Induction to OFAC Economic Sanctions Programs

15 November 2018, Bachir El Nakib (CAMS), Senior Consultant, Compliance Alert (LLC, Lebanon-Qatar)

 OFAC Economic Sanctions Programs

The United States, through the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), employs economic sanctions programs for a variety of purposes, including:

* Diplomatic;

* Criminal Enforcement;

* Economic;

* Humanitarian; and

* National Security.

Initially, economic sanctions were adopted pursuant to the 1917 Trading with the Enemy Act (TWEA). Modern sanctions, since 1977, have largely fallen under the statutory authority of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA). The IEEPA authorizes the president to implement economic sanctions:

To deal with any usual and extraordinary threat, which has its source in whole or substantial part outside the United States, to the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the Unites States, if the President declares a national emergency with respect to such threat.

50 U.S.C. Section 1701(a).

Who is Regulated

Contrary to popular belief, OFAC economic sanctions programs do not regulate the targeted nations, persons, and organizations. Rather, all economic sanctions regulate United States persons. A United States person includes:

- U.S. citizens, wherever located;

- Permanent U.S. resident aliens (also known as lawful permanent residents or LPRs), wherever located;

- Entities organized under U.S. law (e.g., corporations);

- All entities and persons located in the United States; and

- Entities owned or controlled by U.S. citizens

- Types of Economic Sanctions

Currently, there are numerous economic sanctions programs that target countries, persons, entities, and organizations. The traditional type of economic sanctions are country-based sanctions, which prohibit virtually all activity and transactions involving a certain country. The U.S. government has begun to use other kinds of sanctions known as list-based sanctions. List-based sanctions (also known as smart sanctions), target particular persons, entities, and organizations, rather than an entire nation or regime. In the last five or so years, the U.S. has been implementing a new kind of supplementary sanction, known as secondary sanctions, which target third country actors doing business with targeted regimes, persons, and organizations.

Country-Based Sanctions

There are five major country-based sanctions programs currently in effect, broadly regulating nearly all transactions with:

1) Iran;

2) Central African Republic;

3) Syria;

4) Cuba; and

5) North Korea.

Burma (Myanmar) used to be on this list, but since 2011 the U.S. government largely lifted the country-based sanctions because of significant democratic reforms taking place in Burma.

Country-based sanctions function by prohibiting certain defined transactions and sometimes travel, within the country’s territory, with persons who ordinarily reside in within the country, and with the targeted governmental regime. Each sanctions programs has its own regulatory scheme, but they generally prohibit:

a) Trade in goods,

b) Trade in services,

c) Trade in technology, and

d) Financial transactions.

At times, the sanctions include prohibiting the vesting of property. This can make it problematic when a U.S. person inherits property from a family member living in one of the nations listed above.The oldest of these country-based sanctions programs, those involving Cuba, are also the broadest. They prohibit transactions with Cuban individuals and non-governmental organizations even in third countries.  U.S. persons are usually obligated to block the property of every Cuban national in their possession.  In that respect, the Cuba sanctions program is unique among country-based sanctions.

Country-based sanctions, though painted with a broad brush, also have general licenses which allow certain types of activity, like the provision of legal services, the exchange of information and informational materials, personal communications, humanitarian aid, and journalistic projects. Although many of the sanctions programs share similar exemptions, the general licenses differ across the various sanctions program.

Nonetheless, the use of country-based sanctions has decreased with the advent of more flexible list-based programs (described in further detail below). Although sanctions programs that target entire nations may be more punitive to governments that are considered enemies of the United States, the use of broad sanctions regulations have also harmed the civilian populations of such nations.

List-Based Sanctions (Smart Sanctions)

The use of list-based sanctions, or smart sanctions, has allowed the U.S. government to more precisely target persons and groups who pose a threat to national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States. Indeed, list-based sanctions have been particularly helpful from a law enforcement perspective of OFAC sanctions.

OFAC prohibits transactions between U.S. persons and individuals, entities (e.g., corporations), and organizations on the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List, or SDN list. The SDN list, which is amended on an “as-needed” basis, targets persons involved with:


- Narcotics trafficking;

- Weapons proliferation (particularly WMDs);

- Human rights abuses;

- Genocide; and

- Transnational Organized Crime.

The U.S. government has demonstrated a preference for list-based sanctions for two reasons. First, smart sanctions are able to target bad actors without the substantial collateral country-based sanctions impose on a targeted nation’s population. Second, list-based sanctions can be effectively enforced through automated screening, which enables U.S. persons to check clients and businesses against the SDN list.

