Archive for the ‘OFAC’ Category


Mar

27

PayPal Has No Pals at OFAC


Posted by at 8:04 am on March 27, 2015
Category: OFACSDN List

PayPal Campus Outdoor by PayPal via https://www.paypal-media.com/assets/zip/PayPal_HQ_Campus_Outdoor.jpg [Fair Use]Internet payment facilitator PayPal recently agreed to pay to the Office of Foreign Assets Control $7,658,300 in fines and penalties to settle charges that it processed 486 financial transactions involving embargoed countries and blocked parties on OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (the “SDN List”). The magnitude of this penalty becomes apparent when you consider that the 486 transactions amounted to a total of $43934.02 in transactions averaging $90.40 each.

Oh, and in case you were thinking, well that’s what they get for getting caught, you should realize that these violations were, according to the Settlement Agreement, voluntarily disclosed. Worse yet, this huge fine was imposed even though PayPal cooperated with the investigation, tolled the Statute of Limitations, and sacrificed on the altar of OFAC’s wrath its compliance division’s entire management, all of whom are now looking for new employment.

What seems to have gotten OFAC’s dander up, and led to the agency calling this an “egregious” case, pretty much the ne plus ultra of regulatory misdeeds, involved PayPal’s dealings with Kursad Zafer Cire, an A.Q. Khan crony designated by OFAC under its WMD sanctions program. Although these were only 136 transactions, totalling $7091.77 and averaging $52.15 each, PayPal processed six of these transactions after its interdiction software flagged this guy. On the sixth occasion, PayPal asked Cire to fax them his passport, which he dutifully did, and even though the passport conclusively matched the information on the SDN List, the PayPal risk officer let the transaction go through.

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Mar

25

Dead Cubans Removed from SDN List; Fictional Daniel Garcia Stays On


Posted by at 10:02 pm on March 25, 2015
Category: Cuba SanctionsOFACSDN List

Cuba Capitole by y.becart(Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/yoh_59/13697566663Yesterday the Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) quietly removed a number of Cuba-related listings from its Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons list. These delistings included dissolved companies, dead people and Cuban ships that had either sunk or were out of commission. For example, Amado Padron Trujillo, designated in 1986,was executed in 1989. By Cuba. For treason. Talk about a guy who couldn’t get a break.

Also delisted was the late Alfred Stern, who was once accused of spying for the Soviet Union. He fled the United States, lived in Cuba from 1963 to 1970 and died in Prague in 1986. Another dead man taken off the SDN List was Carlos Duque, a business partner of Manuel Noriega, who stopped threatening the United States when he died last October.

Even though OFAC delisted dead people and sunken ships from the SDN List, it still could not bring itself to delist the probably fictional Daniel Garcia, who allegedly threatens the United States by running a non-existent talent agency, Promociones Artisticas (PROARTE), in Mexico City. The problem with designating a non-existent Daniel Garcia is that there are plenty of real people named Daniel Garcia who, as a result, cannot open bank accounts, get loans, buy automobiles, or get on an airplane without getting searched. We wrote about the curse of being named Daniel Garcia here.

I have been told, off the record, that no one at OFAC knows who Daniel Garcia is or was, if he ever was, and why he was put on the list in the first place. That, I’m told, is part of the reason that Daniel Garcia is fated to remain on the SDN List in perpetuity.

In short, since imaginary people never die, the real Daniel Garcias of the world are just going to have to live with it.

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Mar

17

Sailing to Cuba on the General License May Not Be Smooth Sailing


Posted by at 11:51 pm on March 17, 2015
Category: Cuba SanctionsOFAC

Charlotte under full sale by Nat Benjamin [Fair Use]Here’s a bad idea: apply to the Office of Foreign Assets Control for a license to sail from Martha’s Vineyard to Cuba, have it denied, apply again, never hear back, then decide to go anyway and have the Martha’s Vineyard Times publish a story on your trip. Well, that’s what a guy named Nat Benjamin did and you can read all about it here in the Martha’s Vineyard Times.

Although he timing of the trip is not entirely clear, it appears that Benjamin, who set sail for Cuba in November 2014, arrived in Cienfuegos, Cuba, perhaps luckily for him and his crew, after the new Cuban sanctions rules went into effect on January 15, 2015. According to the Martha’s Vineyard Times article. Mr. Benjamin decided to head for Cuba without the license required at the time of his departure “in hopes that the humanitarian nature of his trip would trump any troubles.”

The question then is whether Mr. Benjamin’s trip fits within the new general license for humanitarian visits set forth in section 515.575 of the Cuban sanctions regulations.

