Sanctions lawyers

Economic Sanctions and Export Control Lawyers

Sanctions law firm help clients navigate the intricate sanctions landscape globally. They provide timely and targeted advice and representation to their clients regarding sanctions exposure.

The international community uses sanctions to change the behavior of a country in the case where a country violates human rights, is waging war, or endangering international peace.

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Sanctions lawyers

Sanctions are coercive measures imposed by one or more countries against a targeted country, group, or individual to influence behavior, restrict access to resources, or enforce international norms. These measures are often used as a diplomatic tool to achieve foreign policy objectives without resorting to military force.

For international trade and foreign subsidiaries, the issues that might arise from saction regines require immediate attention to avoid potential breaches that might affect your business activities. Our team of skilled sanctions lawyers have strong working familiarity with relevant EU sanctions regimes and is well positioned to offer expert legal advice that’s grounded to your corporate reality.

We’ll help your corporate entity take proactive steps to remain compliant with sactions regimes and avoid exposure to the potential impact of EU sanctions. But first, here’s what you need to know about financial sanctions implementation, challenging them and how we can help you take proactive measures.

Types of Sanctions

Traditionally, sanctions are considered as a foreign policy tool for influencing political agendas, but can be used to target a designated person involved in human rights violation and corruption. As such, there are different types of sactions and they can entail asset freeze, prohibition of financial transactions, trade restrictions and more.

Sanction Lawyers

Here are different types of sanctions that we can assist you with:

  • Economic Sanctions: these include trade barriers, tariffs, and restrictions on financial transactions. Economic sanctions aim to pressure the target by disrupting their economy. For example, cutting off access to international banking systems or imposing import and export controls sanctions. However, criminal liability arises when these sanctions are breached by a designated person or if designated entities transacts with the prohibited person.
  • Diplomatic Sanctions: these involve the reduction or removal of diplomatic ties, such as closing embassies or expelling diplomats. Diplomatic sanctions signal disapproval and isolate the target on the international stage.
  • Military Sanctions: these include arms embargoes or restrictions on military assistance. Military sanctions aim to weaken the target’s defense capabilities.
  • Travel Sanctions: these restrict the movement of individuals, typically key leaders or officials, by imposing travel bans or visa restrictions.
  • Sectoral Sanctions: these target specific sectors of an economy, such as energy, finance, or technology. For example, prohibiting investments in a country’s oil sector.

Purposes of Sanctions

  1. Behavioral Change: sanctions are used to compel a change in behavior, such as stopping human rights abuses, halting nuclear proliferation, or ending military aggression.
  2. Punishment: they serve as a punitive measure for actions deemed unacceptable by the international community, such as terrorism or violations of international law.
  3. Deterrence: sanctions act as a deterrent to prevent future actions by demonstrating the consequences of certain behaviors.
  4. Signaling: they signal disapproval and draw international attention to the actions of the target, often garnering broader support for the sanctioning country’s position.

Effectiveness and Challenges

The effectiveness of sanctions varies. While they can bring about desired changes, their success depends on factors such as the level of international support, the resilience of the target, and the presence of alternative resources or markets. Sanctions can also have unintended consequences, such as humanitarian impacts on the civilian population, economic hardship, and the potential for the target to become more defiant.

In summary, sanctions are a multifaceted tool used in international relations to achieve various political and security objectives. Their implementation requires careful consideration to balance the intended impact against potential adverse effects. However, different sanctions regimes have laid down the benchmark on handling sanctions challenges for individual cases.

What Types of Sanctions Can we Help you With?

As a law firm specializing in sanctions cases, we assist clients in navigating various types of sanctions imposed by international organizations and individual countries. These sanctions include but are not limited to sanctions imposed by:

  1. OFAC
  2. EU competent authorities
  3. UK competent authorities
  4. Other countries and authorities (except for the authoritarian countries)

Economic and Financial Sanctions:

  1. Asset Freezes: Restrictions imposed on the movement or access to financial assets of designated individuals, entities, or countries.
  2. Banking Restrictions: Limitations on financial transactions, access to banking services, and correspondent banking relationships.
  3. Investment Bans: Prohibitions on investing in certain countries, sectors, or companies.
  4. Loan and Credit Restrictions: Restrictions on access to financial markets and resources like loans, credit, or other financial assistance to designated individuals, entities, or countries.

