U.S. Iran Sanctions – All clear or are you confused about The EU Blocking Regulation?

Worried about orders to go to high risk or dangerous areas such as Yemen, Libya, West Africa or Venezuela?

Crowell & Moring Partner Michelle Linderman and Stephen Askins, Tatham Macinnes LLP, will look at the practical, legal and insurance implications of trading to these places.

Event Information

Date: October 18, 2018
Time: 11:30 AM – 1:00 PM EEST
Location: Piraeus Marine Club, Piraeus, Greece

Click here to register for this event.

 

As a consequence of U.S. and UN sanctions on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea), companies increasingly need to coordinate compliance efforts across the typically distinct worlds of economic sanctions and import/customs compliance. This is particularly necessary with respect to identifying, and mitigating the risk of DPRK-related labor in supply chains. Below, we summarize first the expanded scope of UN restrictions on the DPRK, including the prohibition on the use of DPRK labor, and then second, how those rules have been implemented and expanded in the United States in increasingly complex ways.

Part I:    United Nations Restrictions:

The United Nations has maintained limited sanctions on North Korea for years, but in 2017 it expanded those sanctions in a number of material ways.  Of relevance to this analysis, the UN Security Council (UNSC) reached a determination that all DPRK labor outside of North Korea poses a high forced labor-related risk.  As a result, the UNSC first required that all new work visas for DPRK citizens be approved by the UNSC, before expanding that restriction in December 2017 (UNSCR 2397) to require all UN Member States to repatriate all DPRK workers currently employed in their territory “immediately but not later than 24 months” (i.e., December 2019).  Therefore, for example Chinese and Taiwanese companies could currently employ DPRK citizens, but they will be required to reduce that employment and ultimately curtail it, or risk violation of UN resolutions.

Part II:   U.S. Restrictions:

In parallel, the United States has implemented a growing array of restrictions that also target DPRK labor.  Below, we summarize the relevant (a) U.S. sanctions prohibiting transactions with the DPRK and (b) a parallel set of import requirements presumptively prohibiting products manufactured with DPRK nationals in the supply chain:

(1) U.S. Sanctions on the DPRK:

The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) has maintained a comprehensive embargo on the DPRK since 2017 and more limited restrictions for decades. Today, OFAC prohibits the export of any goods or services to the DPRK  and any transactions with the Government of North Korea or the Workers Party of North Korea.  OFAC generally considers a transaction with a DPRK national ordinarily resident in the DPRK to be prohibited as an indirect export of a service to the DPRK.

Importantly, for this analysis, OFAC also prohibits the importation of any goods or services from the DPRK, even items with only a de minimis percentage DPRK content (e.g., a $10,000 widget produced in Russia with a $2 North Korean origin part would be considered North Korean origin and prohibited entry into the United States).

Over the last few months, we have seen that OFAC has aggressively expanded its enforcement of these provisions, including designation of persons involved in DPRK trade, and issuing advisories to the shipping community about DPRK risks in the supply chain.  See https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm458; https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/OFAC-Enforcement/Documents/dprk_vessel_advisory_02232018.pdf; and https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/dprk_supplychain_advisory_07232018.pdf.

(2) DPRK-Related Import Prohibitions:

In parallel, since August 2017, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) has maintained a North Korean related import restriction.  Specifically, pursuant to Section 321(b) of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (“CAATSA”), CBP utilizes a presumption that any “significant goods, wares, articles, and merchandise mined, produced, or manufactured wholly or in part by the labor of North Korean nationals or citizens” is produced through forced labor and therefore is prohibited for entry into the United States.  The presumption can be rebutted only through “clear and convincing” evidence that the DPRK nationals are not forced labor (e.g., a demonstration that they are asylees or refugees in a third country).  To assist importers in meeting their “reasonable care” obligation to ensure that goods entering the United States meet these new provisions, the Department of Homeland Security has published CAATSA Section 321(b) Guidance on due diligence steps importers can take, while CBP has noted that the seafood industry presents a high risk of DPRK nationals.  See e.g., https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/spotlights/cbp-leads-delegation-thailand-discusses-forced-labor-concerns-fishing-industry.