Because of their flexibility and precision, smart sanctions are now the standard for OFAC sanctions programs. List-based sanctions have become the norm for law enforcement-based economic sanctions programs. In addition, the U.S. enforces UN Security Council resolutions with list-based sanctions. These two traits are likely the reason why President Barack Obama chose to use list-based sanctions for the recent Ukraine-Related Sanctions Program.

Secondary Sanctions

Secondary sanctions are a relatively new kind of sanction that has been implemented frequently over the past five years, particularly relating to Iran. These kinds of sanctions supplement other sanctions programs by targeting non-U.S. persons (primarily foreign financial institutions and foreign sanctions evaders) who do business with individuals, countries, regimes, and organizations in Iran.

For example, if the volume of transactions between a foreign financial institution and Iran are significant enough, that foreign financial institution risks being designated pursuant to one of the legal authorities authorizing the use secondary sanctions.  Once designated, secondary sanctions can prohibit U.S. persons from doing business with that foreign financial institutions or require U.S. banks to limit or restrict that foreign financial institution’s correspondent accounts in the United States.

As of the time, this page was written, secondary sanctions have applied only to Iran, though that can and may change.

Sectoral Sanctions

The difference between OFAC sectoral sanctions and traditional sanctions is the entities on a sectoral sanctions identification list are not subject to blanket prohibitions. In fact, citizens of the United States are prohibited from engaging with those persons in sectoral-specific transactions.

The Ukraine-related sanctions program was the first of its kind to have sectoral sanctions and it specifically targeted Russia’s financial and energy sectors.

Specific types of transactions, such as financial and energy-related transactions, are prohibited for US persons and, like the Venezuelan sanctions, the OFAC 50 percent rule is strictly enforced in the context of the Ukraine-related sectoral sanctions.

How do I Protect My Business from OFAC Sanctions?

What tips would you give to businesses to avoid potential OFAC violations?

One common practice of companies is to develop a sanctions compliance program. It is an instruction manual for the company, its officers, and its employees to help avoid sanctions violations and to educate their employees on what sanctions are, as well as what they need to look out for. There is no one-size-fits-all compliance program. The size of a company, how sophisticated the company is, and the nature of the company’s transactions are all factors that need to be considered before adopting a compliance program. Only after a thorough review of the company’s situation is performed can a custom sanctions program be developed.

Another good reason to have a sanctions compliance program is that OFAC commonly considers the existence of a robust and practiced compliance program as a mitigating factor.  So in the event a sanctions violation occurs, the company may benefit from a more lenient enforcement response from OFAC. You can read more about OFAC Sanctions compliance in this U.S. Department of the Treasury pdf report.

Do online businesses need to worry about OFAC?

They do because the sanctions are broad and they tend to prohibit the exportation of goods, technology, and services. There are a lot of services that can now be transmitted via the internet. If an online business is selling goods to sanctioned parties or countries, that could be a violation. For example, an online money-transfer company could be liable for sanctions violations if they let Iranian nationals use their service because they are exporting a financial service to Iranians.

What are general licenses?

A general license is an authorization contained within the regulations themselves. People do not have to apply for anything to utilize a general license. It is up to the person or company that wants to utilize that authorization to make sure they meet all of the requirements, limitations, and restrictions of that authorization.

An example of this is in the Iran sanctions with respect to inheritances. If a U.S. citizen living in the United States has a family member in Iran who passes away and leaves them property, they are allowed to sell the property and move that money from Iran to the United States by going through the proper channels.  All of this can be performed without applying for a specific license.

Without this general license, the inheritance-related transaction would be prohibited.  Having an attorney evaluate your transaction for compliance with a general license is one way to protect yourself from inadvertently violating the law. You can see a copy of a general license issued by the Treasury Department here.

What are specific licenses?

A specific license is an authorization that someone specifically seeks out because there is no other way to undertake the activity without violating the law.  This is primarily done by filing a license application with OFAC. They are asking permission from OFAC to do something that is prohibited.

It is important to use an attorney that knows the sanctions regulations in such circumstances because applicants may inadvertently reveal to OFAC a situation that evidences a prior violation.  This happens more often than you would expect.

It is important to consult with an attorney who can craft a license that specifically states what someone is seeking to do but doesn’t open them up to further liability. It is also important to have an attorney that is knowledgeable about the policies behind the sanctions. There are a lot of actions that are consistent with U.S. foreign policy but that are otherwise prohibited by the sanctions. If someone has an attorney who stays up-to-date on sanctions developments, they can make policy arguments in their specific license application for why the authorization should be granted.

What do we mean by: Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction

The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is a direct threat to the national security of the United States, and other nations, and through numerous Executive Orders, acts of Congress, and OFAC regulations, economic and trade sanctions have been imposed upon WMD proliferators and their supporters.

