In February 2021, the European Union (“EU”) published Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQs”) related to export requirements for COVD-19 vaccines. In March 2021, the Italian government blocked a shipment of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines headed to Australia, pursuant to the export scheme of the European Union (“EU”). The EU further announced that it will broaden its listings under the EU Global Human Sanctions Regime. Restrictive measures, including asset freezes and travel bans, have been decided upon regarding individuals and entities responsible for serious violations of human rights in various countries around the world, such as China. In the United States of America (“US”), the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) announced sanctions and visa bans on Saudis for the killing of journalist Khashoggi. And European, British and American sanctions for Myanmar/Burma. To conclude, light is shed on two separate interviews of ACAMS moneylaundering.com with Sebastiaan Bennink and Tomasz Kodrzycki. This, and more, in this newsletter.
1. The Netherlands
- Netherlands -On 23 March 2021, answers to parliamentary questions about new technologies and arms control were published. Potential security risks of new technologies are being recognized, since these technologies may have a dual-use character and change ways of warfare, while they are often developed in the civilian market, what makes governmental supervision complicated. Starting point for arms control remains compliance with international laws; new measures may be necessary however to ensure responsible development, production, dissemination and use of new technologies with regards to arms control. These measures include cooperation with commercial companies, guidelines for Research and Development, production bans, export controls on knowledge transfer and agreements on responsible use and, defence against the utilization of new technologies.
2. European Union & United Kingdom
a. European Union
- EU – On 12 February 2021, the EU published FAQs related to export requirements for COVID-19 vaccines. The EU has additionally increased export controls of COVID-19 vaccines outside of the Union, since supply difficulties continue to interfere the vaccination efforts.
- EU / Iran – On 23 February 2021, a press release was published by the governments of France, Germany and the United Kingdom (“UK”) (“E3”) in response to Iran’s suspension of the JCPOA Additional Protocol. In this press release, the E3 urge Iran to stop and reverse all measures that reduce transparency and to ensure full and timely cooperation with the IAEA.
- EU / Russia – On 2 March 2021, Council Decision (CFSP) 2021/372 was published. According to this Council Decision, the EU condemns the detention of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny upon his return to Moscow on 17 January 2021 and calls for his immediate release. On 22 February 2021, the EU Foreign Affairs Council agreed to proceed with work on future restrictive measures in response to serious human rights violations. The EU agreed to impose sanctions on four Russian officials close to President Putin, including public prosecutors.
- EU / Myanmar – On 3 March 2021, a statement was published by the European External Action Service. The statement says that the EU condemns the continued violent repression of peaceful protesters by the Myanmar military and security forces, which has resulted in yet more deaths of innocent civilians the continued. According to the statement, there must be accountability and a return to democracy in Myanmar.
- EU / Ukraine – On 5 March 2021, the EU Council adopted the Council Implementing Regulation (EU) 2021/391 and Council Decision 201/394. This Regulation includes restrictive measures directed against certain persons, entities and bodies in view of the situation in Ukraine.
- EU / Libya – On 11 March 2021, the EU approved the new Libyan Government of National Unity, led by Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah. This moment is recognized as a “historic opportunity for the Libyans to come together in a joint effort to rebuild their country as peaceful, stable and united and restore Libya’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity“.
- EU / Egypt – On 12 March 2021, the EU decided to revoke sanctions ,initially adopted in 2011, against individuals identified as “responsible for the misappropriation of Egyptian state funds”. Following the most recent review of the restrictive measures still in force against 9 Egyptians (including family members of former Leader Hosni Mubarak) the EU Council concluded that the EU regime has served its purpose.
- EU / Ukraine – On 12 March 2021, the EU decided to extend restrictive sanctions against persons and entities responsible for threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine for a further 6 months. Existing sanctions against 177 individuals and 48 entities will continue to apply.
- EU / Syria – The EU declared that 15 March 2021 marks a decade of conflict and the brutal repression of the Syrian people. The EU continues to demand an end to the repression, release of prisoners, and meaningful engagement of the Syrian regime and its allies in the full implementation of United States Security Council Resolution 2254.
- EU – On 22 March 2021 the EU Council announced that it will broaden its listings under the EU Global Human Sanctions Regime. Restrictive measures, including asset freezes and travel bans, have been decided upon on 11 individuals and 4 entities responsible for serious violations of human rights in various countries around the world. The violations relate to Uyghurs in Xinjian in China, the repression in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, extrajudicial killings in Libya, repression in Russia, and Killings in South Sudan and Eritrea.
- EU / Myanmar – On 22 March 2021, the EU imposed restrictive measures in respect of Myanmar on 11 officials responsible for the military coup in Myanmar. The EU expanded the designation criteria to allow for the application of targeted restrictive measures against natural and legal persons, whose activities undermine democracy in Myanmar and legal persons, bodies or entities owned by or providing support to the Myanmar Armed Forces.
b. United Kingdom
- UK – On 18 February 2021, an updated version of the “Guidance: Trade sanctions, arms embargoes, and other trade restrictions” was published by the Department for International Trade and Export Control Joint Unit of UK. The Guidance was updated to reflect new sanctions legislation that came into force on 31 December 2020, following the transition from the EU.
