OFAC Allows Joint Medical Research with Cuba

OFAC Medical ResearchThe Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), has modified the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR) (31 C.F.R. Part 515) to allow joint medical research between persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction and Cuban nationals. In the context of the CACR, a “person subject to U.S. jurisdiction” includes any non-U.S. entity owned or controlled by a U.S. person or company directly or indirectly.

It is important to note that the focus of this rule is the development and sale of Cuban origin pharmaceutical products into the United Sates and not the sale of U.S. origin products into Cuba. The changes published today have no impact on the sale of U.S. origin pharmaceutical products into Cuba, and the modified rules do not eliminate the need for sales into Cuba to be licensed by the U.S. Department of Commerce and/or the Department of the Treasury.

As a result of this rule change, effective October 17, 2016, U.S. pharmaceutical companies and their foreign subsidiaries, as well as U.S. nationals, are authorized to engage in various types of transactions “incident to obtaining approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of Cuban origin pharmaceuticals, including discovery and development, pre-clinical research, clinical research, regulatory review, regulatory approval and licensing, regulatory post-market activities, and the importation into the United States of Cuban-origin pharmaceuticals,” as well as the “marketing, sale, or other distribution in the United States of FDA-approved Cuban-origin pharmaceuticals, including the importation into the United States of Cuban-origin pharmaceuticals.”

In its most recent Portfolio of Opportunities for Foreign Investment, Cuba identified the biotechnology and pharmaceutical sector, where BioCubaFarma has been producing vaccines and drug products for years, as one of the targets of foreign investment through strategic partnerships. Specifically, the Cuban government stated that it was promoting joint R&D projects, distribution and representation arrangements and technology transfer arrangements that complemented domestic projects in the sector. This week’s changes to the CACR will facilitate participation in these types of investments and activities in Cuba by U.S. companies.

©2016 Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP. All Rights Reserved

U.S. Designations Targeting a Major Panamanian Money Laundering Organization Not Aided by the Panama Papers Leak

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced designations against the Panama-based Waked Money Laundering Organization, including its leaders, network of supporters and associates, and companies. According to press reports, Colombian law enforcement arrested the organization’s leader, Nidal Ahmed Waked Hatum, at a Bogota airport the day prior to the designations.

In total, OFAC added 8 individuals and 68 business entities to the List of Specially Designated Nationals (SDN List) pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act). Narcotics traffickers have used these businesses to obscure the source of drug money through a variety of means, including trade-based money laundering, bulk cash smuggling, real estate development, and illicit financial services.  The designation of Balboa Bank & Trust is particularly noteworthy, as it reflects Treasury’s continued willingness to use the Kingpin Act against financial institutions.  As noted in a previous entry, OFAC had not designated a bank pursuant to the Kingpin Act prior to November 2015.

OFAC clearly anticipates that these designations will cause significant disruptions, as it concurrently issued three General Licenses authorizing certain wind down transactions involving a hotelnewspapers, and a shopping mall.  U.S. persons should carefully consider the scope and expiration dates of these licenses prior to engaging in any dealings with these designated companies.

The designations do not signal the beginning of United States government actions in response to the Panama Papers leak.  Any potential use of those documents will be limited by the legal ethical issues surrounding the use of intentionally disclosed materials likely protected by the attorney-client privilege.  In addition to the legal ethical limitations, the evidentiary which serves as the administrative record for the designations would have required several months for investigation, drafting and interagency approval.  OFAC could not have finalized such an extensive package of designations within one month of the leak.

Copyright Holland & Hart LLP 1995-2016.

Further Relaxation of Sanctions for Commercial Aircraft Operations in Cuba

cuba_800_11429On January 27, the US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) and the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), took steps to further ease trade restrictions against Cuba, including transactions relating to the export and operation of civil aircraft in Cuba.[1] In order to sell or lease a commercial aircraft to an airline in Cuba, a US national must obtain licenses for each transaction from BIS and OFAC. The changes by BIS relax its licensing policies for certain transactions with Cuba and Cuban nationals, while OFAC lifted financing and payment restrictions for authorized exports, and broadened the scope of authorizations for travel to and from Cuba.

On February 16, the United States and Cuba announced the resumption of scheduled commercial air services between the two countries, and the US Department of Transportation (DOT) invited US air carriers to apply for permission to operate scheduled flights to and from Cuba.

As outlined below, these actions may lead to easier opportunities to provide aircraft leasing and related services to prospective customers in Cuba. They also will facilitate travel between the United States and Cuba by allowing US and Cuban airlines to fly scheduled flights between the two countries.