The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) implements and enforces three different WMD sanctions programs intended to combat the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. These non-proliferation sanctions programs include the following:

* 31 C.F.R. Part 544 – Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferators Sanctions Regulations

* 31 C.F.R. Part 539 – OFAC Weapons of Mass Destruction Trade Control Regulations

* 31 C.F.R. Part 540 – OFAC Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) Agreement Assets Control Regulations

Violating the non-proliferation sanctions regulations is considered tantamount to financial support for those who proliferate weapons of mass destruction, and is therefore considered an urgent threat to national security. Engaging in transactions with governments, entities, and individuals considered to be WMD proliferators will likely lead to blocked assets, asset forfeiture, civil fines, and criminal penalties. The penalties for non-compliance with OFAC sanctions regulations can be financially, professionally, and personally devastating.

Blocking Property of WMD Proliferators

In 2005, President George W. Bush, acting under the National Emergencies Act (NEA) and the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), signed Executive Order 13382 to block the property of those involved in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  Building upon the national emergency declared in Executive Order 12938, the instant Order initially pertained to eight specific organizations located in Iran, North Korea, and Syria:

1. Aerospace Industries Organization, AIO, or Sazmane Sanaye Hava Faza – Tehran, Iran

2. Atomic Energy Organization of Iran or Sazeman-E Energy Atomi –Tehran, Iran

3. Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation, Changgwang Sinyong Corporation, External Techonology General Corporation, North Korean Mining Development Trading Corporation, or KOMID – Pyongyang, North Korea

4. Korea Ryonbong General Corporation, Korea Yongbong General Corporation, or Lyongaksan General Trading Corporation – Pyongyang, North Korea

5. Scientific Studies and Research Center, Centre D’Etudes et Recherches, or SSRC – Damascus, Syria

6. Shahid Bakeri Industrial Group or SBIG–Tehran , Iran

7. Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group or SHIG – Tehran, Iran

8. Tanchon Commercial Bank, Changgwang Credit Bank, or Korea Changgwang Credit Bank – Pyongyang, North Korea

Although it initially applied to eight specified entities designated as proliferators of Weapons of Mass Destruction, the Executive Order gave the Treasury Department and the State Department authority to designate other proliferators and supporters, designated as NPWMDs on the SDN List.

U.S. persons, meaning any U.S. citizen, permanent resident alien, U.S. company (including their foreign branches) and any person or company in the United States, are prohibited from engaging in any transaction or dealing with any party designated under Executive Order 13382.  In addition, all property within the possession or control of any U.S. person in which a target has an interest is blocked and must be reported to OFAC within ten days.

Weapons of Mass Destruction Trade Control Regulations

The Weapons of Mass Destruction Trade Control Regulations appears in the Code of Federal Regulations at 31 C.F.R. Part 539.  These regulations are promulgated pursuant to the president’s national emergency powers in the NEA and IEEPA and the Arms Export Control Act, 22 U.S.C. §§ 2751 – 2799aa-2.  The regulations are also derived from and build upon Executive Orders 12938 and 13094, authorizing the blocking of property and interests in property of persons determined to be WMD proliferators.

The sanctions also implement a nearly comprehensive ban on imports into the United States from those designated as NPWMDs.  Specifically, the sanctions prohibit the direct or indirect import of any goods, technology, or services produced or provided by a person designated as a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction, or identified as a NPWMD on the OFAC SDN list. Furthermore, import-related transactions, such as financing, brokering, transfers, transportation or other participation in importation-related activities, are also prohibited.

Civil penalties equal the greater of $250,000 or twice the amount of the underlying transaction. Criminal penalties include a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million.

Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) Agreement Assets Control Regulations

Disarming Russian nuclear missiles was an important part of international peacekeeping efforts, and the agreement was a major coup for national security and global security. However, the United States and the world at large had to be certain that the fissile material which can sustain a nuclear reaction is converted to peaceful use once removed from nuclear weapons and is diverted from use in proliferation activities. In the early 1990s, the governments of Russia and the United States entered into an international agreement to convert the Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) from nuclear weapons into low-enriched uranium that is used in commercial nuclear reactors rather than nuclear weapons.

In 2000, President Bill Clinton signed Executive Order 13159, “Blocking Property of the Government of the Russian Federation Relating to the Disposition of Highly Enriched Uranium Extracted From Nuclear Weapons.”  The Executive Order was signed to take additional steps with respect to the risk of nuclear proliferation created by the accumulation of a large volume of weapons-usable fissile material in the territory of the Russian Federation.

According to 31 C.F.R. Part 540, “[e]xcept as otherwise authorized by regulations, orders, directives, rulings, instructions, licenses, or otherwise, the property or property interests of the Government of the Russian Federation that are directly related to the implementation of the Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) Agreements, that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of U.S. persons are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn or otherwise dealt in.”