Part III: Significant Points for Importers, Exporters and U.S. Companies

The net result of the overlap of the above restrictions is:

  • All U.S. and non-U.S. companies are prohibited to grant new work permits to DPRK nationals, except DPRK nationals seeking an asylum or refugee status.
  • U.S. companies are prohibited under U.S. sanctions law from directly or indirectly exporting goods or services to the DPRK, including transacting with persons ordinarily resident in the DPRK.
  • U.S. companies are prohibited under U.S. sanctions to import any products produced in whole or in part (no matter how small the percentage) with DPRK origin material into the United States.
  • All products manufactured in whole, or in part, with DPRK national labor are presumptively considered to be produced with forced labor and are therefore prohibited to enter the United States, unless the importer can demonstrate through “clear and convincing” evidence that the DPRK nationals were not forced labor (e.g., by demonstrating they are asylum seekers).

 

Crowell & Moring Partner Michelle Linderman is co-presenting a webinar, in association with SanctionsAlert.com on September 13, 2018 on “The Potential Effects of Brexit on U.K. Sanctions Law and How Compliance Officers Can Prepare for the Switch.” Michelle’s co-presenter is Susan Lake, the regional compliance head of Swiss Re’s Reinsurance Business Unit.

You can register at the link below.

Register Online ($195)

Date: September 13, 2018

Time: 10:00 – 11:15 AM EDT (3:00 – 4:15 PM in Amsterdam)

The U.K. currently derives its power to implement sanctions from European law, regardless of whether they originated at the U.N., E.U., or OSCE. Since June 2016’s ‘Brexit’ decision, when the U.K. voted to leave the E.U., it has been unclear how the U.K. will implement sanctions policy after the divorce.

The new Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill, which received Royal Assent earlier this year, provides the U.K. powers to impose, update, and lift sanctions and AML regimes after the U.K. leaves the E.U. in March 2019. But will the U.K. sanctions landscape stay the same, or is it likely to change drastically?

In this SanctionsAlert.com webinar, you will learn:

  • What powers will be derived from the new U.K. Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill and how this will change (or not change) the sanctions landscape; and
  • What the potential effect of Brexit on U.K. Sanctions Law will be as well as how Compliance Officers can prepare for the switch.

 

 

 

On August 7, 2018, EU’s newly updated Blocking Statute entered into force. The Blocking Statute generally forbids EU citizens and established entities, residents, and persons physically in the EU from complying with a variety of U.S. measures imposing secondary sanctions on Iran, including the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996, the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act of 2012, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, and the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012. The Blocking Statute also makes foreign court judgments based on these sanctions ineffective in the EU, and allows EU operators to recover damages arising from U.S. extraterritorial sanctions from the persons or entities causing those damages.

On Monday, August 6, 2018, President Trump issued a new Executive Order (New Iran EO) that reimposes Iran sanctions previously revoked as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), consolidates the relevant authorities into one single document, and broadens the scope of previous sanctions restrictions. This action coincides with the expiration of the 90-day wind down period for a number of transactions previously authorized as part of the Agreement. OFAC also updated and issued additional Frequently Asked Questions with respect to this New Iran EO.

Reimposition of Sanctions Authorities and Revocation of Previous EO’s

In accordance with President Trump’s May 8, 2018 decision to withdraw from the JCPOA, the New Iran EO reimposes the relevant provisions of EOs 13574, 13590, 13622, and 13645 previously revoked by EO 13716. Accordingly, as of 12:01 a.m. eastern daylight time (EDT) Tuesday, August 7, 2018, sanctions targeting the following areas were reinstated:

  • The purchase or acquisition of U.S. dollar banknotes by the Government of Iran.
  • Iran’s trade in gold or precious metals.
  • The direct or indirect sale, supply, or transfer to or from Iran of graphite, raw, or semi-finished metals such as aluminum and steel, coal, and software for integrating industrial processes.
  • Significant transactions related to the purchase or sale of Iranian rials, or the maintenance of significant funds or accounts outside the territory of Iran denominated in the Iranian rial.
  • Purchase, subscription to, or facilitation of the issuance of Iranian sovereign debt.
  • Iran’s automotive sector.