- UK / Myanmar – On 25 February 2021, Dominic Raab, the UK Foreign Secretary, announced further sanctions against members of Myanmar’s State Administration Council, including the Commander in Chief, for their role in overseeing human rights violations since the coup.
- UK – On 17 March 2021, Her Majesty´s Treasury (“HM Treasury”) published the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy. The Review emphasizes increased commitment to security and resilience to protect ‘people, territory, critical national infrastructure, democratic institutions and way of life against threats from states, terrorism and organised crime’. In cooperation with experts, industry and allies, the UK intends to maintain an efficient export control system on dual-use and military items, which adapts to technological developments. To defend universal human rights, the UK will use its autonomous Magnitsky-style Sanctions regime, that provides powerful tools as asset freezes and travel bans to hold accountable those involved in serious human rights violations and abuses.
- UK – On 20 March 2021, HM Treasury published its final quarterly report of 1 October 2020 to 31 December 2020 as was mandatory until 1 January 2021 under the Terrorist Asset Freezing Act 2010 (“TAFA 2010”). The report includes the UK’s implementation of the UN’s ISIL and Al-Qaida asset freezing regime and the operation of the EU’s asset freezing regime under EU Regulation.
3. United States of America
- US / Saudi Arabia – On 11 February 2021, the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence published the report “[…] Assessing the Saudi Government’s Role in the Killing of Jamal Khashoggi”. According to the report “Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi”. On 26 February 2021, OFAC announced sanctions and visa bans on Saudis for the killing of Khashoggi.
- US / Belarus – On 18 February 2021, Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, announced that the US would impose visa restrictions on 43 Belarusian individuals responsible for undermining Belarusian democracy, making them generally ineligible for entry into the US. These individuals include: “high-ranking justice sector officials, law enforcement leaders and rank-and-file personnel who detained and abused peaceful demonstrators, judges and prosecutors involved in sentencing peaceful protesters and journalists to prison terms and academic administrators who threatened students for participation in peaceful protests”.
- US – On 18 February 2021, OFAC announced a settlement with BitPay. BitPay is a private company based in Atlanta, Georgia, that offers payment processing solutions for merchants to accept digital currency as payment for goods and services. BitPay allowed persons from countries like Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Sudan, and Syria to transact with merchants in the US using digital currency on BitPay’s platform even though BitPay had location information, including IP-addresses and other location data, about these persons, prior to effecting the transactions.
- US / Myanmar – On 22 February 2021, the US Department of State published a press statement promoting accountability for those responsible for violence against protestors in Myanmar.
- US / Myanmar -On 4 March 2021, BIS imposed further restrictions on (re)exports to Myanmar and transfers within Myanmar of sensitive items subject to the Export Administration Regulations (“EAR”), following the military coup and escalating violence against protesters. Four entities have been added to the Entity List by BIS.
- US / Ukraine – On 5 March 2021, the US Government announced the public designation of oligarch and former Ukrainian public official Ihor Kolomoyskyy, because of involvement in significant corruption. From 2014 to 2015 he was involved in corrupt acts undermining the rule of law and the public’s faith, when he deployed his political influence and power as a Governor for his own benefit.
- US / Venezuela – On 8 March 2021, the Biden administration confirmed plans to review the effectiveness of Venezuela sanctions regime. Unilateral sanctions have not succeeded in achieving an electoral outcome in Venezuela over the last four years, because the Maduro regime has adapted to sanctions and it sustained itself through illicit flows. The Biden administration rather finds effective ways to increase pressure by working together in a coordinated fashion in the international community than lifting imposed sanctions immediately.
- US – On 9 March 2021, BIS notified German company, MSI Aircraft Maintenance Services (“MSI”), about its intention to initiate proceedings against MSI. From 2011 to 2012, MSI exported, without the authorization of OFAC, shipments of US-origin aircraft parts to Iran via Germany, which constitutes violations of the EAR and the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (“ITSR”). MSI shall be assessed a civil penalty and the company will be subject to a 3-year export ban.
a. US – Iran Relations
- US / Iran – On 22 March 2021, the US Department of Justice charged 10 Iranians with 1 count of conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Power Act and the ITSR. The defendants are charged for running a nearly 20-year-long scheme of evading U.S. Sanctions on the Government of Iran by disguising over $300 million worth of transactions on Iran’s behalf through front companies (fully functioning companies with characteristics of legitimate businesses) in Canada, Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates and San Fernando Valley.
b. US – China Relations
- US / China / Hong Kong – On 19 February 2021, the US published FAQs related to the situation in China/Hong Kong.