BIS Eases Licensing Policy for Exports of Items Necessary to Ensure Civil Aviation Safety

In light of moves earlier in 2015 to loosen restrictions on trade with Cuba, air travel to and from Cuba has significantly increased in that time. The policy change announced by BIS on January 27 emphasizes “the importance of civil aviation safety and . . . recognize[s] that access to aircraft used in international air transportation that meet US Federal Aviation Administration and European Aviation Safety Agency operating standards by Cuban state-owned enterprises contributes to that safety.”

In its notice, BIS indicated that it would move to generally approve license applications for the export of items for the safe operation of commercial aircraft in lieu of reviewing such applications on a case-by-case basis. This policy includes approving license applications for the export of commercial aircraft leased to Cuban state-owned enterprises.

Both commercial passenger and cargo aircraft are eligible for treatment under this revised policy of license approval. However, BIS will continue to generally deny license applications for exports or re-exports of goods (including aircraft) for use by the Cuban military, police, intelligence and security services. BIS also will generally deny such license applications for the export or re-export of goods for use by Cuban government or state-owned entities that primarily generate revenue for the state, including those engaged in tourism and extraction of minerals or raw materials.

BIS also will move from a general policy of denial to a policy of case-by-case review for applications to export certain items to “meet the needs of the Cuban people,” including those to Cuban state-owned entities that provide goods and services for the use and benefit of the Cuban people. This policy covers a number of categories, including goods for agricultural production, artistic endeavors, education, food processing, disaster preparedness, public health and sanitation, and public transportation.

OFAC Authorizes Certain Arrangements With Cuban Airlines to Facilitate Authorized Travel to Cuba

In conjunction with BIS, OFAC published its own regulatory amendments to ease restrictions on certain transactions with Cuba and Cuban nationals, including measures to facilitate air carrier services with Cuban airlines.[2] OFAC’s amendments authorize the entry by US persons into blocked space, code-sharing and leasing arrangements with Cuban nationals to facilitate the provision of authorized air carrier services. OFAC also is allowing travel-related and other transactions directly incident to the facilitation of the temporary sojourn of aircraft authorized for travel to Cuba. This allows US companies to engage with Cuba for services by personnel required for normal aircraft operation, such as aircraft crew, or to provide services to an aircraft on the ground in Cuba. These allowances are part of a larger expansion of authorized travel to Cuba—from organizing professional meetings, professional sports competitions and other events, to the creation and dissemination of artwork and informational materials.

Resumption of Scheduled Air Service Between the United States and Cuba

The memorandum of understanding signed by the United States and Cuba on February 16 allows for the re-establishment of scheduled commercial air service between both countries. For more than 50 years, there have been no scheduled flights between the United States and Cuba. As a result of the new agreement, a total of 110 daily scheduled round trip flights between the countries will be allowed to be conducted by each country’s carriers. Each country will be able to operate up to 20 daily roundtrip flights between the United States and Havana, and up to 10 daily roundtrip flights between the United States and each of nine other destinations in Cuba.

Immediately upon the announcement of the agreement, the DOT invited US carriers to apply for allocation of the new flight opportunities.[3] Applications from the US carriers are due to the DOT by March 2. The DOT is to answer those applications by March 14 and carrier replies are due March 21. The scheduled services are expected to begin in the fall 2016. All US carriers to which frequencies are eventually allocated will still be required to comply with all applicable regulations and requirements of the DOT and other US agencies and all US laws. US carriers’ ability to provide US–Cuba service through licensed charter flights continues unchanged.

Department of Transportation Matters Regarding Blocked Space, Code-Sharing and Wet-Leasing

The new amendments announced on January 27 allow blocked space, code-sharing or wet-leasing arrangements. As is the case with such arrangements with foreign carriers in general, any proposed blocked space, code-sharing or wet-leasing arrangement between a US air carrier and a Cuban carrier will require the DOT’s advance authorization. The DOT must determine whether the proposed operations are in the public interest, by assessing whether such operations meet an acceptable level of safety and security, and whether they will adversely impact competition in the US airline industry.

A US carrier seeking to conduct the activities allowed pursuant to the most recent OFAC amendments must first apply to the DOT for specific authorization for such planned operations.[4] The DOT will grant authorization only if the foreign carrier is from a country that complies with the safety standards of the US Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) program and the proposed foreign carrier partner meets the requisite safety standards.[5] As part of the DOT’s analysis, the FAA will assess the safety oversight functions of the national aviation authority having jurisdiction over the proposed foreign partner’s operations.