Further, as of August 7, 2018, the wind down period terminated for transactions related to the export/re-export of Iran commercial passenger aircraft pursuant to General License I, and transactions regarding U.S. imports of, and dealings in, Iranian-origin foodstuffs and carpets, and related letters of credit and brokering services. The next wind down deadline is November 4, 2018, and relates to transactions pursuant to General License H, and sanctions targeting the following areas: Iran’s port operators and shipping/ship-building sectors; petroleum-related transactions; financial transactions and specialized messaging services with the Central Bank of Iran; underwriting and insurance services; and Iran’s energy sector.

The New Iran EO also revokes EOs 13716 and 13628 and supersedes these authorities by incorporating the blocking sanctions previously provided in sections 2 and 3, and subsection 3(c) respectively.

Expansion of Sanctions in Effect Prior to JCPOA

The New Iran EO further broadens the scope of sanctions in effect prior the implementation of the JCPOA, January 16, 2016. OFAC details this expansion in Frequently Asked Question # 601, and we have summarized those changes below:

  • New Designation Authority: The New Iran EO provides new authority to designate as Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs) any person that on or after November 5, 2018, provided material support, or goods and services in support of, persons designated for engaging in the following transactions: (1) providing support, or goods and services in support of the purchase or acquisition of U.S. bank notes or precious metals by the GOI; (2) providing support, or goods and services in support of the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), the Naftiran Intertrade Company (NICO), or the Central Bank of Iran (CBI); or (3) being part of the Iranian energy sector, shipping, or shipbuilding sectors, being a port operator in Iran, or providing significant support of persons designated under section 1244(c)(1)(A) of the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act of 2012 (IFCA) or other SDNs.

 

  • New Restrictions on Financial Institutions: The New Iran EO provides the authority to prohibit or significantly restrict correspondent and payable-through accounts of foreign financial institutions determined to have knowingly conducted or facilitated significant transactions on or after November 5, 2018, with persons designated pursuant to the new authorities described above.

 

  • Expanded Menu of Sanctions for Petroleum Transactions: The New EO expands the menu of sanctions available to be imposed on persons that on or after November 5, 2018, knowingly engaged in significant transactions related to Iranian petroleum products and petrochemicals, including: (1) Visa restrictions on controlling officers and shareholders; (2) certain secondary sanctions on principal executive officers of a SDN; and (3) prohibitions on investing in or purchasing debt and equity instruments from a sanctioned person.

 

  • Expanding Restrictions on Foreign Subsidiaries of U.S. Companies: The New EO also expands sanctions restrictions on foreign subsidiaries of U.S. owned or controlled companies by prohibiting transactions with persons blocked for any of the following activity: (1) providing material support for, or goods and services in support of, persons designated pursuant to Iran sanctions; and (2) being part of the Iranian energy sector, shipping, or shipbuilding sectors, being a port operator in Iran, or providing significant support of persons designated under section 1244(c)(1)(A) of the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act of 2012 (IFCA) or other SDNs. Note that this expanded restriction does not eliminate the authorization to wind down transactions pursuant to General License H by November 4, 2018.

Implications

The expansion of pre-JCPOA sanctions may come as some surprise to the business community, but largely fall within the Trump Administration’s new policy towards Iran. In his May 8th National Security Memorandum, President Trump hinted that the process of restoring sanctions could entail revising relevant sanctions regulations. These revisions make clear that after the November 4th wind-down date, any person, including U.S. persons, that attempts to directly or indirectly provide support in any way to persons designated under pre-JCPOA sanctions restrictions will also risk designation.

