OFAC Countries List: Meaning & Compliance
OFAC is a US department of treasury agency that implements commercial & economic sanctions to support US policy objectives. Click here to know about OFAC countries!
The Office of Foreign Assets Control, better known as OFAC, under the US Department of the Treasury oversees and enforces trade and economic sanctions. As a manager of the United States government's sanctions and embargo programs, OFAC imposes the sanctions based on US foreign policy and national security goals. The OFAC sanctions list provides a publicly accessible list of companies, organizations, or individuals, facing economic or trade, or legal sanctions.
The OFAC sanctions list is a critical list for protecting the interests of the US. Organizations need to comply with the OFAC sanctions and honor the sanctions imposed by not engaging with any entity or individual listed by OFAC without authorization. In this way, the OFAC sanctions list helps to safeguard the US foreign policy objectives. At the same time, it is useful in protecting international trade interests for the US from within and abroad.
WHAT ARE THE OFAC SANCTIONS?
As stated above, OFAC sanctions are trade and economic sanctions that list persons, organizations, or companies based on the current national policy and security objectives. The sanctioned persons, organizations, or companies are called by OFAC as the Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs).
A sanctions list check is important to carry out business in a legal manner by complying with the regulations. The failure to carry out these checks also bears legal consequences ranging from hefty fines or even imprisonment.
Non- compliance with OFAC sanctions can also impact risk management in an organization. Sometimes, the managers overseeing these functions become the primary subjects of fines or imprisonment caused by transgression.
For instance, Deutsche Forfait, a German company operating in the US, was placed on the OFAC list due to alleged violations of sanctions against Iran. The sanction led the company to extensively restructure and even placed for liquidation proceedings.
WHAT ARE OFAC SANCTIONED COUNTRIES AND HOW CAN YOU WORK WITH THEM?
The OFAC may freeze assets of embargoed countries, or prohibit payment of funds or provision of services, depending on the country subjected to US sanctions. Before engaging with any sanctioned country obtaining OFAC approval is mandatory. The nature of sanctions may differ. Some apply to the entire country or certain individuals and entities.
A company is required to check sanctions lists before entering into a new business. Though, the review of business relationships periodically to verify that your financial or economic resources are not in hands of sanctioned persons, is important. The sanctions can be:
- Trade barriers
- Trade tariffs
- Restriction on financial transactions
- Ban on investment
- Emergo on arms
- Export and import ban
- Travel and trade bans
- Freezing assets
The current list of sanctioned countries includes the Balkans, Belarus, Burma, Cuba, Ethiopia, Libya, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, North Korea, Mali, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan and Darfur, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen, and Russia, among others. The complete list of OFAC sanctioned countries can be accessed here.
The following types of financial transactions are subject to OFAC and should be reviewed on an ongoing basis for compliance:
- Deposit (checking & savings) accounts
- Loan payment
- Letter of credit
- Depositing or cashing checks
- Line of credit
- Credit Cards
- Trust account
- Wire transfer
- ACH transfer
- Currency exchange
- Safety deposit box
- Guarantors and collateral owners
- Money orders or cashier’s checks
The regulations mandate screening of customer databases as per the latest OFAC list to check for terrorists, drug traffickers, and other sanctioned entity matches.
With heightened compliance measures in place by every country in the era of geopolitical uncertainty, it is necessary to keep an eye on changing measures and the swiftly evolving business and trade landscape. Balancing compliance and due diligence obligations are increasingly becoming challenging without an automated tool. Not only it is time taking, costly and inefficient, but is susceptible to human error. And the cost of remedy is enormous in terms of both reputation and money lost. Automated OFAC screening solutions with identity verification servies can help firms to quickly and efficiently achieve the compliance standards that regulators like OFAC require.