News 03 January 2018

OFAC ends 2017 with sanctions medley

The US Office of Foreign Assets Control (‘OFAC’) wound down the past year with a veritable smorgasbord of designations under the Magnitsky Act, the Global Magnitsky Act and other sanctions regimes, signalling a new determination to target ‘human rights abusers and corrupt actors across the globe’.

Those designated include:

  • Former Gambian president Yahya Jammeh (and businesses related to his interests)
  • Nicaragua’s president of the Supreme Council, Roberto Jose Rivas Reyes (accused of amassing sizeable personal wealth, despite his modest salary, and perpetration of electoral fraud)
  • Balkan arms dealer Slobodan Tesic, accused of violating the arms embargo against Liberia
  • Maung Maung Soe, who ‘oversaw the military operation in Burma’s Rakhine State responsible for widespread human rights abuse against Rohingya civilians in response to attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army’
  • Sergey Kusiuk, ‘commander of an elite Ukrainian police unit, the Berkut. Ukraine’s Special Investigations Department investigating crimes against activists identified Kusiuk as a leader of an attack on peaceful protesters on November 30, 2013, while in charge of 290 Berkut officers, many of whom took part in the beating of activists.’
  • Ramzan Kadyrov, Vladimir Putin’s former foe in Chechnya who was later appointed by Putin to be the country’s leader.

Amongst the designations, the campaign group Global Witness particularly praised that of Israeli businessman Dan Gertler, whom, OFAC said, ‘has used his close friendship with DRC President Joseph Kabila to act as a middleman for mining asset sales in the DRC [Democratic Republic of Congo], requiring some multinational companies to go through Gertler to do business with the Congolese state,’ as a result of which, ‘between 2010 and 2012 alone, the DRC reportedly lost over $1.36 billion in revenues from the underpricing of mining assets that were sold to offshore companies linked to Gertler.’

Global Witness campaign director Nick Donovan said: ‘[T]hese latest US sanctions against Gertler mean international companies with existing business relationships with him and related entities in Congo, including Randgold and Glencore, will have to re-evaluate their contracts.’ He urged authorities in the US, Israel, DRC, Switzerland, Canada and the Netherlands to consider opening criminal investigations into Gertler and companies with which he had done business in the DRC.