Penalties for violating OFAC-administered Highly Enriched Uranium sanctions are the same as penalties for violating or conspiring to violate other IEEPA-based sanctions: a civil penalty of the greater of $250,000 or twice the value of the underlying transaction amount and criminal penalties of 20 years imprisonment and a $1 million maximum fine.

Sanctions By Country:


Latest action taken: OFAC Adds Balkans Designations to the SDN List (January 1, 2017).

Overview of Balkans Sanctions:

OFAC initially implemented the Balkans-Related Sanctions Program pursuant to Executive Order 13219, which was issued by President George W. Bush on June 27, 2001. This sanctions program designated individuals and entities determined—by the Secretary of the Treasury in consultation with the Secretary of State—to be involved in extremist violence which took place in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, in southern Serbia, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and elsewhere in the Western Balkans region” beginning in 1999.

Although President George W. Bush terminated the Balkans-related national emergency in 2003 (Exec. Order 13304), a number of Balkans-related designations remained on—and were later added to—the SDN List.


Latest action taken: OFAC Issues Belarus General License 2E (April 24, 2017).

Overview of Belarus Sanctions:

Pursuant to Executive Order 13405, issued by President George W. Bush on June 19, 2006, OFAC implemented sanctions against individuals and entities determined—by the Secretary of the Treasury in consultation with the Secretary of State—to “be responsible for, or to have participated in” activity that has undermined democratic processes, human rights abuses related to political oppression, or public corruption in Belarus. 31 CFR Part 548.

Burma (Inactive)

Latest action taken: Executive Order Terminating Burma-related Sanctions Program; Burma-related Designations Removals  (October 7, 2016)

The President signed an Executive Order to terminate the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13047, and revoke Executive Order 13310, Executive Order 13310, Executive Order 13448, Executive Order 13464, Executive Order 13619, and Executive Order 13651 (October 7, 2016).  The regulatory update was announced in the Federal Register here (pdf).


Overview of Burma Sanctions:

Pursuant to Executive Order 13047, issued by President Bill Clinton in May 1997, OFAC implemented sanctions against the Government of Burma for large-scale repression of democratic opposition in Burma. For the next 15 years, a number of country-based and smart sanctions were promulgated against the Government of Burma and designated persons for human rights abuses and democratic oppression.

In July 2012, in response to substantial democratic reforms in Burma, President Barack Obama and OFAC began to ease certain sanctions on Burma. On August 6, 2013, President Barack Obama issued Executive Order 13651, which lifted parts of the country-based sanctions on Burma. The designations against certain individuals and entities may remain in place. (Updated OFAC Burmese Sanctions FAQ). On October 7, 2016 President Obama terminated the Burma-related sanction program.

Central African Republic

Latest action taken: Central African Republic Designations (April 12, 2017)


President Barack Obama issued Executive Order 13667 on May 12, 2014 providing criteria for the designation of persons in the Central African Republic, in addition to a list of five individuals. The criteria for designation includes:

- Engaging in activity threatening the democracy, peace, stability, or security of the CAF,

- Targeting of civilians, particularly women and children, for acts of violence or displacement,

- Using or recruiting child soldiers in armed groups,

- Obstructing humanitarian missions or aid, and

- Supporting any persons who meet any of the criteria above.

The regulatory update was announced in the Federal Register (pdf). The published Central African Republic Sanctions Regulations can be found here (pdf). 31 CFR 553.

Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)-Related (Inactive)

Latest action taken: Issuance of Executive Order Terminating Côte d’Ivoire-related Sanctions Program; Côte d’Ivoire-related Designations Removals  (September 14, 2016).


President George W. Bush issued Executive Order 13396 on February 7, 2006, “to address the situation in or in relation to Côte d’Ivoire that resulted in the massacre of a large numbers of civilians, widespread human rights abuses, significant political violence and unrest, and attacks against international peacekeeping forces leading to fatalities.” For the full text of the executive order, please see the OFAC Cote d’Ivoire Sanctions Program Informational Brochure (pdf). The Cote d’Ivoire sanctions are list-based sanctions targeting individuals and entities rather than a country-based sanctions program. 31 CFR Part 543 (pdf).

In September 2016, in response to substantial achievements in stabilizing Côte d’Ivoire, President Barack Obama and OFAC terminated the Côte d’Ivoire-related sanctions program via Executive Order 13739 (pdf).


Latest action taken: Cuba Designations Update (February 9, 2018)


The oldest sanctions program administered by OFAC, the Cuban Assets Control Regulations constitute one of the broadest and strictest country-based sanctions program in effect.  The sanctions began in 1963, and continue to this day. 31 CFR Part 515.

