May 22, 2013 Leave a comment
Last week, the United States Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced that it was releasing Elaf Islamic Bank (Elaf) from the Part 561 List. The Part 561 List targets those foreign financial institutions facilitating certain significant financial institutions on behalf of certain Iranian financial institutions by barring their ability to establish and maintain correspondent banking relationships with the U.S. The name comes from Part 561 of Title 31 of the Code of Federal Regulations which contains the Iranian Financial Sanctions Regulations (IFSR), a set of regulations promulgated pursuant to the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions Accountability, Divestment Act of 2010. Prior to Elaf’s removal, it was one of two banks on the Part 561 List, the other being Kunlun Bank.
In their press release concerning Elaf’s removal, Treasury cited the fact that Elaf undertook a number of steps which led to their removal, which by OFAC standards occurred very rapidly. First, Elaf engaged Treasury immediately upon their designation. Second, Elaf appropriately identified the basis of their designation, the provision of significant financial transactions for Export Development Bank of Iran (EDBI), and took steps to terminate that relationship. Those steps included freezing EDBI’s accounts, and reducing their overall exposure to the Iranian financial sector. As I have noted previously, speed, accurate identification of the basis of the designation, and addressing that basis, are the keys to being removed from the OFAC Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (SDN List). It appears the same holds true for the Part 561 List, which follows the same administrative removal process as the SDN List.
Treasury’s actions demonstrate once again that removal of an OFAC designation is possible if addressed in the appropriate manner. Foreign financial institutions still dealing with Iran may want to pay heed to the actions of Elaf. The U.S. Congress and many pro sanctions groups in Washington are pushing for more aggressive enforcement and implementation of the types of sanctions that Elaf faced. If they get their way, a number of foreign financial institutions may find themselves having to follow the model Elaf set forth for removal from the Part 561 List or from the OFAC SDN List itself.
The author of this blog is Erich Ferrari, an attorney specializing in OFAC matters. If you have any questions please contact him at 202-280-6370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.