Based on publicly available information, to date, the safety oversight function of Cuba’s national aviation authority has not been assessed by the FAA.[6] In assessing the safety oversight provided by any country’s civil aviation authority, the FAA will determine whether such oversight meets the minimum international safety standards established by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Cuba is an ICAO member state and, according to the currently available ICAO information, in regard to the ICAO Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP), was audited by ICAO between February 19, 2008 and February 28, 2008, and meets the ICAO minimum safety standards. If the FAA determines that Cuba’s USOAP rating satisfies the requirements of the IASA program, it should approve the first prong of the safety assessment of the proposed code-sharing arrangement.

With respect to the proposed foreign carrier, the US carrier seeking authorization for such operations must have an existing FAA-accepted code-share safety program and must conduct safety audits on the proposed foreign partner in accordance with that program. The FAA will review the US carrier’s safety audit program, its initial safety audit report on the foreign carrier, and its statement that the foreign carrier is in compliance with international safety standards. Additionally, after authorization is granted, the US carrier must monitor its foreign partner’s safety programs for continued compliance during the existence of the approved arrangement. The DOT authorization process also includes review of the terms of the parties’ agreement for the proposed operations.

As for arrangements with foreign carriers that will provide service directly to the United States or to US territories, the Transportation Security Administration will provide the DOT with information regarding the security of the foreign carrier and its home country to aid the DOT in its assessment.

In assessing the impact of a proposed arrangement on competitiveness, the DOT will determine whether the agreements are adverse to the public interest because they would substantially reduce or eliminate competition.[7] In addition to serving the application for authorization on the requisite US government agencies, the US carrier seeking such authorization also must serve the application on each US-certificated carrier authorized to serve the general area in which the proposed transportation is to be performed. These other carriers may file any comments for consideration by the DOT.[8]

Of course, since most of the restrictions under the embargo remain in effect, operations under any such code-sharing, blocked space or wet-leasing arrangement, even if authorized by the DOT, may only be conducted within the scope of authorized US–Cuba transactions noted above.


The actions by BIS and OFAC and the announcements by the DOT will allow for a further expansion of trade activity and facilitate opportunities between the United States and Cuba. However, OFAC and BIS have made clear that they intend to continue enforcing existing sanctions on and trade embargoes with Cuba. Many restrictions will remain in place until US legislators vote to end or modify the embargo against Cuba. For example, the saleor lease by US persons of aircraft or related services to Cuba without a license continues to be restricted. Furthermore, as it stands now, any aircraft owned by the Cuban government arriving in the United States is subject to immediate seizure in settlement of the billions of dollars in judgments reached in US courts against Cuba in connection with Cuba’s nationalization of property owned by Americans and other civil judgments against the Cuban government. Thus, we remind those looking to take advantage of opportunities to sell or lease aircraft or related services to review all licensing applications and potential transactions with Cuba carefully to ensure that they are in compliance with federal laws and regulations.

[1] See Cuba Licensing Policy Revisions, 81 Fed. Reg. 4,580 (Dep’t Commerce, Jan. 27, 2016); Cuban Assets Control Regulations, 81 Fed. Reg. 4,583 (Dep’t Treasury, Jan. 27, 2016).

[2] OFAC now allows for financing and payment of authorized transactions through US banks or through sales on an open account. These changes were made to address the inability of customers in Cuba to obtain financing or for authorized transactions with the United States, due to more restrictive payment and financing arrangements.

[3] See, Order Instituting Proceeding and Inviting Applications, 2016 U.S. – Cuba Frequency Allocation Proceeding, issued by the US Department of Transportation, Docket DOT-OST-2016-0021, February 16, 2016.  

[4] The foreign carrier also must comply with all other relevant regulations, and hold all requisite DOT authorizations, prior to conducting any of the newly-allowed operations.

[5] See Department of Transportation Office of the Secretary and Federal Aviation Administration Code-Share Safety Program Guidelines, 12/21/2006, Revision 1.

[6] As Cuban carriers have not provided service to the US or participated in code-sharing arrangements with US carriers, and the Cuban national aviation authority has not significantly interacted with the FAA, for a four-year period, Cuba is not included on the publicly available IASA program summary listing, in accordance with standard FAA procedures. Before Cuba can be rated in the IASA program, a full reassessment of its aviation safety oversight must be conducted by the FAA.

