President Trump addresses the UN on sanctions

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).

US renews JCPOA sanctions relief, but deal’s future still in doubt

The US has extended some of the sanctions relief it granted to Iran under the JCPOA, however a State Department Spokesperson said that the administration was still reviewing its stance on the JCPOA as a whole.  In this regard, the Spokesperson said that Iran continued to engage in “reckless, malign” behaviour and was considered dangerous by the administration.  The full remarks are available here.

Separately, OFAC has designated Iranian company SABA for assisting Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in support of the country’s ballistic missile programme, and Ukraine-based Khors Aircompany and Dart Airlines for aiding designated Iranian and Iraqi airlines through the provision of aircraft and services. The details are here.

US Treasury targets cyberattackers and drug traffickers

OFAC has designated Iranian computer security company IT Sec Team and 3 people acting on its behalf for planning and executing DDoS attacks against at least 9 large US financial institutions in 2011 and 2012. It has also designated 4 Iranian nationals working for another Iranian computer security company Mersad Co., which used a botnet to target 24 corporations in the US financial sector with DDoS attacks in 2012 and 2013. On 24 March 2016, the Department of Justice announced that a grand jury had indicted the 7 people designated in this action (see press release here).

Separately, OFAC has designated 4 Mexican entities and 3 Mexican people linked to drug trafficking organisations the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion and the Los Cuinis Drug Trafficking Organisation. The organisations were designated in 2015, and in the Treasury’s press release OFAC Director John Smith said that the Treasury “continues to untangle and expose the web of businesses” they control.

The details of all the listings are here.

Trump authorises Treasury to begin imposing Global Magnitsky sanctions

Last year, President Obama signed the Global Magnitsky Act into law, which provides for asset freezes and travel bans on people anywhere in the world who are deemed to have violated human rights or been involved in significant corruption. It is an expansion of the original Magnitsky Act, which targeted only Russian citizens. President Trump has now authorised the Secretary of the Treasury, in coordination with the Secretary of State, to administer these sanctions. The President’s memo is here.

US charges 3 Iranian nationals with violating Iran sanctions

The US has charged 3 Iranian nationals in Cleveland’s federal District Court with violating US sanctions on Iran.  Mohammad Shanevar, Arezoo Alalmdari, and Parisa Mohamadi are accused of shipping millions of dollars’ worth of goods for use in Iran’s energy sector to Iran via third countries, such as Turkey and the UAE.   In order to avoid being detected by US authorities, the conspirators allegedly underreported the value of the goods being shipped, gave misleading information as to the end-user destination of the goods, and removed serial numbers from or changed the packaging of goods to hide their origins.

US submits watered down North Korea sanctions resolution to Security Council

The US has watered down its draft UN sanctions resolution targeting North Korea, in order to try and win the support of China and Russia.  Previously, the US had called for a prohibition on oil exports to North Korea, much tougher restrictions on North Koreans working abroad, enforced inspections of ships suspected of carrying cargo subject to UN sanctions, and a freeze on the assets of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-Un. It has now watered down the oil ban to a gradual reduction in oil exports and dropped the other proposals, although it is still proposing a ban on textile exports.  The draft resolution will be voted on by the UN Security Council today.

Last week, UN experts reported that North Korea was successfully engaging in large-scale sanctions evasion, having illegally exported at least $270m of coal, iron, and other sanctioned commodities in the 6 months to August, and also circumvented financial and logistical sanctions and the arms embargo.

US significantly expands Iran sanctions evasion investigation

The US has significantly expanded its case against a group of Turkish citizens who allegedly conspired to violate US sanctions on Iran. 4 new people have been charged, including former Turkish Minister of the Economy Mehmet Caglayan, who is accused of receiving millions of dollars’ worth of bribes taken from the scheme’s proceeds, and a former General Manager of a Turkish Government-owned bank.

The first charges in the case were made in March 2016, including against prominent Turkish businessman Reza Zarrab (see previous blog). The co-conspirators are accused of concealing transfers of currency and gold to Iran from 2010 to 2015, including through the use of fraudulent documents to make the transactions appear as though they involved food that qualified for a humanitarian exemption to US sanctions. In the US Department of Justice’s press release, the scheme is said to have used the US financial system to conduct “hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of transactions on behalf of the Government of Iran and other Iranian entities”.

US targets South Sudanese government officials

The US has designated 2 South Sudanese government officials and 1 former official for their roles in destabilising South Sudan. The people are Deputy Chief of Defence Force Malek Riak Rengu, 3 of whose companies have also been designated, Minister of Information and Broadcasting Michael Lueth, and former Chief of General Staff of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army Paul Awan. The details of the listings are here.

In addition, FinCEN has issued an advisory to financial institutions alerting them to their potential exposure to anti-money laundering risks caused by certain South Sudanese senior political figures attempting to move or hide the proceeds of public corruption.