- US / China – On 16 March 2021, OFAC added 24 Chinese and Hong Kong officials to its specially designated nationals pursuant to Executive Order 13936. All listed officials were determined for having materially contributed to, have materially contributed to, or attempted to materially contribute to the failure of the Government of China to meet its obligations under the Joint Declaration of the Basic Law of Hong Kong, pursuant to section 5 (g) of the Hong Kong Autonomy Act.
c. US – Russia Relations
- US/Russia – On 17 February 2021, the White House had a press briefing. During this briefing, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki and Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technology Anne Neuberger, discussed the SolarWinds hack. During the SolarWinds hack, Russian hackers launched a broad and indiscriminate effort to compromise the network management software used by both US government and the private sector. Nine US federal agencies and about hundred private companies were compromised. On 21 February 2021, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the US is preparing a response against Russia: “That response will include a mix of tools seen and unseen. And it will not simply be sanctions”.
- US / Russia – On 22 February 2021, the US Department of State had a press briefing. During this briefing, US Department of State Spokesperson Ned Price, discussed topics like “Iran”, “Yemen”, “Myanmar”, “Russia”, “Ukraine” and “Nord Stream 2”. With regard to Nord Stream 2, Price said that the US Department of State submitted a report to the US Congress on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project as required by the Protecting Europe’s Energy Security Act. “The report […] includes a list of entities that have engaged in good-faith efforts to wind down activities related to the Nord Stream 2 project during the relevant time period and, therefore, are not subject to US sanctions at this time. This is a list that includes over 15 entities and it demonstrates that the legislative goals and our actions are having a good effect. We continue to examine entities involved in potentially sanctionable activity. We have been clear that companies risk sanctions if they are involved in Nord Stream 2, and this gets to your question”, according to Price.
- US / Russia – On 18 March 2021, the US State Department warned that any entity involved in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline risks U.S. sanctions and should immediately abandon activities regarding completion of the pipeline. The warning is substantiated with reasoning that the pipeline is a Russian geopolitical project intended to divide and affect (the energy security of) Europe.
4. Around the globe
- China – On 8 March 2021, Top Legislator and Chairman of the Standing Committee of the Chinese National People’s Congress, Li Zhanshu, announced that China will rapidly develop its Sanctions legislation. The upcoming legislation will cover counter-sanctions and interference, and countering long-arm jurisdiction as well as enhancing “the legal toolbox for coping with foreign-related challenges and preventing risks”.
- On 28 February 2021, Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said the “time is not ripe” for an unofficial meeting proposed by EU Foreign Policy Chief, Josep Borrell, considering the recent stances and moves by the US and the E3. “There has been no change in the US’ stances and behaviour, and the Biden administration has not only failed to abandon Trump’s failed policy of maximum pressure, but has also failed to declare its commitment to the implementation of all its obligations under the JCPOA and the UN Security Council Resolution 2231“, Khatibzadeh said.
- Italy – On 4 March 2021, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced it would block the export of 250,700 doses of COVID-19 vaccines, destined for Australia. According to a press release of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Italy’s proposal to deny the authorisation was approved by the European Commission.
- Myanmar – On 8 March 2021, Reuters announced that the EU is preparing to widen sanctions on Myanmar’s armed forces to target the businesses they run in response to the military coup. These measures would especially target companies“generating revenue for, or providing financial support to, the Myanmar Armed Forces” and would imply the most significant EU response since the coup.
- EU / UK / Canada / China – On 22 March 2021, the EU, the UK and Canada imposed sanctions based on their global human rights sanctions regimes in response of serious human rights violations and abuses against Uyghurs and other minorities in the Xinjian Region of China. The restrictive measures imposed on 4 senior Chinese officials include asset freezing and travel bans.
- On 22 March 2021, ACAMS Moneylaundering.com published the news article “EU Imposes First Sanctions Against China Since 1989”. Sebastiaan Bennink was interviewed for this news article. According to Sebastiaan, the EU measures, including those against China, are “unlikely to pose a new, significant compliance burden on financial institutions”. China’s countermeasures, however, “may herald a new era of tit-for-tat designations that could complicate global commerce and related efforts to abide by sanctions”, Sebastiaan said.
- On 23 March 2021, ACAMS Moneylaundering.com published an article called ‘Dutch Officials Pitch Overhaul of Bank Legal Settlements’. Tomasz Kodrzycki was interviewed regarding proposed legislation that would give Dutch courts authority to scuttle monetary settlements of violations by businesses trying to avoid criminal prosecution. The legislation would only provide courts with authority to approve or reject the proposed settlement and not to amend its terms. Although in some cases a settlement could be rejected by a judge, Tomasz expects the judge to take on the role of ‘remote supervisor and legitimizing authority’.
Should you wish to receive more information about one of the topics described in this newsletter or talk about the interviews given, please contact BenninkAmar Advocaten at: firstname.lastname@example.org or via telephone at: +31203085918.