Trade Sanctions:

  1. Import and Export Restrictions: Prohibitions or limitations on the import or export of goods, services, and technology to or from sanctioned countries or entities.
  2. Embargoes: Comprehensive prohibitions on trade with specific countries, including bans on the import and export of all goods and services.
  3. Tariffs and Quotas: Imposition of tariffs or quotas on specific goods from designated countries.
  4. Dual-Use Goods Restrictions: Controls on the export of goods and technology that have both civilian and military applications.

Sectoral Sanctions:

  1. Energy Sector: Restrictions on transactions and investments in the energy sector, including oil, gas, and coal industries.
  2. Defense and Security Sector: Prohibitions on the sale or transfer of arms, military equipment, and related services.
  3. Financial Sector: Sanctions targeting specific financial institutions, restricting their ability to operate internationally.

Individual and Entity Sanctions:

  1. Travel Bans: Prohibitions on travel for designated individuals, preventing them from entering or transiting through specific countries.
  2. Designation Lists: Inclusion of individuals and entities on sanctions lists, such as the Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) List, EU Consolidated List, and UK Sanctions List.
  3. Secondary Sanctions: Sanctions imposed on third parties that engage in prohibited transactions with designated individuals or entities.

Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Sanctions:

  1. Magnitsky Act Sanctions: Targeted sanctions against individuals and entities involved in human rights abuses or corruption.
  2. Sanctions for Human Rights Violations: Measures targeting individuals and entities responsible for gross human rights violations, including torture, extrajudicial killings, and arbitrary detention.

Cyber Sanctions:

  1. Sanctions for Cyber Attacks: Measures targeting individuals, entities, and countries involved in significant cyber-attacks and cyber espionage activities.

Sanctions on Specific Industries:

  1. Maritime and Shipping Sanctions: Restrictions on shipping activities, including bans on providing services to sanctioned vessels and ports.
  2. Aviation Sanctions: Prohibitions on the sale, lease, or provision of aircraft and related services to designated countries or entities

Anti-money laundering

Sanctions in the field of anti-money laundering (AML) are diverse and can be applied at various levels, including individual, organizational, and national levels to limit cross border transactions. Here are some common types of sanctions used in AML efforts: Financial Penalties, Criminal charges, compliance requirements, restrictions on business operations, asset freezes and forfeitures, sectoral sanctions, and international sanctions.

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Advantages of Our Lawyers

Contacting us for expert advice challenging international sanctions offers several key advantages:

  • Expertise in Complex Regulations
  • Navigational Skills in International Law
  • Strategic Litigation
  • Risk Management
  • Advocacy and Negotiation
  • Preventive Advice and Compliance
  • Multi-jurisdictional Coordination

By specializing in this niche area, the lawyers of our law firm can provide targeted and effective legal solutions that are crucial for navigating and challenging the often politicized and rapidly changing landscape of international sanctions.

Kendall Coffey is a skilled attorney specializing in international law, with a focus on serving high-net-worth individuals. He is adept in handling complex litigation, arbitration, and legal assistance across multiple jurisdictions. Recognized for his expertise in sanctions law and international criminal law, Sebastian ensures the protection of his client’s assets and rights. His experience spans Corporate and Civil law, and he is known for effectively navigating the complexities of global sanctions and legal frameworks, including Human Rights Law.

Our cases and achievements

As a legal team specializing in sanctions-related cases, we are proud to share some of our recent successes in managing complex sanctions issues across various jurisdictions, including the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in the United States, the European Union (EU), and the United Kingdom (UK). Our expertise and strategic approach have enabled us to achieve significant victories for our clients, ensuring their businesses can operate without the burden of unjust sanctions.

OFAC: Securing Delisting through Comprehensive Representation

One of our notable cases involved a client from Israel who was added to OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (SDN List) for allegedly dealing with Venezuela companies in the oil and gas sector of the economy. Our team meticulously reviewed the underlying allegations and identified key inaccuracies in the evidence presented against our client. We submitted a robust petition for delisting. Our efforts culminated in OFAC removing our client from the SDN List, as announced in their updated sanctions list on June 7, 2024 (source: OFAC Recent Actions​ (OFAC)​).

EU: Successfully Challenging Sanctions before the General Court

In the EU, we represented a client from Liechtenstein before the General Court in a challenge against restrictive measures imposed under Council Regulation (EU) No 269/2014 for the alleged assistance of Russian companies to circumvent sanctions and AML procedures in the process of moving their assets. The General Court ruled in favor of our client, ordering the annulment of the restrictive measures, which was a significant victory and a precedent for future cases.

In Which Countries and Jurisdictions Do We Handle Sanctions Cases?

