Pursuant 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.
We previously reported that Mehmet Hakan Atilla, an executive at Turkey’s majority state-owned Halkbank, had been found guilty in a New York Court of conspiracy to violate US sanctions against Iran.
Yesterday, the judge in the trial – US District Judge Richard Berman – dismissed Mr. Atilla’s motion for judgment of acquittal under Fed. R. Crim. P. 29(a) (that motion was made at the close of the US Government’s case, however, the court had informed the parties of its intention to elect not to resolve the motion until the close of all the evidence). In dismissing the motion, the judge held that the evidence presented against Mr. Atilla had been “clearly sufficient” to support the jury’s verdict.
Mr. Atilla is scheduled to be sentenced on 11 April 2018.
President Trump has agreed to waive sanctions lifted by the USA (for the second time) as part of the JCPOA. His statement is here. These sanctions must be waived every 120 days to keep the sanctions from coming back into force under that agreement. The President said it would be the last time he issues such a waiver unless there is an agreement with “the Europeans” to “fix the deal’s disastrous flaws… This is a last chance… if at any time I judge that such an agreement is not within reach, I will withdraw from the deal immediately”. He is also seeking to amend the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, and to agree new “triggers” with the EU for sanctions to snap back.
The US Treasury Department also imposed new sanctions on 14 Iranian people and entities said to have committed human rights abuses or supported Iran’s ballistic missile programmes (outside the scope of the JCPOA). These include Sadeq Larijani, head of Iran’s judiciary. OFAC Notice here, and US Treasury press release here.
On 9 January 2018, the Iran Human Rights and Hostage-Taking Accountability Act was introduced to the US House of Representatives. The Bill makes provision for the imposition of sanctions (asset freezes and visa restrictions) against Iranian officials (including family members) responsible for politically-motivated intimidation, abuse, extortion, detention or trial of US citizens (as well as Iranian expatriates). The Bill also requires the President to submit a report, detailing a list of Iranian officials who should be sanctioned for human rights abuses and/or corruption. Bill summary here.
On the same day, the House of Representatives also passed a Resolution urging “the [US] Administration to use targeted sanctions and work to convene emergency sessions of the United Nations Security Council and the United Nations Human Rights Council to condemn the ongoing human rights violations perpetrated by the Iranian regime”.
President Trump has until 13 January 2018 to decide whether to certify Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA (the Iran nuclear agreement) and whether to waive sanctions on Iran. The President must determine those issues every 90 and 120 days, respectively. The US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, stated last week that, in the event waivers are extended, more non-nuclear US sanctions would be coming; he cited the recent OFAC designations in respect of Iran’s ballistic missile programme as an example (see previous blog here). The UK government has re-indicated its support for the JCPOA.
On the previous JCPOA certification date (13 October 2017), President Trump refused to certify the accord on the basis that Iran had violated the “spirit” of the deal (see previous blog here). As a result, it fell to the US Congress to decide (within 60 days) whether it would pass new legislation to address the President’s concerns over the nuclear deal, or to reimpose sanctions against Iran. Congress did not take any action (see previous blog here). President Trump had previously certified the nuclear deal in April and July 2017, and continued to waiver sanctions on Iran in September 2017.
Following the recent protests in Iran, the UK Home Secretary is facing calls to designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organisation. On 31 October 2017, 69 British MPs backed a motion to express serious concerns over the group’s role in “human rights violations in Iran and support for terrorism abroad”, and calling on the Government to include IRGC on the UK list of proscribed organisations, including “punitive measures” against its officials”. The IRGC was designated by the US in October 2017 (see previous blog here).
OFAC has designated 5 Iranian entities for being linked to Iran’s ballistic missile programme. The entities were designated pursuant to Executive Order 13382 on the basis that they are owned or controlled by Iran’s Shahid Bakeri Industrial Group (SBIG). SBIG is stated as being “responsible for the development and production of Iran’s solid-propellant ballistic missiles” and is currently sanctioned by the US, UN and EU. Links here for the OFAC Notice and the US Treasury press release.
Yesterday, Turkish banker Mehmet Hakan Atilla was found guilty by a federal jury in New York of conspiracy to violate US sanctions against Iran. The scheme consisted of a money-laundering network facilitated by Turkish state bank Halkbank, which allowed Iran to gain access to international markets in contravention of US sanctions. Although nine defendants had been charged in the case, Mr Atilla was the only one who stood trial (seven other defendants are still at large). Co-defendant Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian businessman, previously pleaded guilty in the scheme and gave evidence in the trial against Mr Atilla (see previous blog here).
Mr Atilla is scheduled to be sentenced on 11 April 2018, whilst Mr Zarrab’s sentencing has yet to be listed. Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued a press release, describing the guilty verdict as an “unjust and unfortunate development”, see here.