EU to impose arms embargo on Venezuela

Venezuela1.jpgEU ambassadors have agreed to impose an arms embargo on Venezuela, as well as a ban on any equipment capable of being used to repress opponents within the state. Next week, EU Foreign Ministers will vote on whether to approve the measures. The proposed sanctions follow a UN report (published August 2017) which concluded that “extensive human rights violations and abuses” had been carried out in the context of country-wide anti-Government demonstrations.

In the US, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has added 9 individuals (and updated the details of one person) to its Venezuela sanctions list, see OFAC Notice here and FAQs here. The US Treasury has announced that all 10 individuals are “current or former Venezuelan government officials… associated with undermining electoral processes, media censorship, or corruption in government-administered food programs in Venezuela”. Furthermore, it is stated that this designation follows the 15 October 2017 state elections in Venezuela, which had been “marked by numerous irregularities”, strongly suggesting that “fraud [had] helped the ruling party unexpectedly win a majority of governorships.”

OFAC amends Cuban Assets Control Regulations

Logo_of_the_U.S._Office_of_Foreign_Assets_Control_(OFAC)OFAC has announced that it is amending the Cuban Assets Control Regulations in order to implement the National Security Presidential Memorandum, “Strengthening the Policy of the United States Toward Cuba,” signed by President Trump in June 2017.

The amendments, which come into effect today, implement changes to the authorisations for travel to Cuba and related transactions, and restrict certain financial transactions with particular entities that are “under the control of, or act for or on behalf of, the Cuban military, intelligence, or security service or personnel”.

OFAC has stated that the regulatory changes are “intended to channel economic activities away from the Cuban military, intelligence, and security services, while maintaining opportunities for Americans to engage in authorised travel to Cuba and support the private, small business sector in Cuba.”

Links available for the OFAC Notice, updated FAQs and a factsheet relating to this regulatory amendment.

US Senate committee approves Bill for further N Korea sanctions

US Flag2The US Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs has unanimously approved the Otto Warmbier Banking Restrictions Involving North Korea Act of 2017 (a companion Bill was introduced in the US House of Representatives two-weeks ago, see previous blog here).

The newly-approved Bill makes provision for the Secretary of the Treasury to impose sanctions on a “foreign financial institution” that the Secretary determines to have “knowingly provide[d] significant financial services” to a designated person.

The Bill also expands the scope of mandatory designations under the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act of 2016, by requiring the US President to designate those who have (inter alia): (i) knowingly purchased or otherwise acquired “significant quantities” of coal, iron, or iron ore from North Korea; (ii) knowingly provided coal, iron, or iron ore to North Korea; (iii) knowingly purchased or otherwise acquired textiles from North Korea; (iv) knowingly facilitated a “significant transfer” of funds or property of the North Korean Government that “materially contributes” to any violation of an applicable UNSC resolution; (v) knowingly purchased or otherwise acquired “significant types or amounts” of seafood from North Korea; (vi) knowingly engaged, facilitated or was responsible for the exportation of workers from North Korea “in a manner intended to generate significant revenue” for the Government of North Korea; and (vii) knowingly sold or transferred vessels to North Korea (except where approved by the UNSC).

The Bill will now go to the US Senate for it to be voted on.

Limited resumption of visas between US and Turkey

Turkey-USA Breakup2On 8 October 2017, the US announced that it had suspended the processing of all non-immigrant visa applications in Turkey due to “recent events” (with Turkey having responded in like terms) (see previous blog here).

Almost a month later, the US Department of State has announced that on the basis of “preliminary assurances” from the Government of Turkey, it believes that “the security posture has improved sufficiently to allow for the resumption of limited visa services in Turkey”. In response, the Turkish Embassy in Washington DC has stated that it would also resume processing visa applications for US nationals on a “limited basis”.


Chinese bank cut off from US markets for illicit N Korean links

FinCEN.pngThe US Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) has issued a final rule under section 311 of the USA Patriot Act to sever Bank of Dandong from the US financial system (full list here).

Despite US and UN sanctions, the Chinese bank is said to have acted “as a conduit for North Korea to access the US and international financial systems”, including the facilitation of “millions of dollars of transactions for companies involved in North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and ballistic missile programs”.

As a result, FinCEN’s section 311 action against the bank imposes a prohibition on US financial institutions from opening or maintaining correspondent accounts for, or on behalf of, Bank of Dandong. Click here for the FinCEN press release.

US votes against UN resolution to lift Cuba embargo

UN General Assembly.jpgThe UN General Assembly has adopted a resolution calling for an end to the US trade embargo on Cuba. A total of 191 UN member states approved the non-binding resolution, whilst the US and Israel voted to oppose it.

The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said that the embargo would remain in place “as long as the Cuban people continue to be deprived of their human rights and fundamental freedoms”. Only the US Congress can lift the trade embargo. Click here for the UN press release.

US maintains terrorist designation

US Flag2.jpgFollowing a mandated five-year review of Abdallah Azzam Bridges’ designation as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation (FTO), the US Department of State has determined that the group “[remains] active since its original designation in 2012 and [has] continued its operations”. As a result, its designation as an FTO has been maintained (as well as amended). Click here for the US Department of State press release, and here for the OFAC Notice.

OFAC updates US offshore oil sanctions on Russia

IOFAC2n accordance with section 223(d) of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), the US Office of Foreign Assets Control has amended Ukraine/Russia-Related Directive 4.

Under the Directive, unless licenced or authorised by OFAC, the following activities by a US person or within the US are prohibited: “the provision, exportation, or reexportation, directly or indirectly, of goods, services (except for financial services), or technology in support of exploration or production for deepwater, Arctic offshore, or shale projects” that have the potential to produce oil in territories of, or claimed by, the Russian Federation, and that involves any person listed under the Directive.

The amendments to the Directive adds a ban on projects that are initiated on or after 29 January 2018, that have the potential to produce oil in “any location”, and in which any person listed under the Directive has a 33% or greater ownership interest, or ownership of a majority of the voting interests.

There are further prohibitions on transactions that evade, avoid or violate (including attempts) any of the prohibitions contained in the Directive. Links available for the OFAC Notice, updated OFAC FAQs relating to the Directive, and new OFAC FAQs relating to particular provisions of CAATSA. In addition, the US Department of State has published public guidance concerning energy sanctions relating to the Russian Federation, specifically sections 225 and 232 of CAATSA.