Archive for the ‘SDN List’ Category


Jun

26

Hostage Ransom Policy Leaves OFAC a Free Hand to Fine Families


Posted by at 4:56 pm on June 26, 2015
Category: OFACSDN List

The **** Wins the Wad by Laurence Simon [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/isfullofcrap/4288487825 [cropped]

We reported earlier this week on an anticipated policy announcement by the White House that would permit families of hostage victims to pay ransoms to the captors without fear of prosecution by the federal government. Of course, we wondered whether this amnesty would extend to relieving families from penalty actions by OFAC and the answer is, not surprisingly, no.

The new executive order on this policy can be found here. It says nothing about administrative penalties and leaves OFAC with a free hand to fine families that pay ransoms if the captors are on the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List. The non-prosecution promise is not even in the executive order but is in a non-binding “Statement” from the Department of Justice that says: “The department does not intend to add to families’ pain in such cases by suggesting that they could face criminal prosecution.”

And what does OFAC have to say about payments of ransom by families to SDN kidnappers? Not one single word. So, as things stand now, families that pay ransoms will probably, unless DoJ changes its mind, not go to jail but they could wind up paying a second ransom payment to OFAC.

Samuel Rubenfeld at the Wall Street Journal digs deeper into the issue. (Full disclosure: Mr. Rubenfeld interviewed me and quoted me in his article.) As he correctly notes, the DoJ statement only provides some solace to families and not to any of the necessary parties that assist in the payment of the ransom. Unless the family itself carries a suitcase of cash to the Middle East to pay the ransom personally to the kidnappers, which is probably not the smartest idea in the world, they are going to need help from someone outside the family. And whoever provides such assistance would be liable to prosecution for material support of terrorists as well as fines from OFAC if the kidnappers were on the SDN List.

What this means, as I said in the WSJ article, is this: “This change in policy is a way to put a nice face on an uncomfortable situation, but it’s not going to ultimately change anything.”

Permalink Comments Off on Hostage Ransom Policy Leaves OFAC a Free Hand to Fine Families

Bookmark and Share



Jun

23

White House Okays Private Ransom Payments to SDNs


Posted by at 9:57 pm on June 23, 2015
Category: OFACSDN List

Iran Hostages by State Department via Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/statephotos/14059711278 [Public Domain]A number of press reports today, including this one, indicate that the Obama Administration will announce on Wednesday that it was revising its policies and will no longer threaten to prosecute families that pay ransoms to terrorists in an effort to release their loved ones. The stories that I read appear to believe that paying ransoms is, in general, a violation of federal law. Readers of this blog will, of course, probably know that such payments are illegal only when the persons receiving the ransom are on the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List. In many cases of hostage taking in the Mideast, the responsible groups are indeed on the list and so payment to those groups, no matter how well-intentioned would otherwise be illegal.

How exactly this exemption will be accomplished is not made clear in the news reports. This is an interesting question. It hardly seems likely that the White House will direct the Office of Foreign Assets Control to issue a general license for hostage payments by family members. This leads to an even more interesting question. Even if the DoJ, under the new policy, will not prosecute or threaten to prosecute families making such payments, will there still be a chance of administrative penalties imposed by OFAC on families that make ransom payments to SDNs?

This is not an entirely far-fetched question. Remember that OFAC has previously said that payments should not be made to pirates without being certain that the pirates were not on the SDN List, leading, of course, to the logical question as to how that was to be done. Do you make the pirates show you their passports before you drop the money on the ship?

Payments of ransoms are, of course, a thorny policy issue given that such payments undoubtedly encourage further kidnappings. On the other hand, it is hard to ask families to sacrifice their own loved ones on the chance that this will deter future kidnappers and save other people’s husbands, wives, sons and daughters.

Permalink Comments Off on White House Okays Private Ransom Payments to SDNs

Bookmark and Share



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.

Permalink Comments Off on PayPal Has No Pals at OFAC

Bookmark and Share



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.

Permalink Comments (2)

Bookmark and Share



Sep

10

Sen. Landrieu Attempts to Clarify the Record … But Doesn’t


Posted by at 8:28 pm on September 10, 2014
Category: Economic SanctionsOFACSDN ListVenezuela

Sen. Landrieu [Official Portrait, Public Domain]

On Sunday, in Lafayette, LA, The Advertiser printed an opinion from Sen. Mary Landrieu entitled, “Sanctions, as written, will hurt La. workers.”  While we hoped Sen. Landrieu was writing to clarify the record in response to our post last week, she was writing instead to respond to an earlier opinion in The Advertiser written by Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Bill Cassidy.

Sen. Landrieu began by referring to the Lake Charles, LA oil refinery as “owned by Citgo, a Venezuelan company with a strong and respected reputation in Louisiana.”  Citgo, however, is quite clearly a U.S. company, founded and incorporated in the United States over a hundred years ago.  It became wholly owned U.S. subsidiary of Petróleos de Venezuela, the Venezuelan national oil company, in 1990, but remained a U.S. company.  The hawkish view on U.S. sanctions is, of course, that Citgo, even though a U.S. company employing U.S. persons, is not immune from the conduct of its foreign parent if, in this case, Petróleos de Venezuela’s conduct were found to be at variance with U.S. economic sanctions and was added to the SDN List, its subsidiary Citgo would be equally blocked and unable to employ U.S. workers.

In her opinion, Sen. Landrieu continued to defend her opposition to the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014 because she believed that “the legislation as written was too vague” and “will continue to oppose it unless the language of this resolution makes crystal clear that there will be no threat to the [Lake Charles] refinery.”  But, as we pointed out last week, Sen. Landrieu’s references to amending the Act have led to no clear (crystal or otherwise) suggestions on how to do so.  We think we can help her out.

The Act, like other sanctions bills, already permits the President to waive the application of sanctions against a person if he determines that such waiver is necessary for the “national security interests of the United States.”  The amendment we recommend to Sen. Landrieu is to rewrite the waiver in Section 5(c)(1) to read, “The President may waive the application of sanctions under subsection (b) with respect to a person if the President determines that such a waiver is in the national security or economic interests of the United States.”  By adding simply “or economic” to the waiver condition, the President has another avenue to defend not imposing sanctions against otherwise sanctionable foreign persons.  Again, as we pointed out last week, the President would not take lightly a decision to block Citgo’s assets in Louisiana or anywhere else in United States.  Congress, moreover, would be hard-pressed to oppose a waiver if the President were able to show that imposing sanctions would have tremendous economic ramifications.

If Sen. Landrieu wants to take the position that U.S. economic sanctions against human rights violators can’t come with a cost that significantly harms the U.S. economy, there is a way to protect that interest.  Whether or not her position wins the day on the Senate floor, we think the only practical way to do so is to give the President more discretion in how he may choose not to impose sanctions.  A tidy addition of the two words “or economic” should do the trick and put to bed another odd episode of “How a Bill Becomes a Law.”

 

Permalink Comments Off on Sen. Landrieu Attempts to Clarify the Record … But Doesn’t

Bookmark and Share