 

These renewed and expanded U.S. sanctions against Iran creates an increasingly complex landscape for companies operating globally, as it is impossible to comply with both sets of restrictions. However, a few large European companies have already suspended plans to invest in Iran.

On July 31, 2018, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued Ukraine-/Russia-related General License 13C, which replaces and supersedes General License 13B in its entirety. 

General License 13C extends to 12:01 a.m. October 23, 2018, the “authorized period to make certain divestment and transfer activities related to debt, equity, or other holdings in EN+ Group, GAZ Group, or United Company RUSAL PLC, or in entities in which those persons own, directly or indirectly, a 50 percent or greater interest, that were issued by Irkutskenergo, GAZ Auto Plant, or Rusal Capital Designated Activity Company (Other Issuer Holdings), subject to certain conditions and exceptions.” 

Previously, General License 13B had authorized the same activity, but only until 12:01 a.m. August 5, 2018.

Further information on this topic in may be found in FAQs 570 and 571 on OFAC’s website.

 

On July 19, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued Venezuela General License 5.

General License 5 authorizes U.S. persons to engage in all transactions related to, the provision of financing for, and other dealings in the Petróleos de Venezuela SA 2020 8.5 Percent Bond that would be prohibited by Subsection 1(a)(iii) of  Executive Order 13835 of May 21, 2018 (“Prohibiting Certain Additional Transactions With Respect to Venezuela”) (E.O. 13835). In practice, General License 5 expands the previously issued General License No.3. by adding a new bond to the list of previously authorized bonds.

OFAC also published two new Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).One explains why OFAC is issuing General License 5. The other answers the question of whether E.O. 13835 prohibits a U.S. person with a legal judgment against the Government of Venezuela from attaching and executing against Venezuelan government assets.

 

 

On June 27, in accordance with President Trump’s May 8, 2018 decision to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) revoked two Iran-related General Licenses and amended the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (ITSR), 31 C.F.R. part 560, to reflect the re-imposition of sanctions. OFAC also updated previously issued Frequently Asked Questions on the President’s announcement. These actions represent the first tangible steps taken by the U.S. government to implement the May 8 announcement to end some limited primary sanctions exceptions and re-impose secondary sanctions on Iran.

Revocation of General Licenses H and I

Fulfilling one of the promises made on May 8, OFAC revoked both General License H and General License I authorizing certain transactions with Iran.

  • General License H authorized U.S.-owned foreign entities to engage in transactions with the Government of Iran or any person subject to the jurisdiction of the Government of Iran. OFAC revoked General License H and replaced it with an amendment to the ITSR authorizing the wind-down, until November 4, 2018, of previously permitted activity, as described in the Final Rule published on June 28, 2018 (see 31 C.F.R. § 560.537).
  • General License I authorized U.S. persons to engage in certain transactions related to the export or re-export to Iran of commercial passenger aircraft. OFAC has now revoked General License I and amended the ITSR to authorize the wind down of such transactions through August 6, 2018 (see 31 C.F.R. § 560.536).

Additional ITSR Amendments

OFAC amended the ITSR to authorize the wind-down of two previously authorized types of activity for U.S. persons.

  • Import of Carpets and Foodstuffs: OFAC amended 31 C.F.R. § 560.534 to authorize the wind down of transactions regarding U.S. imports of, and dealings in, certain Iranian-origin foodstuffs and carpets through August 6, 2018.
  • Credit and Brokering Services for Related Activity: OFAC amended 31 C.F.R. § 560.535 to authorize the wind down of transactions regarding letters of credit and brokering services relating to certain Iranian-origin foodstuffs and carpets through August 6, 2018.

OFAC also updated JCPOA Withdrawal-Related Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 4.3, 4.4, and 4.5 to address  these changes.