[7] 49 U.S.C. 41309(b). Further, in accordance with 49 U.S.C. 41308(b), if it is determined that competition would not be reduced or eliminated, the DOT must approve the proposed agreement. If it is determined that competition would be adversely affected, but the DOT finds that (1) the arrangement is nevertheless necessary to meet a serious transportation need or to achieve important public benefits, including US foreign policy goals, and (2) those public benefits cannot be met or achieved by reasonably available and materially less anticompetitive alternatives, the DOT must approve the agreement.

[8] The DOT, the FAA, the Department of Defense, the Anti-trust division of the Department of Justice and any other US agency the DOT deems necessary must be served, in addition to the other carriers. 14 C.F.R. 212.10(d)(6). See also, Code-Share Safety Program Guidelines, infra at n. 5.

©2016 Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP

Certain Goods and Services Now Eligible for Importation into the United States from Cuba

The U.S. Department of State published its Section 515.582 List that outlines which goods and services produced by independent Cuban entrepreneurs are eligible for importation into the United States.

In accordance with the Cuban policy changes announced by U.S. President Barack Obama on December 17, 2014, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued implementing regulations on January 16, 2015. A new Section 515.582 of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (31 C.F.R. Part 515—the CACR) authorized the importation into the United States of certain goods and services produced by independent Cuban entrepreneurs as determined by the U.S. Department of State. However, Section 515.582 as issued on January 16 did not state what those goods and services actually are. Section 515.582 states the following:

Persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction are authorized to engage in all transactions, including payments, necessary to import certain goods and services produced by independent Cuban entrepreneurs as determined by the State Department as set forth on the State Department’s Section 515.582 List, located here.

Note 1 to §515.582: As of the date of publication in theFederal Register of the final rule including this provision, January 16, 2015, the State Department’s Section 515.582 List has not yet been published on its Web site. The State Department’s Section 515.582 list also will be published in the Federal Register, as will any changes to the list.

Note 2 to §515.582: Imports authorized by this section are not subject to the limitations set forth in §515.560(c).

On February 13, 2015, the Department of State issued its Section 515.582 List, as follows below.


The goods whose import is authorized by Section 515.582 “are goods produced by independent Cuban entrepreneurs, as demonstrated by documentary evidence” that are “imported into the United States directly from Cuba,” except for goods specified in the following sections/chapters of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTS):

  • Section I: Live Animals; Animal Products (all chapters)

  • Section II: Vegetable Products (all chapters)

  • Section III: Animal or Vegetable Fats and Oils and Their Cleavage Products; Prepared Edible Fats; Animal or Vegetable Waxes (all chapters)

  • Section IV: Prepared Foodstuffs; Beverages, Spirits, and Vinegar; Tobacco and Manufactured Tobacco Substitutes (all chapters)

  • Section V: Mineral Products (all chapters)

  • Section VI: Products of the Chemical or Allied Industries (chapters 28–32; 35–36, and 38)

  • Section XI: Textile and Textile Articles (chapters 51–52)

  • Section XV: Base Metals and Articles of Base Metal (chapters 72–81)

  • Section XVI: Machinery and Mechanical Appliances; Electrical Equipment; Parts Thereof; Sound Recorders and Reproducers, Television Image and Sound Recorders and Reproducers, and Parts and Accessories of Such Articles (all chapters)

  • Section XVII: Vehicles, Aircraft, Vessels, and Associated Transportation Equipment (all chapters)

  • Section XIX: Arms and Ammunition; Parts and Accessories Thereof (all chapters)

Accordingly, any goods produced by independent Cuban entrepreneurs that do not fall under one of the above-enumerated HTS categories are now eligible for importation. Persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction who engage in import transactions involving goods produced by an independent Cuban entrepreneur pursuant to Section 515.582 must obtain documentary evidence that demonstrates the entrepreneur’s independent status, such as a copy of a license to be self-employed that was issued by the Cuban government or, in the case of an entity, evidence that demonstrates that the entrepreneur is a private entity not owned or controlled by the Cuban government.

“Persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction” means the following for purposes of the CACR:

  • (a) Any individual, wherever located, who is a citizen or resident of the United States;

  • (b) Any person within the United States;

  • (c) Any corporation, partnership, association, or other organization organized under U.S. laws or the laws of any state, territory, possession, or district of the United States; and

  • (d) Any corporation, partnership, association, or other organization, wherever organized or doing business, that is owned or controlled by persons specified in items (a) or (c).

This Section 515.582 List does not supersede or excuse compliance with any additional requirements in U.S. law or regulation, including the relevant import duties as set forth on the HTS.

