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OFAC Updates, Adds to Syria Sanctions

The Office of Foreign Assets Control this week updated and added to its Syria-related restrictions under several sanctions regimes, including restrictions related to “foreign sanctions evaders.” The agency also added various definitions and a new general license, along with updating other licenses, including changes to a license that authorizes certain legal services.

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The changes, outlined in a final rule and guidance released June 5, implement a 2012 executive order on Iran and Syria, as well as provisions of the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012, the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, and the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2019. The changes take effect June 6.

OFAC said one change will implement “restrictions on foreign persons determined to be foreign sanctions evaders,” including by clarifying that they will be added to the agency’s Foreign Sanctions Evaders List. The agency also added a new general license to authorize certain transactions that would normally be prohibited by those foreign sanctions evader restrictions.

Other changes will add new definitions for “deceptive transaction,” “foreign person,” “knowingly,” “sensitive technology” and more; add new guidance on “significant or significance”; and clarify a foreign person won’t be subject to sanctions for a transaction that would normally be authorized for a U.S. person.

The agency also updated and incorporated other general licenses into the regulations, including one that authorizes exports of certain internet-based communications services, which was updated to “reflect changes in the technologies that underlie modern communication tools.” OFAC said the license now includes more technologies that are “deemed incident to the exchange of communications over the internet,” and it has an expanded scope for certain exports and reexports of internet communications hardware or software.

OFAC also updated the license to “explicitly exclude the direct or indirect exportation of web-hosting services” for sites or commercial entities located in Syria or that have ties to the Syrian government or a sanctioned person. The agency also said it added a case-by-case license review policy for applications involving telecommunications-related service exports.

Another notable change to a separate license removes a requirement that had required U.S. persons to first obtain “specific authorization” before providing legal services. The agency also removed “requirements that U.S. persons provide a copy of the engagement letter to OFAC prior to receiving payment and submit quarterly reports, and to instead require U.S. persons to retain records of such payments for five years related to authorized legal services.”

In a separate notice, OFAC also published a previously issued list of areas in northwest and northeast Syria in which activities are authorized by General License 22, which allows certain transactions related to agriculture, telecommunications, finance, transportation and more.