OFAC Makes Large Scale Designation Under the Kingpin Act

Today, the United States Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced the designation of two individuals and a number of entities under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act). The two individuals designated, Christina Stetanel Castellanos Chacon and Maria Corina Saenz Lehnhoff, were Guatemalan nationals who are believed by OFAC to be engaged in the laundering of narcotics trafficking proceeds on behalf of Marllory Chacon Rossell. In addition to these two individuals were twenty-four (24) entities designated including a hotel, a construction company, an import-export company, a clothing store, and a household goods store. It is believed by OFAC that all of these companies were used as fronts for laundering proceeds of illegal narcotics sales.

Under the Kingpin Act there are two types of designations: Tier I designations and Tier II designations. Tier I designations are made by the President on or about June 1st of every year and identifies those individuals who are believed to be significant foreign narcotics traffickers. The Tier II designations are made by OFAC and identify those parties believed to be providing materials support or assistance to the Tier I kingpins. Tier II designations can be made at any time of the year and are made frequently.

It is interesting to note that there have been cases where Tier I Kingpin designations were placed upon individuals who were considered U.S. persons, particularly U.S. permanent legal residents. This presents an issue of whether or not a party can be designated as a significant foreign narcotics trafficker if they are actually not a foreign person. The case law on the issue is pretty much non-existent and from what I have seen and heard OFAC has not found such arguments compelling when considering a reconsideration of the designation. That said, it would be interesting to see how a court would deal with an OFAC Kingpin with U.S. person status contesting their designation as a significant foreign narcotics trafficker on the basis that they are not a foreign person. We may see this argument employed sooner or later and I think it’s an important question that needs to be settled by the courts.

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 ferrari@ferrari-legal.com.

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