On December 17, 2014 President Obama announced that the United States will normalize ties with Cuba and establish an embassy in Havana, Cuba. However, President Trump, on November 8, 2017, rolled back some of the changes made in President Obama’s second term. An OFAC Sanctions attorney speaks on the current policies and how they will impact OFAC ‘s Cuba Sanctions Program here.

The regulatory update was announced in the Federal Register (pdf). Check back for more information as OFAC implements changes. For more detailed information, visit our Cuba Sanctions page or visit OFAC’s resource page.

Democratic Republic of Congo-Related (DRC)

Latest action taken: Democratic Republic of the Congo Designations  (February 5, 2018)


OFAC’s DRC-Related Sanctions began when President George W. Bush issued Executive Order 13413 (pdf) on October 27, 2006. The sanctions were implemented to address “the widespread violence and atrocities in the DRC that threatened regional stability.” OFAC Overview of DRC Sanctions Program (pdf). In the face of efforts for the demobilization, repatriation, and resettlement of armed groups in the DRC, the sanctions target armed groups (and particularly their political and military leaders), foreign and Congolese, that impede these efforts. In addition, OFAC’s DRC-related sanctions specifically target armed groups that recruit and use children (child soldiers) in armed conflicts. The sanctions also target armed groups that target children for “killing and maiming, sexual violence, abduction, and forced displacement.” 31 CFR Part 547 (pdf); see also Exec. Order 13413 Section 1(a). The sanctions prohibit the immigration of and contributions to these armed groups and individuals who meet the criteria described above. Federal Register update (pdf).

In July 2014 President Obama signed Executive Order 13671 (pdf) to amend E.O. 13413 and escalate the imposition of DRC-related sanctions.


Latest action taken: OFAC Published Key Documents to Continue Implementation of the United States’ Commitment Under the the Joint Plan of Action (November 6, 2018). This includes:

Guidance Relation to Provision of Certain Temporary Sanctions Relief In Order to Implement the Joint Plan of Action Reached on 11/24/2013 Between the P5+1 and The Islamic Republic of Iran, as Extended through June 30, 2015 (pdf),

FAQ Relating to Extension of Temporary Sanctions Relief through June 6 August 2018 (pdf), and

Second Amended Statement of Licensing Policy on Activities Related to the Safety of Iranian Civil Aviation Industry (pdf)

OFAC Published Frequently Asked Questions with Respect to Payments or the Facilitation of Payments to Iranian Civil Aviation Authorities 

Other notable recent actions:

OFAC Made Adjustments to Designations on Several Entities and Vessels, Some of Which Are Subject to Secondary Sanctions (July 29, 2014). The threat of secondary sanctions apply to these entities and vessels, meaning any foreign financial institution or person that facilitates significant transactions or provides material support to these entities or vessels may have their access to the U.S. financial system severed or their property and interests in property under U.S. jurisdiction blocked.


Iran is the subject of broad country-based sanctions, in addition to list-based smart sanctions. Furthermore, secondary sanctions also target certain non-U.S. individuals and entities that do significant amounts of business with Iran. For more information, please visit our Iran page here.


Latest action taken: OFAC Published an update to Questions Relating to the Payments or the Facilitation of Payments to Iranian civil Aviation Authorities for Overflights of Iran or Emergency Landing in Iran (November 4, 2014) (Updated Question and Answer 417)

President Barack Obama Issued Executive Order 13668, Ending Immunities Granted to the Development Fund for Iraq and Certain Other Iraqi Property and Interests Pursuant to Executive Order 13303, as Amended (May 27, 2014).


Iraq has been the subject of numerous sanctions since its invasion of Kuwait in August of 1990. The sanctions have changed as the situation in Iraq and the U.S. relationship with Iraq has shifted. In September of 2010, OFAC published a final rule in the Federal Register terminating the national emergency declared with respect to Iraq in Executive Order 12722 by removing the Iraqi Sanctions Regulations from the Code of Federal Register.  New regulations were thereafter implemented.  These regulations, called the Iraq Stabilization and Insurgency Sanctions Regulations (ISISR), implement list-based sanctions against individuals and entities associated with former Saddam Hussein’s regime. They also target specific individuals and entities that have committed acts of violence “threatening the peace or stability of Iraq or the Government of Iraq or undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq or to provide humanitarian     assistance to the Iraqi people.” OFAC’s Overview of ISISR (pdf); see also 31 CFR Part 576.


Latest action taken: OFAC issued the Lebanon Sanctions Regulations (31 CFR Part 589) to Implement Executive Order 13441 (July 30, 2010).


