OFSI imposes its first monetary penalty — Raphaels Bank sanctions breach

Authors: Daniel Hudson, Partner, London and Daniel Hyde, Associate (Australia), London

On 25 February 2019, the UK Government’s Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (“OFSI”) published a notification of its first imposition of a monetary penalty under new powers afforded to it under the Policing and Crime Act 2017 (“the Act”). The £5,000 penalty was imposed on Raphaels Bank for dealing, without a licence, with funds belonging to a designated person in breach of EU financial sanctions in relation to Egypt. The penalty amount represents a 50 per cent reduction of the baseline penalty amount initially assessed by OFSI as a result of Raphaels Bank’s voluntary disclosure of the breach and subsequent cooperation.

The notification is brief, seemingly because OFSI is making ongoing enquiries in connection with other aspects of the breach unconnected with Raphaels Bank. However, it is apparent that OFSI determined the penalty amount in accordance with its case assessment process set out in its monetary penalty guidance (“Guidance”), which makes this case a useful, albeit currently limited, illustration of its application of that process.

In this briefing, we discuss the significance of the first monetary penalty imposed by OFSI, particularly:

  • the reduction to the final penalty amount as a result of Raphaels Bank’s disclosure and co-operation;
  • the low-value of the breach;
  • the current brevity of the notification;
  • possible public interest considerations behind the penalty; and
  • the two procedural rights of review available under section 147 of the Act.

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OFSI publishes Annual Review

On 5 October 2018, HM Treasury’s Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI) published its Annual Review for the 2017-18 financial year. This is the first such review published by OFSI and provides an overview of OFSI’s activities in 2017-18, as well as looking to the future. We set out some of the highlights of the Annual Review below.

The Annual Review confirms that 122 new asset freeze targets (or “designated persons”) were added to the UK Consolidated List, mostly under the DPRK and ISIL regimes. During this period, the UK also introduced ‘avoidance of delay’ provisions allowing new UN sanctions regimes to be implemented immediately after the relevant resolution is adopted (rather than waiting for EU action, as was previously the case), reducing the risk of asset flight.

In 2017-18, 122 suspected breaches of financial sanctions were reported to OFSI. OFSI did not impose any monetary penalties in 2017-18 (having had the power to do so since April 2017), but it is currently investigating several cases where a penalty may be appropriate. OFSI states that it is likely to impose monetary penalties in 2018-19, although the majority of cases will continue to be resolved by enforcement activity short of a penalty.

The Annual Review says that OFSI will continue to raise awareness of financial sanctions obligations in 2018-19, by producing guidance and speaking at events. It will ensure it maintains a central role in global sanctions implementation as the UK prepares to leave the EU. It is said that the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act, which received Royal Assent in May, will help to achieve this.

Susannah Cogman
Susannah Cogman
Partner
+44 20 7466 2580
Daniel Hudson
Daniel Hudson
Partner
+44 20 7466 2470

PASSAGE OF NEW SANCTIONS LEGISLATION AND PUBLICATION OF UPDATED GUIDANCE

On 24 May 2018, it was announced that the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act (the “Act”) had received Royal Assent. The Act is the first piece of UK primary legislation governing the post-Brexit legal position and will create a post-Brexit framework for the imposition and enforcement of sanctions and the replication of the pre-Brexit anti-money laundering (“AML”) compliance regime. Continue reading

Corporate Crime update – March 2018

Welcome to the March 2018 edition of our corporate crime update – our round up of developments in relation to corruption, money laundering, fraud, sanctions and related matters. Our update now covers a number of jurisdictions. For the full update on each jurisdiction, please click on the name of the jurisdiction below.  Continue reading

NEW SANCTIONS TARGETING VENEZUELA AND MALI

On 13 November 2017, the EU Council unanimously voted to impose a wide range of targeted sanctions on Venezuela in response to the growing political crisis in the country. Notably, the new EU sanctions go further than current US measures against Venezuela by including an arms embargo, as well as a travel ban and an asset freeze.

Further to a similar regime being imposed on Mali in order to target those seeking to derail the 2015 peace agreement, the UK has laid the legal groundwork for financial sanctions to be imposed once relevant individuals have been identified. Please click here for our full briefing.

OFSI publishes quick guide to financial sanctions

On 4 October 2017, HM Treasury’s Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (“OFSI”) published a quick guide for UK businesses, with the aim of helping them understand and comply with financial sanctions. The guide is intended to help explain what financial sanctions are, when and how to comply with sanctions, and where to go for further information and guidance.

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NEW SANCTIONS REPORTING REQUIREMENTS FOR NON-FINANCIAL SECTOR BUSINESSES

With effect from 8 August, the Government has introduced significant new reporting requirements in relation to EU asset freeze regimes. Previously, only businesses in the financial sector were subject to the obligations, found in UK financial sanctions instruments, to report specified information to the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (“OFSI“) in Her Majesty’s Treasury (“HMT“). From 8 August, further sectors, including auditors, external accountants, tax advisers and lawyers, have been brought within the scope of these obligations and may commit a criminal offence if they fail to comply with the relevant reporting requirements.

The European Union Financial Sanctions (Amendment of Information Provisions) Regulations 2017 (the “Regulation“) implements this change, and applies in respect of information received on or after 8 August. Continue reading