Our law firm handles sanctions cases in a wide range of jurisdictions, including major global financial centers and key strategic regions. Namely – EU, UK, U.S., UAE (Dubai), Cyprus, Middle East, China, Singapore, Japan, Africa, South America.

We provide comprehensive legal services to ensure compliance with international and national sanctions regulations, assisting clients in navigating complex legal landscapes across these diverse jurisdictions. We’re also know for advising clients on the consequences of breaching trade sanctions and licence applications in different countries.

Defending against economic sanctions can involve various legal arguments and grounds depending on the jurisdiction, the nature of the sanctions, and the specifics of the case. Generally, legal defenses can be based on arguments of due process, proportionality, non-discrimination, human rights, and the legality of the sanctions themselves. Here are the main legal grounds and documents that typically regulate this issue:

1. United Nations (UN) Charter

Article 41: This article allows the UN Security Council to impose measures not involving the use of armed force, including economic sanctions, to maintain or restore international peace and security.

Article 103: States that obligations under the UN Charter take precedence over any other international agreement.

2. World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreements

General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT): Articles I (Most-Favored-Nation Treatment), III (National Treatment on Internal Taxation and Regulation), and XI (General Elimination of Quantitative Restrictions) can be cited to challenge discriminatory or overly restrictive trade sanctions.

Article XXI (Security Exceptions): Allows for exceptions to the GATT obligations for reasons of national security, though this is often a contentious area.

3. European Union Law

Council Regulation (EC) No 881/2002: Provides the EU framework for the imposition of sanctions.

European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR): Specifically, Article 6 (Right to a fair trial) and Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (Protection of property) can be invoked to challenge the imposition of sanctions.

North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) / United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA)

Provides mechanisms for dispute resolution that can be used to challenge sanctions perceived as unfair or discriminatory.

4. National Laws (for example United States)

International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA): Allows the President to regulate commerce after declaring a national emergency in response to any unusual and extraordinary threat. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) Regulations: Enforces economic and trade sanctions based on US foreign policy and national security goals.

5. Human Rights Law

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR): While not legally binding, it provides a basis for arguing against sanctions that violate fundamental human rights.

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR): Articles 14 (Right to a fair trial) and 17 (Right to privacy) can be relevant.

What is Export Control?

Export controls are regulatory measures imposed by governments to restrict the export of certain goods, technologies, and services for reasons related to national security, foreign policy, and trade protection. These controls are intended to prevent the proliferation of weapons, protect sensitive technologies, ensure compliance with international agreements, and achieve other strategic objectives.

Export controls typically apply to a wide range of items, including military goods, dual-use items (goods that can be used for both civilian and military purposes), advanced technologies, and sensitive data.

What Are the Global Sanctions?

1. UN sanctions

The UN imposes sanctions as a tool to enforce international law and maintain or restore international peace and security. These sanctions are authorized by the UN Security Council and can take various forms, tailored to address specific conflicts or threats.

For examples: Arms Embargoes, Travel Bans, Asset Freezes, Commodity Restrictions, Sectoral Sanctions.

UN sanctions are intended to be non-punitive and aimed at supporting diplomatic and peaceful resolutions to conflicts. They are often accompanied by exceptions to minimize adverse humanitarian impacts and are regularly reviewed and adjusted as situations evolve.

2. EU sanctions

The European Union (EU) uses sanctions as a tool for achieving the objectives of its Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). These sanctions can be directed against countries, entities, or individuals and are intended to promote international peace and security, uphold democracy, and defend human rights. The EU’s sanctions are typically aligned with the measures taken by the UN and sometimes go beyond them to address specific EU concerns.

For example: Diplomatic sanctions, economic and Financial sanctions, trade Restrictions, travel Restrictions, arms embargoes.

3. UK sanctions

The United Kingdom utilizes a variety of sanctions and export controls as part of its foreign policy and national security strategy, particularly after its exit from the European Union with the establishment of an autonomous sanctions regime. UK sanctions are designed to prevent and respond to breaches of international law, human rights abuses, and other threats to international peace and security.

For example: Financial Sanctions, trade restrictions, travel bans, arms embargoes, shipping, and aviation restrictions.

4. China’s Ministry of Finance sanctions

China’s approach to international sanctions often differs from that of Western countries like the United States or members of the European Union. Typically, China has been more restrained in the use of unilateral sanctions. However, in recent years, China has started to develop and implement its own sanctions regime, primarily as countermeasures to actions taken by foreign governments that Beijing views as interfering with its national sovereignty or harming its interests.