President George W. Bush issued Executive Order 13441 (pdf) on August 1, 2007, declaring a national emergency because of “the actions of certain persons to undermine Lebanon’s legitimate and democratically elected government or democratic institutions.” Exec. Order 13441. This includes actions taken to advance the “deliberate breakdown of the rule of law in Lebanon,” particularly to facilitate Syria’s control over and infringement on Lebanon’s sovereignty. Exec. Order 13441. Individuals and entities involved in these acts, particularly through violence and intimidation, are targeted by OFAC’s list-based sanctions. This also includes a prohibition on immigration of and contributions to these persons, their family, or entities owned or controlled by such persons. Exec. Order 13441 has been implemented by OFAC in the Lebanon Sanctions Regulations. 31 CFR Part 589.

Former Liberian Regime of Charles Taylor

Latest action taken: OFAC Has Removed the Designations of 28 Liberia-related Individuals and Deleted Them From the SDN List (April 2, 2013).


President George W. Bush issued Executive Order 13348 (pdf) in July of 2004, “Blocking Property of Certain Persons and Prohibiting the Importation of Certain Goods from Liberia.” The executive order and subsequent sanctions regulations largely targeted members of former Liberian President Charles Taylor. See OFAC’s Overview of Sanctions Against The Former Liberian Regime of Charles Taylor (pdf). This was precipitated by the Former Liberian Regime of Charles Taylor’s actions impeding democratic and peaceful transition in government, including removing Liberian resources and funds from the nation and facilitating illegal arms trafficking contributing to armed conflict. 31 CFR Part 593.


Latest action taken: OFAC Removed One Libya-related Individual from the SDN List (September 11, 2014)

OFAC Designated One Libya-Related Individual and Added That Person to the SDN List (October 18, 2012).


President Barack Obama issued Executive Order 13566 on February 25, 2011, targeting Colonel Muammar Qadhafi, aka Muammar al-Gaddafi, officials in his government, and his close associates for violent acts against his civilian population. OFAC implemented Exec. Order 13566 in the Libyan Sanctions Regulations (31 CFR Part 570). The Libyan sanctions are not country-based, but instead focus on individuals, entities, and groups that are closely related to Qadafi, his family, and his regime. These list-based sanctions also prohibit immigration of and contributions to the persons who meet the criteria set out in 31 CFR Part 570 and who have been designated by OFAC.

Magnitsky Sanctions

Latest action taken: OFAC Designated 15 Individuals - Saaudi Designations, Khashoggji Slain related Pursuant to the Magnitsky Sanctions, Added to the SDN List (November 2018).


Unlike most of the OFAC sanctions programs, the Magnitsky Sanctions are the direct product of a statute rather than an executive order. Congress passed the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Accountability Act of 2012 (pdf) on December 14, 2012, named after a Russian accountant and auditor who was investigating tax fraud in Russia before he was arrested and died in custody under suspicious circumstances. The list-based Magnitksy Sanctions target the individuals responsible for the death, abuse, and detention of Sergei Magnitsky, in addition to individuals responsible for other gross violations of human rights in the Russian Federation. Those individuals identified as meeting the criteria described above will be placed on the SDN List, and will be subject to the freezing of their assets under U.S. jurisdiction and prohibited immigration.


North Korea

Latest action taken: OFAC Designated Two DPRK-Related Individuals and 15 DPRK-Related Vessels, Adding Them to the SDN List (July 30, 2014).

OFAC Amended the North Korea Sanctions Regulations (NKSR) (31 CFR Part 510) to Implement Executive Order 13570 (June 20, 2011).


North Korea is one of five countries subject to broad country-based OFAC economic sanctions. President George W. Bush issued Executive Order 13466 (pdf) in June of 2006, targeting the nation of North Korea for threatening the national security and foreign policy of the U.S., particularly in relation to North Korea’s current programs and efforts in the proliferation of nuclear weapons. OFAC subsequently implemented Exec. Order 13551 and Exec. Order 13570 imposing further sanctions on North Korea and list-based sanctions on certain persons. These sanctions are now promulgated in the North Korea Sanctions Regulations (NKSR). 31 CFR Part 510. The NKSR generally prohibit transactions, exports, and imports with respect to North Korea and certain persons related to the government of North Korea.


Latest action taken: OFAC Designated Six Somalia-Related Individuals and Added Them to the SDN List (July 5, 2012).


President Barack Obama issued Executive Order 13536 (pdf) in April of 2010 to address “the deterioration of the security situation and the persistence of violence in Somalia,” with a particular focus on the acts of piracy and armed robbery off Somalia’s coast and violations of the United Nations arms embargo. Exec. Order 13536. OFAC implemented the Somalia Sanctions Regulations (31 CFR Part 551), list-based sanctions targeting individuals and entities threatening peace, security, and stability in Somalia, or who are otherwise obstructing the delivery of humanitarian aid, transferring or receiving arms in Somalia, or funding or contributing to such groups. The sanctions block property belonging to persons who meet the criteria above, in addition to prohibiting immigration of or contributions to such persons. See OFAC’s Overview of Somalia Sanctions Regulations (pdf).