The Department of State stated that the $400 monetary limit set forth in Section 515.560(c)(3) of the CACR for travelers who bring back goods from Cuba as accompanied baggage would not apply for any goods now authorized for import under Section 515.582.


The authorized services pursuant to 31 C.F.R. §515.582 are services supplied by an independent Cuban entrepreneur in Cuba, as demonstrated by documentary evidence. Persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction who engage in import transactions involving services supplied by an independent Cuban entrepreneur pursuant to Section 515.582 are required to obtain documentary evidence that demonstrates the entrepreneur’s independent status, such as a copy of a license to be self-employed that was issued by the Cuban government or, in the case of an entity, evidence that demonstrates that the entrepreneur is a private entity not owned or controlled by the Cuban government.


All payment transactions necessary to import goods and services authorized by Section 515.582 are also authorized. We recommend that payment documentation reference Section 515.582 to avoid payment rejection.

The Department of State, in consultation with other federal agencies, reserves the right to update the list periodically. Any subsequent updates will take effect when published on the Web page of the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs’ Office of Economic Sanctions Policy and Implementation. Updates will also be published in the Federal Register.

Louis Rothberg
Margaret M. Gatti


Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP

New U.S. Restrictions on Russia: OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control) Guidance and Industry-Specific Sanctions

Sheppard Mullin Law Firm

OFAC Expands the 50 Percent Rule

Last month, the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) released new guidance related to entities owned or controlled by persons designated as a Specially Designated National (SDN) on OFAC’s SDN list.  Although the guidance leaves intact the current meaning “50 percent rule,” the rule will now allow OFAC to take a far broader approach in determining when the 50 percent rule applies.

Under the 50 percent rule, as it stood before the August 13 release of the updated guidance, all entities owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, by an SDN (i.e., any entity of which an SDN owns 50 percent or more) are considered designated by operation of law and must be treated as SDNs.  Thus, companies owned or controlled by SDNs are blocked, even if they are not themselves specifically listed on the SDN list.  It is unlawful for U.S. persons to conduct virtually any business with any SDN.

In a major expansion of the 50 percent rule, OFAC will now aggregate the ownership interests of SDNs when it determines whether the rule applies.  Specifically, the new guidance provides that “any entity owned in the aggregate, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by one or moreblocked persons is itself considered to be a blocked person” (emphasis added).  According to OFAC’S updated Frequently Asked Questions on the issue, “if Blocked Person X owns 25 percent of Entity A, and Blocked Person Y owns another 25 percent of Entity A, Entity A is considered to be blocked.”  Taken to the logical conclusion, the new approach means that an entity owned or controlled by a large number of SDNs, each with a small interest in the entity itself, may nonetheless be designated, and afforded the same regulatory treatment, as an SDN.

Notably, OFAC did not provide for a transition period as the new rule takes effect, nor is there any mention of a general authorization for companies to end involvement in now-potentially prohibited transactions.

More than ever, companies must focus on conducting appropriate due diligence when operating in the universe of potentially covered persons, entities, or transactions.  Due to the expansion of potentially blocked entities, American companies must determine what policies and procedures need to be in place for vetting would-be business partners before engaging in any transaction, so they do not inadvertently conduct unlawful business with SDNs.

Russian Industry Sector Sanctions

Separately, On August 6, 2014, the U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) issued a final rule amending the U.S. Export Administration Regulations (EAR) to implement the most aggressive set of export controls against Russia in recent memory.  In short, the new rules will deny export, reexport, and transfer (in-country) licenses for certain dual-use items for use in Russia’s energy sector.

Specifically, under the new EAR section 746.5 and amendments to other sections, a license is now required to export, reexport, or transfer (in-country) certain items when the exporter “knows or is informed that the item will be used directly or indirectly in Russia’s energy sector for exploration or production from deepwater …, Arctic offshore, or shale projects in Russia that have the potential to produce oil or gas or is unable to determine whether the item will be used in such projects in Russia.”

The “certain items” referred to in the regulation include two classes of products: (1) any item subject to the EAR listed in Supplement No. 2 to Part 746, including fifty-two specific products listed by Schedule B number; and (2) any item specified in the following Export Control Classification Numbers: 0A998, 1C992, 3A229, 3A231, 3A232, 6A991, 8A992, or 8D999.  BIS includes the following list of illustrative examples of restricted products: “drilling rigs, parts for horizontal drilling, drilling and completion equipment, subsea processing equipment, Arctic-capable marine equipment, wireline and down hole motors and equipment, drill pipe and casing, software for hydraulic fracturing, high pressure pumps, seismic acquisition equipment, remotely operated vehicles, compressors, expanders, valves, and risers.”

