announced his goal of normalising relations with Cuba after decades of hostility, and the US has steadily eased its sanctions on the country since that time. However, he announced on Tuesday that continuing the sanctions was in the national interest of the US.
In June, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough set out the factors behind the Obama administration’s policy of rapprochement with Cuba (see previous blog).