Latest action taken: OFAC Issues Amended Sudan General License No. 1A and Published Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Changes (August 11, 2014) 

OFAC Removed Designations on Two Sudanese Banks and Removed These Entities From the SDN List (February 1, 2012).


Sudan has been the target of broad OFAC country-based sanctions since 1997, when President Bill Clinton issued Executive Order 13067 (pdf). Further list-based sanctions were implemented pursuant to Executive Order 13400 (pdf) (2006), targeting individuals and entities involved in the human rights abuses and atrocities in Sudan’s Darfur region. President George W. Bush also issued Executive Order 13412, which exempted the regional Government of Southern Sudan from the country-based sanctions against Sudan. These sanctions were implemented in the Sudanese Sanctions Regulations (31 CFR Part 538) and the Darfur Sanctions Regulations (31 CFR Part 546). More information on these various sanctions can be found in OFAC’s Overview of the Sudan Sanctions Program (pdf).

South Sudan-Related

Latest action taken: OFAC Designated Two South Sudan-related Individuals, and Added them to the SDN List (September 18.2014)

OFAC Issued Final Rule Adding Regulations Implementing Executive Order 13664 to South Sudan-Related Sanctions Program (31 CFR part 558) (July 2, 2014)


On April 7, 2014, President Barack Obama issued Executive Order 13664 (pdf) to address “activities that threaten the peace, security, or stability of South Sudan and the surrounding region, including widespread violence and atrocities, human rights abuses, recruitment and use of child soldiers, attacks on peace-keepers, and obstruction of humanitarian aid.” Executive Order 13664. The list-based sanctions block property and prohibit immigration of or contribution to individuals and entities involved in activities described above, in addition to any targeting of women, children, or any civilians for violence, abduction, or displacement. This includes the leaders of groups, militias, or the Government involved in these acts, and anyone who has materially assisted or provided support for these persons. Because this executive order is so recent, OFAC has yet to implement these sanctions in regulations.  However, this does not mean OFAC is not enforcing these sanctions. (OFAC South Sudan FAQ here).


Latest action taken: OFAC Designated a Five Syria-related Individuals and Six Syria-related Entities, adding them to the SDN List; OFAC Also Added Three Syria-related Individuals and Three Syria-related Entities to the Foreign Sanctions Evaders List;  (December 17, 2014)

OFAC Designated Six Syria-Related Individuals and Seven Syria-Related Entities, and Added Them to the SDN List (October 16, 2014)

OFAC Designated Three Syrian Entities and Added Them to the SDN List: EXPERT PARTNERS, MEGATRADE, and PANGATES INTERNATIONAl CORPORATION LIMITED  (July 9, 2014).


Syria is one of the five countries subject to OFAC’s broad country-based sanctions. In 2004, President George W. Bush issued Executive Order 13338 (pdf) to address the Government of Syria’s support of terrorism, occupation of Lebanon, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and attempts to undermine U.S. and international efforts to stabilize Iraq. Exec. Order 13338. In March of 2011, events in Syria resulted in subsequent Executive orders and sanctions to address armed conflict, human rights abuses, and atrocities occurring in Syria. The Syrian Sanctions Program is one of the most comprehensive implemented by OFAC. See OFAC’s Overview of the Syria Sanctions Program. The country-based and list-based sanctions are implemented in OFAC’s Syrian Sanctions Regulations. 31 CFR Part 542.


Latest action taken: President Obama Issued a New Ukraine-related Executive Order Regarding the Crimea Region; OFAC Issued the Ukraine-related General License 4; OFAC also Designated 17 Ukraine-related Individuals and Seven Ukraine-related Entities (December 19, 2014) (Executive Order pdf) (General License 4 pdf) 

- OFAC Published New Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Ukraine-related Sanctions (December 11, 2014) 

- OFAC Published New Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Ukraine-related Sanctions (November 18, 2014) 

- OFAC Pubilished the Ukraine-Related General License 3 (October 6, 2014) (pdf of General License 3)

- OFAC Added Seven Ukraine-related Entities to the Sectoral Sanctions List, and issued Ukraine-related General License 1 and Ukraine-related General License 2 (Septemeber 12, 2014) (pdfs: General License 1; General License 2)

- OFAC Updated Frequently Asked Questions for Ukraine-related Sanctions (August 27, 2014) 


In response to ongoing situation in Ukraine, President Barack Obama issued three Executive Orders in March of 2014: Exec. Order 13660, Exec. Order 13661, and Exec. Order 13662 (all pdfs). These list-based sanctions target specific individuals listed in the Executive Order, in addition to other individuals and entities that are contributing to the destabilizing situation in Ukraine. Finally, the sanctions also target government officials of the Russian Federation, individuals involved in certain major parts of the Russian economy, and entities owned or controlled by these individuals. OFAC implemented these executive orders in the Ukraine-Related Sanctions Regulations (31 CFR Part 589) (pdf), which are currently incomplete because of the rapidly changing situation. More information is available at our Ukraine-Related Sanctions Program page. Recently, OFAC has issued further Sectoral Sanctions.