With the exception of License Exception GOV, which authorizes certain exports and reexports to U.S. and foreign governmental agencies and intergovernmental organizations, no license exceptions are available to fulfill the new licensing requirement.  Thus, all exports of the restricted products will require a BIS license for export or reexport to Russia, regardless of whether those products were formerly exportable to Russia with no license required.  Further, the new BIS rule imposes a presumption of denial for license applications “when there is potential for use directly or indirectly for exploration or production” from deepwater, Arctic offshore, or shale projects in Russia with the potential to produce oil.

The final rule does not contain a savings clause. That means any restricted products exported to Russia without a license on or after August 6 may be considered violations, even if the products were formerly exported under a license exception.

Those companies exporting items used in the exploration or production of oil or gas should immediately determine whether any of the products they export, reexport, or transfer to Russian end-users (or intermediaries with constructive or direct knowledge that the ultimate end-user is in Russia) are restricted products as defined in the new rule.  If so, companies should understand the implications of the new licensing requirements and the presumption of denial for license applications.  Further, if your company is unable to determine whether your products are used in the end-uses defined in the rule, the rule requires that such products be considered subject to the licensing requirements.  Thus, unless you can affirmatively determine that your products are not to be used for the energy-related activities defined in the rule, then your company should assume that its products are subject to the licensing requirements.


Copyright © 2014, Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP.

Office of Foreign Assets Control Publishes New Syria and Ukraine Sanctions Regulations; Designates Russian Bank For its Involvement in Syrian Unrest


The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) recently published a final rule amending and reissuing in their entirety the Syrian Sanctions Regulations (“SSR”), 31 C.F.R. Part 542. The reissued SSR contain six new general licenses, including one that authorizes the provision by a U.S. person or from the United States of services ordinarily incident to the supply to Syria of non-U.S. food, medicine, and medical devices that are non-sensitive in nature.

In addition, OFAC last week issued new Ukraine-Related Sanctions Regulations to implement executive orders that the Administration issued in March 2014, and designated a Russian bank (Tempbank) and the Chairman of its Management Committee (Mikhail Georgievich Gagloev) for providing material support and services to the Government of Syria.

Background on Syrian Regulations

Syria has been the target of U.S. economic sanctions since it was designated as a state sponsor of terrorism in 1979. The SSR, which first went into effect in April 2005, constitute one of the primary regulatory regimes that implements these sanctions. (The Commerce Department’s Export Administration Regulations (“EAR”) also broadly prohibit, absent licensing, exports and reexports to Syria of most items, other than food and non-sensitive medicines, that are of U.S.-origin or that incorporate more than de minimis U.S.-origin content.) Since the original issuance of the SSR in 2005, the Bush and Obama Administrations have issued executive orders broadening the U.S. sanctions against Syria by imposing new blocking measures and other trade restrictions. OFAC also has issued a number of general licenses authorizing certain otherwise prohibited transactions. These developments had created a complex patchwork of authorities imposing sanctions on Syria. OFAC’s overhaul of the SSR combines many of these authorities into a single, unified, and up-to-date set of regulations.

Incorporated Executive Orders

The reissued SSR, which went into effect on May 2, 2014, incorporate asset-blocking measures and other trade restrictions imposed under six executive orders issued between 2006 and 2012. As a result, Section 542.201 of the SSR now requires the blocking of all property and interests in property of the Government of Syria (including its agencies, instrumentalities, and controlled entities) that are or hereafter come into the United States or the possession or control of a U.S. person, as well as such assets of Specially Designated Nationals (“SDNs”) sanctioned because they were determined to have undertaken activities specified in the executive orders. U.S. persons may not transfer, pay, export, withdraw, or otherwise deal in such blocked property. Consistent with OFAC guidance with respect to numerous sanctions programs, SSR § 542.411 clarifies that if a person whose assets are blocked under Section 542.201 owns, directly or indirectly, a 50 percent or greater interest in an entity, that entity’s assets are also blocked even if that entity is not added to the SDN List.

