The imposition of sanctions on the Chinese companies and executives—particularly on units of the high-profile, state-owned COSCO at a critical juncture in the U.S.-China trade war and shortly after both countries took conciliatory steps—reinforces the Trump Administration’s stated posture of aggressively enforcing Iran secondary sanctions in furtherance of its policy objectives.
On June 21, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued an interim final rule (IFR) substantially revising sanctions reporting regulations. The most significant amendment was to OFAC’s rejected transactions reporting rule, which now, for the first time, applies not just to U.S. financial institutions, but also to U.S. businesses, nonprofits, and individuals. The rule also appears to apply to foreign entities owned or controlled by U.S. persons. Public comments on the IFR are due by July 22, 2019.
MassPoint's Hdeel Abdelhady spoke with NPR about the ratcheting up of U.S. sanctions, secondary sanctions, and the potential consequences of sanctions overuse. To learn more about the mechanics of U.S. sanctions, and particularly about the role of the American dollar, financial system, and economy in extending the global reach of U.S. sanctions, read Hdeel Abdelhady's Reuters insight piece, Reimposed U.S. anti-Iran sanctions leverage American economic power.
Under amended Section 560.543 of the ISTR, individuals who are U.S. citizens and permanent residents “are authorized to engage in transactions necessary and ordinarily incident to the sale of real and personal property in Iran and to transfer the proceeds to the United States,” but only if the real and personal property was (1) “acquired before the individual became a U.S. person” or (2) was “inherited from persons in Iran.
For U.S. persons seeking to engage in permitted noncommercial, personal remittance or inheritance-related transactions, the higher risk sensitivity of some third country (and U.S.-based) financial institutions may complicate (or thwart in some cases), legal transactions. In light of this, persons seeking to engage in such legal transactions in the post-U.S. JCPOA withdrawal environment should exercise extra care in initiating and executing legal transfers with third country financial institutions.
The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) today sanctioned Malaysia-based Mahan Travel and Tourism Sdn Bhd ("Mahan Travel") pursuant to Executive Order 13,224. Rather then information should be taken as a prompt to other travel agencies or vendors that directly or indirectly “act for or on behalf of Mahan Air” to disassociate from the airline. Such other travel agencies or vendors should, at minimum, review and understand today’s Mahan Travel action, assess their sanctions and related risk (legal, commercial, etc.) and take defensive compliance steps that are appropriate to their sanctions/legal exposure and commercial position. The broader takeaway from today’s OFAC action against Mahan Travel is that it reinforces the fact that U.S. sanctions and other laws are global in reach. Non-U.S. parties should take note of their potential exposure to U.S. sanctions or other legal enforcement actions.
The United States today unilaterally withdrew from the Iran Nuclear Deal (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)). The U.S. Treasury Department and the White House have announced that those sanctions that were lifted as part of the JCPOA framework will, as expected, be re-imposed. The Office of Foreign Assets Control at Treasury (OFAC) announced today that it will institute 90-day and 180-day “wind down” periods, after which previously lifted U.S. sanctions will again take effect. For example: Starting August 7, 2018, the import to the United States of Iranian carpets and certain foodstuffs will be prohibited, as will the export and re-export to Iran of commercial passenger aircraft and related parts and services. Starting on November 5, 2018, foreign financial institutions will be subject to U.S. sanctions for transactions with the Iran Central Bank and designated Iranian financial institutions.
The prospect of increasingly hostile policy and legal actions toward Iran may be enough to thwart or make more difficult Iran-related transactions that are (and might remain) legal. Parties planning to engage in such legal Iran-related transactions should take note and, if appropriate, action ahead of any changes in law or adjustments in Iran-related risk-assessments by banks and individual and commercial parties.