Latest action taken: OFAC Designated Three Yemen-related Individuals, Adding Them to the SDN List (November 10, 2014)

OFAC Published the Yemen Sanctions Regulations, 31 CFR Part 552, Implemented Executive Order 13611 (November 9, 2012).


OFAC implemented the Sanctions Against Persons Threatening the Peace, Security, or Stability of Yemen pursuant to Executive Order 13611 (pdf), issued by President Barack Obama on May 16, 2012. Exec. Order 13611 was issued in response to “actions and policies of certain members of the Government of Yemen and others [threatening] Yemen’s peace, security, and stability. In particular, OFAC’s Yemen Sanctions Regulations (31 CFR 552) targets individuals and entities that have obstructed the peaceful transition of the Government of Yemen, in addition to persons who have materially assisted, funded, or supported those described above. This includes political and military leaders. These list-based sanctions block the property and money of designated persons under U.S. jurisdictions. Moreover, the sanctions prohibit immigration of and contributions to individuals and entities described above.


Latest action taken: OFAC Published the Final Rule  in the Federal Register Amending the Zimbabwe Sanctions Regulations (July 10, 2014) 


In March of 2003, President George W. Bush issued Executive Order 13288 (pdf), imposing sanctions on specific individuals and entities in Zimbabwe involved in activity undermining democratic institutions and processes in Zimbabwe. Ongoing political violence and intimidation, which continued to undermine democratic institutions and processes in Zimbabwe, prompted President George W. Bush to issue Exec. Order 13391 (pdf) and then Exec. Order 13469 (pdf). OFAC implemented these executive orders in OFAC’s Zimbabwe Sanctions Regulations (31 CFR Part 541). These sanctions broadened the scope of the sanctions to the family members of and persons providing assistance to the individuals listed in Exec. Order 13288. The sanctions block the property of those listed persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction and prohibit contributions to such OFAC-designated individuals and entities. For more information, see OFAC’s Overview of Zimbabwe Sanctions Program.


Sanctions by Law Enforcement Program:

Counter Narcotics Trafficking Sanctions

Latest action taken: OFAC Designated Ten Kingpin-related Individuals and 14 Kingpin-related Entities, Adding Them to the SDN List (November 19, 2014)

OFAC Removed Eight Kingpin-related Individuals from the SDN List, and Made Two Changes to the SDN list (November 12, 2014)

OFAC Designated Two Kingpin-related Individuals and One Kingpin-Related Entity, Adding Them to the SDN List (November 6, 2014)

OFAC Removed 12 Narcotics- and Kingpin-related Individuals and Entities from the SDN List (October 21, 2014)

OFAC Removed 15 Narcotics- and Kingpin-related Individuals and Entities from the SDN List (September 30, 2014)

OFAC Designated Eight Kingpin-related Individuals, Adding Them to the SDN List (September 16, 2014)


OFAC economic sanctions were first implemented against narcotics traffickers in October of 1995, when President Bill Clinton issued Executive Order 12978 (pdf). Exec. Order 12978 targeted individuals and entities involved in Colombia-centered narcotics trafficking. However, in 1997, Congress passed the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (hereafter, “Kingpin Act”) to more effectively apply OFAC sanctions against foreign narcotics traffickers and their organizations.  The Kingpin Act is an entirely independent source of legal authority to implement sanctions against narcotics traffickers. The sanctions target individuals and entities involved in foreign narcotics trafficking, and entities owned, controlled by, or acting on behalf of such persons.

OFAC’s sanctions block property belonging to such persons where it is or comes under U.S. jurisdiction. Furthermore, the sanctions prohibit transactions with sanctioned persons. OFAC implemented these executive orders and the Kingpin Act in the Narcotics Trafficking Sanctions Regulations (31 CFR Part 536), and in the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Sanctions Regulations (31 CFR Part 598).

These list-based sanctions are heavily based on the use of the SDN List, effective enforcement mechanisms, and effective screening measures. More information is available at our Narcotics Trafficking Sanctions page, or in OFAC’s Overview of the Narcotics Sanctions Program (pdf).


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