The SSR also now contain certain other trade restrictions originally imposed by

Executive Order 13582 (effective August 18, 2011), which we discussed in our e-alert of August 19, 2011. These restrictions prohibit:

  • U.S. persons, wherever located, from making new investments in Syria (§ 542.206) ;
  • The export, reexport, sale, or supply, directly or indirectly, by a U.S. person or from the United States of any services to Syria (§ 542.207);
  • The importation into the United States of Syrian-origin petroleum or petroleum products (§ 542.208);
  • U.S. persons from engaging in any transaction or dealing related to Syrian-origin petroleum or petroleum products (§ 542.209); and
  •  U.S. persons from approving, financing, facilitating, or guaranteeing a transaction by a foreign person that would be prohibited if performed by a U.S. person or within the United States (§ 542.210).

General LIcenses and Statements of Licensing Policy

In addition to incorporating prior executive orders, the reissued SSR incorporate (at Sections 542.509 through 542.520 and 542.523) a number of general licenses that were previously posted on OFAC’s website, and add six new general licenses and three new statements of licensing policy. The new general licenses authorize the following transactions:

  • With certain limitations, the receipt of payment of professional fees and reimbursement of incurred expenses for the provision of authorized legal services to or on behalf of the Government of Syria and other blocked parties (§ 542.508);
  • All transactions in the United States between U.S. persons and persons who have been granted certain categories of U.S. visas; services in connection with the filing of applications for such visas; and services provided by accredited U.S. graduate and undergraduate degree-granting institutions for the filing and processing of applications to enroll in the institutions, and the acceptance of payments for submitted applications to enroll and tuition from persons ordinarily resident in Syria (§ 542.521);
  • Otherwise prohibited transactions between blocked SDNs and employees, grantees, or contractors of the U.S. federal government that are for official government business (§ 542.522);
  • The following services provided in the United States to non-Syrian carriers transporting passengers or goods to or from Syria (but not the Government of Syria or blocked parties): bunkers and bunkering services, services supplied or performed in the course of emergency repairs, and services supplied or performed under circumstances which could not be anticipated prior to the carrier’s departure for the United States (§ 542.524);
  • The provision by a U.S. person or from the United States of services ordinarily incident to the supply to Syria of non-U.S.-origin food, medicine, and medical devices that would be classified EAR99 if subject to the EAR (§ 542.525); and
  • Certain services related to conferences, performances, exhibitions, or similar events in the United States or a third country attended by persons who are ordinarily resident in Syria, other than the Government of Syria or blocked parties (§ 542.526).

The new general license found at Section 542.525 is a particularly noteworthy development, as it eliminates an anomaly in the prior sanctions regime’s licensing requirements. Under the general license now found at Section 542.510, U.S. persons are authorized to be involved in and facilitate the supply to Syria of food, medicines and medical devices authorized for supply to Syria by the U.S. Commerce Department. However, because the Commerce Department regulations do not apply to exports to Syria of most non-U.S.-origin items that contain 10 percent or less U.S. content by value, U.S. persons were not permitted by the OFAC general license to facilitate the supply of such non-U.S.-origin items to Syria; rather, a specific OFAC license was required. The new general license authorizes the provision of services by a U.S. person or from the United States related to the export and reexport to Syria of non-U.S.-origin food, medicines, and medical devices that would be classified EAR99 if subject to the EAR.

In addition, three new statements of licensing policy contained in the SSR clarify that specific licenses may be issued by OFAC on a case-by-case basis authorizing: (1) certain transactions involving Syria’s telecommunications sector that are otherwise prohibited by the SSR, in order to enable private persons in Syria to better and more securely access the Internet (§ 542.527); (2) certain transactions involving Syria’s agricultural sector that are otherwise prohibited by the SSR, in order to strengthen that sector in light of Syria’s food “insecur[ity]” (§ 542.528); and (3) certain transactions that are otherwise prohibited by Sections 542.206 through 542.210 of the SSR, including new investment related to Syrian petroleum and petroleum products for the benefit of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (§ 542.529).

New Syria Related Designations

In addition to reissuing the SSR, on May 8, 2014, OFAC announced 10 new Syria-related designations. These designations included six Syrian government officials and two Syrian refineries. OFAC also designated a Russian Bank (Tempbank) and the Chairman of its Management Committee (Mikhail Georgievich Gagloev) pursuant to Executive Order 13582 for providing material support and services to the Government of Syria, including the Central Bank of Syria and SYTROL, Syria’s state oil marketing firm. The Treasury Department statement announcing the designations noted that Tempbank has provided millions of dollars and facilitated the provision of financial services to the Syrian regime, and that Mr. Gagloev personally travelled to Damascus to make deals with the Syrian regime on behalf of Tempbank.