For example Restrictions on companies, diplomatic measures, travel bans, arms embargoes, and shipping, and aviation restrictions.

5. DFAT Australia Sanctions

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) in Australia administers the country’s sanctions regime. Australia’s sanctions are a key tool in its foreign policy and national security strategies, designed to influence behavior, uphold international norms, and protect Australia’s national interests. Australian sanctions can be multilateral, imposed through international organizations like the UN, or autonomous, where Australia imposes sanctions on its own or in coordination with other countries.

For example: Asset freezes, financial transaction restrictions, import and export restrictions, and sectoral sanctions.

6. Canada’s SEMA sanctions

Canada administers its international sanctions under the Special Economic Measures Act (SEMA), which allows the government to impose sanctions in response to breaches of international peace and security that result in serious international crises. SEMA sanctions are part of Canada’s broader international policy toolkit and are often implemented in coordination with actions taken by international bodies like the United Nations or in partnership with allies such as the United States and the European Union.

For example: Asset Freezes, prohibitions on financial transactions, import and export bans, sectoral sanctions, and prohibitions on specific activities.

7. OFAC U.S. Sanctions

The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is a financial intelligence and enforcement agency of the U.S. Treasury Department that administers and enforces economic and trade restrictions based on U.S. foreign policy and national security goals. OFAC sanctions are aimed at foreign countries, regimes, terrorists, international narcotics traffickers, those engaged in activities related to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and other threats to the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States.

OFAC Sanctions Lawyers

Comprehensive Sanctions:

  • These sanctions target entire countries and include broad-based trade embargoes against certain countries. North Korea and Iran are examples where comprehensive sanctions apply.

Selective Sanctions:

  • Sectoral Sanctions: Targeting specific sectors of a country’s economy, such as the Russian energy or financial sectors.
  • Trade Restrictions: Imposing import or export bans on specific goods, technology, or services, particularly military and dual-use items.

Financial Sanctions:

  • Asset Freezes: Freezing the assets of governments, entities, or individuals who pose a threat to U.S. interests.
  • Transaction Prohibitions: Prohibiting transactions that involve U.S. persons or pass through the U.S. financial system, including certain types of financial assistance.

Travel Bans:

  • Restricting entry into the United States for individuals engaged in conduct contrary to U.S. interests, including human rights abuses and corruption.

List-Based Sanctions:

  • Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) List: Individuals and companies owned or controlled by, or acting for, or on behalf of, targeted countries are listed and generally have their assets blocked and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from dealing with them.
  • Sectoral Sanctions Identifications (SSI) List: Entities operating in sectors of an economy specified by the Secretary of the Treasury under Executive Orders.

Secondary Sanctions:

  • These are sanctions that apply to non-U.S. persons for specified conduct involving targeted countries, where the non-U.S. person may not have a direct connection to the U.S. but can still be penalized for their actions.

Which Countries Impose the Toughest Sanctions?

Country Examples of Sanctions Imposed
United States Economic sanctions on Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, Russia, and Syria, as well as targeted sanctions on individuals and entities deemed to be engaged in illicit activities such as terrorism, narcotics trafficking, and human rights abuses.
European Union Economic sanctions on Russia, Belarus, and North Korea, as well as targeted sanctions on individuals and entities engaged in human rights abuses, terrorism, and cyber-attacks.
United Kingdom Economic sanctions on Russia, Iran, Syria, and North Korea, as well as targeted sanctions on individuals and entities involved in human rights abuses and corruption.
Canada Economic sanctions on Russia, Iran, Venezuela, and Myanmar, as well as targeted sanctions on individuals and entities involved in human rights abuses and corruption.
Australia Economic sanctions on Russia, Iran, North Korea, and Myanmar, as well as targeted sanctions on individuals and entities involved in human rights abuses and corruption.
China Economic sanctions on North Korea and Taiwan, as well as targeted sanctions on individuals and entities involved in terrorism and human rights abuses.
Russia Economic sanctions on the United States, European Union, Canada, and Ukraine, as well as targeted sanctions on individuals and entities deemed to be engaged in activities that threaten Russia’s national security.

 

What To Do If You Are Sanctioned?

If you or your organization find yourselves subject to sanctions, there are several steps you should consider taking to manage the situation effectively. First of all, you need to seek legal advice. Consult with legal experts who specialize in international law and sanctions. A knowledgeable attorney can help interpret the sanctions, advise on absolute compliance, and help navigate the legal complexities that may arise.