While in Cuba, Mr. Benjamin traveled throughout the country and shared his boatbuilding experience. He was able to contact wooden boatbuilders in the Cuban city of Trinidad.

Mr. Benjamin said Cuba’s wooden boatbuilding industry is not well known outside the country. He partnered with some boatbuilders, hoping to learn about their work, and donated much-needed tools.

Section 515.575 sets forth fairly specifically the sorts of projects that qualify as humanitarian projects, and learning about the work of Cuban boatbuilders, seems to be on the outside edges at best. Here’s what is permitted:

The following projects are authorized by paragraph (a) of this section: medical and health-related projects; construction projects intended to benefit legitimately independent civil society groups; environmental projects; projects involving formal or non-formal educational training, within Cuba or off-island, on the following topics: entrepreneurship and business, civil education, journalism, advocacy and organizing, adult literacy, or vocational skills; community-based grassroots projects; projects suitable to the development of small-scale private enterprise; projects that are related to agricultural and rural development that promote independent activity; microfinancing projects, except for loans, extensions of credit, or other financing prohibited by §515.208; and projects to meet basic human needs.

Maybe this was non-formal educational training on vocational skills, but, even if it does, Mr. Benjamin also needs to be able to prove that he and everyone else devoted a full-time schedule in Cuba to these activities. Having set sail for Cuba before the new sanctions were in effect and with only a vague humanitarian purpose, Mr. Benjamin may not be able to provide this documentation. Perhaps Mr. Benjamin, his wife and his crew are in the clear on this, but this illustrates the potential difficulty in relying on the new general licenses for travel to Cuba without careful preparation and documentation.

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Feb

25

Two Agencies Are Never Better Than One


Posted by at 10:06 pm on February 25, 2015
Category: BISOFACSudan

Church of the Granite Columns CC-BY-2.0 [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0], via Wikimedia Commons http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Church_of_the_Granite_Columns_2007-10-03_02.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Church_of_the_Granite_Columns_2007-10-03_02.jpg [Cropped]

One of the most indefensible parts of the U.S. export control regime, and one that is not even addressed by the export control reform initiative, is the overlapping jurisdiction of two separate agencies — the Bureau of Industry and Security (“BIS”) and the Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) — over sanctioned countries. No one has ever articulated a rationale for this other than the need to gouge federal taxpayers by hiring multiple people in multiple agencies to do exactly the same thing and to keep private lawyers employed to explain to baffled exporters which agency needs to bless a particular export. And nowhere has the insanity of this overlapping jurisdiction been made more clear than in the recent amendments by both agencies (and an accompanying tsunami of ink in the Federal Register) to permit the export of communications hardware and fee-based personal communications hardware and software to Sudan.

To understand what is going on, you must first understand that both BIS and OFAC assert jurisdiction over Sudan (unlike say Cuba and Iran where they have called a truce and agreed that one agency would be responsible for export licensing). Section 538.205 of the Sudanese Sanctions Regulations requires licenses for all exports by anyone from the United States to Sudan, all exports by United States persons from anywhere to Sudan, and all re-exports to Sudan from foreign countries by foreign persons of goods originally exported from the United States. This broad prohibition also necessarily covers by its terms exports or re-exports by U.S. persons of items “subject to the EAR” and which are on the CCL with an AT reason for control.  Such exports of course, will therefore also require a BIS license in addition to the OFAC license.  The language of 538.205 also covers exports of EAR99 items and items not “subject to the EAR” which would not require a BIS license and, thus, require only an OFAC license. Re-exports by foreign persons of foreign manufactured items on the CCL with more than de minimis U.S. content to Sudan are covered by the EAR and not 538.205 and, thus, would be licensed by BIS alone. Items that are EAR99 or foreign manufactured with less than 10 percent U.S. content, are outside the United States and are re-exported to Sudan by foreign persons are not within the scope of sections 538.205 or 538.507 of the SSR or the EAR and would, therefore, not require a license by either agency. Got that? I thought so.

The new OFAC amendments to the Sudan Sanctions Regulations (“SSR”) and the BIS amendments to License Exception CCD are designed to expand to Sudan the previous authorizations for exports to Iran (by OFAC) and Cuba (by BIS) of certain services, software and hardware for personal communications. How these two sets of rules now apply to exports to Sudan and the overlapping jurisdiction of OFAC and BIS is, not surprisingly, is a needlessly complex matter.