As a result of these designations, U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any transactions or dealings with these parties, and the property and property interests of these parties that are or come into the United States or the possession or control of a U.S. person are blocked. Further, the sanctions apply to any entity in which any designated person owns a 50 percent or greater interest (regardless of whether such entity is itself designated).

Publication of Ukraine Related Sanction-Regulations

Also on May 8, OFAC issued new Ukraine-Related Sanctions Regulations at 31 C.F.R. Part 589 to implement executive orders issued in March 2014 (EOs 13660, 13661, and 13662, which were the subject of our prior e-alerts on March 6, 2014, March 18, 2014, and March 21, 2014).

The newly issued regulations, which were effective immediately, do not substantively change the scope of the Ukraine-related sanctions program, but do provide directions for management of blocked funds and property, definitions, interpretations, and limited general licenses. The general licenses authorize transactions such as certain transfers of property between blocked accounts in a U.S. financial institution, debits from blocked accounts by a U.S. financial institution for normal service charges, the provision of certain legal services, the receipt of certain payments for the provision of authorized legal services, and the provision of emergency medical services in the United States.

OFAC stated that these regulations were being published in abbreviated form, and that it intends to supplement them with a more comprehensive set of regulations, which may include additional definitions, interpretive guidance, general licenses, and statements of licensing policy.

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Office of Foreign Assets Control: Understanding the Federal Agency

Recently posted in the National Law Review an article by Simi Z. Botic and D. Michael Crites of Dinsmore & Shohl LLP regarding  the climate surrounding our nation’s safety has drastically changed since 9/11: 

Since September 11, 2001, the climate surrounding our nation’s safety has drastically changed. In an effort to promote United States foreign policy and national security goals, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) has responded to the changing political environment. Although OFAC is not a recent development, the agency certainly operates with the present security sensitivities in mind.

OFAC operates within the U.S. Department of the Treasury, administering and enforcing economic and trade sanctions. Blocking necessary assets exemplifies one trade sanction often imposed by OFAC. In particular, sanctions are enforced against targeted foreign countries, terrorist regimes, drug traffickers, distributers of weapons of mass destruction, and other individuals, organizations, government entities, and companies that threaten the security or economy of the United States.

By enforcing the necessary economic and trade sanctions, OFAC restricts prohibited transactions. OFAC defines a prohibited transaction as a “trade or financial transaction and other dealing in which U.S. persons may not engage unless authorized by OFAC or expressly exempted by statute.” OFAC is largely responsible for investigating the “prohibited transactions” of individuals, organizations, and companies who operate in foreign nations. OFAC also has the ability to grant exemptions for prohibited transactions on a case-by-case basis.

Administrative subpoenas, vital OFAC investigation tools, allow OFAC to order individuals or entities to keep full and complete records regarding any transaction engaged in, and to furnish these records at any time requested. Both the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917, 5 U.S.C. § 5, and the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, 50 U.S.C. § 1702(a)(2), grant OFAC the authority to issue administrative subpoenas.

Adam J. Szubin is the current director of OFAC. In his capacity as director, Mr. Szubin is authorized by 31 CFR § 501.602 to hold hearings, administer oaths, examine witnesses, take depositions, require testimony, and demand the production of any books, documents, or relevant papers relating to the matter of investigation. Once OFAC has issued an administrative subpoena, the addressee is required to respond in writing within thirty calendar days from the date of issuance. The response should be directed to the named Enforcement Investigations Officer, located at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control, Office of Enforcement, 1500 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C.

Should an addressee fail to respond to an administrative subpoena, civil penalties may be imposed. If information is falsified or withheld, the addressees could receive criminal fines and imprisonment. OFAC is authorized to penalize a party up to $50,000 for failure to maintain records. Therefore, should you find yourself the recipient of an OFAC administrative subpoena, it is imperative that you do not delay in responding. Typically, OFAC requests detailed information about payments or transactions, along with documentation to support such information. The subpoena response should be drafted by your attorney. The addressee of the letter should not have direct communication with OFAC. Counsel for the addressee should also follow up with the individual OFAC officer to make sure that all necessary paperwork was received.

Lastly, entities are encouraged to make voluntary disclosures when there has been an OFAC violation. Once a subpoena has been issued, disclosures are no longer considered voluntary. If information is turned over in response to an administrative subpoena, it may then be referred to other law enforcement agencies for possible criminal investigation and prosecution. Therefore, if there is a possible violation of OFAC, it is in your best interest to consult with counsel about the proper steps to take moving forward.

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