Additional Announcements Expected in the Coming Weeks

These changes give effect to some, but not all, of the changes announced by President Trump on May 8. Specifically, in the coming weeks, we expect the issuance of at least one new Executive Order to re-authorize previously terminated sanctions authorities as well as the issuance by OFAC and the U.S. Department of State of additional guidance regarding the re-implementation of primary and “secondary” sanctions that had been in effect prior to the JCPOA as well as potentially to announce additional restrictions beyond those that existed prior to the JCPOA (e.g., targeting ballistic missile proliferation or potentially even expanding secondary sanctions).

We will continue to update this guidance as and when these changes are announced.

 

 

 

Following the imposition of new U.S. sanctions on Russia in April 2018, Russian lawmakers have introduced two draft bills proposing Russian countersanctions against ‘unfriendly’ states, as well as criminalizing compliance with foreign sanctions in Russia.

The Countermeasures Bill

The first measure, the Draft Bill No. 441399-7 On Measures (Countermeasures) in Response to Unfriendly Actions of the USA and (or) other Foreign States (the Countermeasures Bill) passed both chambers of the Federal Assembly, and was signed into law by President Putin and officially published on June 4, 2018. It is effective from that date.

The Countermeasures Bill was significantly watered down during its passage through the State Duma. Specifically, the Duma removed the specified categories of banned products and services that were proposed in the initial draft. The revised Countermeasures Bill as enacted includes the following six measures which may target the U.S., other ‘unamicable’ foreign states (the Relevant States), entities that are subject to the jurisdiction of the Relevant States, entities that are directly or indirectly owned by entities under the jurisdiction of the Relevant States (the Relevant Entities), officials and citizens of the Relevant States, if they are involved in ‘unamicable’ acts with respect to the Russian Federation:

  • Article 2(1): Termination or suspension of international cooperation between Russia and Russian legal entities and the Relevant States, including entities that are subject to the jurisdiction of the Relevant States, or the Relevant Entities, relating to sectors to be determined by a separate decision of the Russian President.
  • Article 2(2): Prohibition or restriction on the import of products and/or raw materials into Russia originating from the Relevant States or manufactured by the Relevant Entities. The list of products and/or raw materials shall be determined by the Russian Government. Significantly, such measures would not apply to (a) products which do not have substitutes manufactured in Russia, or (b) products imported for personal use.
  • Article 2(3): Prohibition or restriction on the export from the Russian Federation of products and/or raw materials by (a) citizens of the Relevant States and/or (b) the Relevant Entities. The list of products and/or raw materials will be determined by the Russian Government.
  • Article 2(4): Prohibition or restriction on access, directly or indirectly, to public procurement for providers of works/services that are Relevant Entities. The list of particular works/services prohibited from public procurement will be determined by the Russian Government.
  • Article 2(5): Prohibition or restriction on participation in privatization of state or municipal property for (a) citizens of the Relevant States and/or (b) the Relevant Entities. Prohibition or restriction for such persons from (a) providing works/services for the organization of sale of federal property in the name of the Russian Federation and/or (b) fulfilling functions as a seller of federal property.
  • Article 2(6): All other measures determined by a separate decision of the Russian President.

Such measures must be implemented by all federal and municipal bodies, as well as the citizens of the Russian Federation and entities under Russian jurisdiction (Article 1(4)).

The Criminalization Bill

On May 14, 2018, Russian lawmakers filed another draft bill in connection with the proposed countermeasures, this time proposing criminal liability for Russian citizens complying with non-Russian sanctions. The Draft Bill No. 464757-7 On Amendments to the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (the Criminalization Bill) passed its first hearing stage with only minor changes. The second hearing for the Criminalization Bill was scheduled for May 17, 2018 but was postponed, pending further consultations with the Russian government and the business community. A new date for the hearing has not yet been set.