Let’s start by looking at certain hardware exports that can require authorization by both agencies, namely exports by U.S persons of items that are subject to the EAR and are not EAR99 that U.S. persons wish to export. Take, for example, a television receiver with encryption functionality classified as 5A992. Because the item is 5A992 it may require a license to be exported by a U.S. person to Sudan. However, such an item is listed in License Exception CCD at section 740.19(b)(14) and therefore does not require a BIS License. Under section 538.533(a)(3)(i) of the SSR, only hardware items on Appendix B to Part 538 are exempt from OFAC’s license requirement. Television receivers, however, are not on Appendix B. Digital cameras classified as 5A992 are included in CCD but not in Appendix B. Why OFAC and BIS would have differing views on whether these items are personal communications devices and why OFAC would still require a license for an item covered by CCD is, of course, anyone’s guess.

The analysis becomes a bit more confusing for software. Consider publicly-available free (or at cost) software with encryption functionality which, because it meets the mass market criteria, is classified as 5D992. Under EAR section 734.3(b)(3) that software is not subject to the EAR and could be freely exported by a U.S. person to Sudan without a BIS license even prior to the latest amendments. If, on the other hand, it is not free (or at cost), then it is subject to the EAR and, because it is 5D992, would require a BIS license to Sudan unless it is listed on CCD. (The basic change by adding Sudan to CCD was, in fact, to capture mass market software that was not free or at cost.)

Now let’s look at this software from the OFAC perspective since you have to look at both OFAC and BIS rules for goods that are not EAR99. Prior to the amendment, section 538.533(a)(2) of the SSR permitted the export if the software was not subject to the EAR which, under EAR 734.3(b)(3), this would not be, and was for personal communication over the Internet. If the software was not free, then the old section 538.533 would not apply, and an OFAC license would have been required in addition to the BIS license. Under the amended version of 538.533, section (a)(2) would permit software, whether or not mass market and/or free, to be exported by U.S. persons or from the United States to Sudan if it was necessary for personal communications over the Internet. Software not related to personal communications over the Internet and that is either not subject to the EAR because it is free or at cost and publicly available or because it is outside the United States, would still not need an OFAC license if it is on Appendix B, which includes things like anti-virus, anti-tracking and VPN software.

As you can see, because of the overlapping (and unnecessarily duplicative) jurisdiction of both agencies over Sudan exports, both OFAC and BIS regulations must be consulted for most exports to Sudan, making the process difficult and confusing. If you have a headache after reading the analysis above, then start clamoring for real export control reform which would involve merging the export control functions of BIS and OFAC into one agency.

Oh, and one more even bigger headache before we wrap up this post: OFAC itself apparently cannot figure out how it shares jurisdiction with BIS. In the FAQ on the new amendments, OFAC now says this:

427. May a non-U.S. person export, reexport, or provide to Sudan hardware and software that is subject to the EAR pursuant to § 538.533?

The Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), has jurisdiction over non-U.S. persons’ exportation and reexportation to Sudan of items subject to the EAR. Please consult BIS, www.bis.doc.gov, for guidance on such transactions.

Now go back and re-read section 538.205 of the SSR, which clearly forbids exports to Syria by non-U.S. persons of hardware and software located in the United States. Now try to find a rule in the SSR that says that if such exports from the United States by non-U.S. persons are licensed by BIS no OFAC license is required. Nope, not there. When even the agencies themselves cannot figure out which agency is in charge, there is no conceivable remaining excuse to have both agencies regulating these exports.

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Feb

11

House of Castro: Francis Underwood Goes to Havana


Posted by at 11:15 pm on February 11, 2015
Category: Cuba SanctionsOFAC

Netflix HQ by Coolcaesar at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ANetflix_headquarters.jpg [Cropped]Netflix just announced that it was going to offer its streaming service in Cuba, starting at $7.99 per month. Of course, under the information exception of the Berman Amendment, Netflix has always been able to stream its movies to Cuba without violating U.S. sanctions on Cuba.

Of course, as you might imagine, the reason that Netflix did not start streaming to Cuba earlier was the difficulty Netflix would have in getting paid. Now that the revisions to the Cuba sanctions have opened up the possibility for American credit card companies to do business in Cuba, payment becomes at least a theoretical possibility. Theoretical because $7.99 per month is out of reach of most Cubans given the average monthly wage of $17 and given the cost of Internet in Cuba where access to international sites, like Netflix, costs $4 per hour. Watching a two-hour movie on Netflix would leave about $1 to spend for rent, food and all other monthly expenses. (And you thought going to the movies at the local cineplex was expensive!)

The Netflix press release notes that “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black” will both be made available to Cuban subscribers. So, my question is this: which of these two will Fidel and Raúl binge watch first? The political machinations of Francis Underwood in “House of Cards” or the comic prison shenanigans of the women in “Orange is the New Black?”

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