If you believe the sanctions are unjust or incorrect, the sanction lawyers can help you to challenge them. This could involve administrative appeals within the sanctioning jurisdiction or legal action in domestic or international courts.

Lawyer Kendall Coffey
Kendall Coffey
Senior Partner
Mr. Coffey is a former U.S. Attorney, Southern District of Florida (1993-1996); and served as Chair of, the Southern District Conference, Florida Federal Judicial Nominating Commission (April 2009 – January 2017).

Sanctions Lawyer FAQ

What is the OFAC Agency?
The OFAC, an agency in the US Treasury Department, undertakes the task of regulating and enforcing US economic sanctions and trade embargoes involving foreign nations and targeted individuals. The agency takes action to achieve the US's national security and foreign policy goals. OFAC's legal authority comes from different geographical areas, from executive orders to international agreements.
Who are OFAC Sanctions Lawyers?
Sanctions enforcement by OFAC law firms involves complex and ever-changing rules and regulations. Any individuals or groups that become real or perceived threats to US economic sanctions policy or national security face sanctioning. When dealing with international commerce transactions, one must be aware of all OFAC compliance rules and regulations. Staying well-informed on all the shifting policies may be challenging, but OFAC U.S. sanctions lawyers can provide the best counsel. In addition, they can assist in specific licensing, foreign activities, or international legal needs.
What happens if found in violation of OFAC sanctions?
The OFAC sanctions rapidly evolve and have broad prohibitions and stringent liability. Unfortunately, it's easy for an individual or an entity to violate the most up-to-date sanctions without knowing that a violation occurred. It's very difficult for those dealing with foreign nations to stay up to date with the latest OFAC sanctions. You need to contact OFAC sanctions lawyers if;
  • Your business needs assistance with compliance measures regarding US sanctions, or
  • You get a notification that you are under internal investigation for violating these rules.
These notifications come in the form of a notice in your credit report. OFAC lawyers will provide legal advice and counseling about international business as well as assist you with the following matters:
  • Export and import licensing;
  • Personal or commercial transactions;
  • OFAC administrative subpoenas;
  • Unblocking frozen funds and assets;
  • Voluntary self-disclosures;
  • General advisory and counseling opinions;
  • Internal case reviews and investigation;
  • Removal from the SDN list, which is the Specially Designated Nationals list.
All US citizens or those with the property under the US administration fall under the OFAC U.S sanctions. Therefore, they need to proceed with extra caution while dealing with international business matters. It's possible to avoid possible penalties, arrest, or freezing of funds and assets. First, however, you need to obtain legal counsel from reputable OFAC lawyers to keep you updated on all security controls imposed by the US.
What are the Functions of OFAC?
Individuals or entities that engage in international business with blacklisted states or targeted persons may be subject to criminal penalties. In addition, individuals conducting personal transactions with friends, family members, or charities are also subject to OFAC U.S. sanctions. Willful sanctions violations will lead to criminal prosecution by the justice department. In addition, OFAC can hold a person civilly liable for the violation of the sanction, whether committed knowingly or unknowingly. Therefore, sanctions law is considered a strict liability offense.
Does OFAC outline Prohibited Transactions?
It's now easy to know if you are doing prohibited transactions by OFAC. OFAC retains a blacklist of targeted individuals, organizations, and groups known as the SDN list. Similarly, some U.S. sanctions apply to an entire country, regardless of whether they appear on the SDN list. Due to the global ever-shifting political interests, the SDN list is always changing with new targets and creating more legal regulations and new sanctions. To be up to date with the list, you need to contact OFAC lawyers who will guide you and also guide you in name removal from the SDN list.
How does a Country become a Targeted Foreign Country?
Political unrest in foreign states such as in Russia and Ukraine can lead to sanctions against the country once it's confirmed suitable for international trade. Then, almost without warning, foreign business affairs that are legal one day can become grounds for legal action the next day. Individuals or countries that support these nations become subject to asset freezing and denial of immigrants from entering the US. In addition, US citizens can't transact with such entities or people or take action to evade these U.S. sanctions. The OFAC sanctions laws seek to protect national security objectives and protect human rights. Some of the sanctioned countries include;
  • South Sudan
  • Iran
  • Syria
  • Burma
  • Libya
  • Cuba
  • Russia
  • Zimbabwe
Any financial transaction or support of individuals in these countries will violate the US sanctions. Therefore, involvement of any kind calls for an audit of compliance. An OFAC enforcement lawyer may help eliminate the risks of OFAC sanction through proper licensing and compliance.
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