The draft bill introduces a new Article 2842 of the Russian Criminal Code, which creates the following two new types of criminal offenses and related liability:

  • Article 2842(1): Actions (or omission to act) aimed at compliance with a decision of a foreign state, union of foreign states or international organization to impose restrictive measures, if this action (omission to act) restricts or prohibits Russian citizens, legal entities incorporated in Russia, Russian Federation, subjects of the Russian Federation, municipal entities or entities controlled by any of the above (Russian private or public entities of entities controlled by them) to fulfil “ordinary economic operations or transactions”. Liability for such criminal offense ranges from (a) a fine of up to RUB 600,000 or four annual salaries or income, to (b) up to four years of imprisonment and also potentially a fine of up to RUB 200,000 or one annual salary or income.
  • Article 2842(2): Willful actions by Russian citizens that contribute to the imposition of restrictive measures by a foreign state, union of foreign states, international organization on Russian individuals, public and private entities (including their controlled entities). Such actions may involve recommendations and provision of information that led to the imposition of anti-Russian sanctions. Liability for such offense ranges from (a) a fine of up to RUB 500,000 or three annual salaries or income, to (b) up to three years of imprisonment and potentially a fine of up to RUB 200,000 or one annual salary or income.

An explanatory note to the new Article 2842 clarifies that “ordinary economic operations or transactions” means legal actions, aimed at performing contractual or other legal obligations, if such operation or transactions are carried on in the ordinary course of business, or other lawful activities, by individuals or entities (or foreign entities controlled by them) who are subject to restrictive measures (e.g., specially designated nationals or SDNs). Such transactions would include opening of bank accounts, making and accepting payments, trading securities, etc.

Based on the difference in terminology (insofar as the latter is limited to “actions by Russian citizens”), the proposed Article 2842(1) appears to apply both to Russian and to foreign citizens subject to Russian jurisdiction, in contrast to Article 2842(2), which appears to apply to Russian citizens only.

Russian business groups reportedly voiced opposition to the current draft of the Criminalization Bill. Russian President Putin has stated that the new law “should be balanced” and that it “must not do harm to our own economy and to those of our partners with good conscience do business in Russia.” We would therefore expect that the Criminalization Bill will be amended before being passed through its second hearing.

On May 23, 2018, the State Duma’s Law-making Committee held a meeting among policymakers and representatives of, among others, the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, Retail Companies Association, European Businesses Association, and Russian banks and retailers. The majority view on the business side appears to be that the appropriate liability for compliance with foreign sanctions (i.e. the new criminal offense under Article 2842(1)) would be administrative (e.g. a fine), not criminal. However, the proposed criminal offense of contributing to the imposition of foreign sanctions, etc. (i.e. under Article 2842(2)) is likely to remain in the Criminal Code. The Law-making Committee will now consult on the results of these discussions with the Russian government and the responsible ministries. The next step would be for the Committee to prepare a revised draft of the bill. It is expected that the second draft would be ready for another round of discussions between the Committee and the business community representatives a week after the consultations with the government, and will then be submitted for the second hearing at the Duma.

If the Criminalization Bill is enacted in the current version (which does not appear likely given President Putin’s comments), companies operating in Russia and, in particular Russian citizen managers of the operation of Russian subsidiaries of U.S. or non-Russian companies, would face a substantial risk arising from the potential conflict generated by U.S. obligations that can apply to even non-U.S. entities (e.g., “secondary” sanctions or the designation authority in Section 228 of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) and the provisions in the Criminalization Bill.

 

On June 4, 2018, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued Ukraine-/Russia-related General License 16 (GL16).

General License 16 authorizes U.S. persons to engage in specified transactions related to winding down or maintaining business involving EN+ Group PLC, JSC EuroSibEnergo, or any entity in which EN+ Group PLC or JSC EuroSibEnergo owns, directly or indirectly, a 50 percent or greater interest, until October 23, 2018.

GL16 is subject to a series of conditions that are familiar from OFAC’s previous wind-down licenses arising from the same action including, among other things: (a) that the transactions must be conducted pursuant to a contract or other agreement in place prior to April 6, 2018, (b) payments to these entities must be made to a blocked account, except to the extent authorized by General License 14 (related to United Company RUSAL PLC), (c) products cannot be exported from the United States to these persons, and (d) U.S. Persons utilizing the authority must file comprehensive reports with OFAC within 10 days from GL16’s expiration.