In a federal court in Brooklyn, Gyanendra Asre pleaded guilty to failing to maintain an anti-money laundering program in violation of the Bank Secrecy Act, as part of a scheme to bring lucrative and high-risk international financial business to a small, unsophisticated credit union. When sentenced, Asre faces up to 10 years in prison. In a parallel action, Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) assessed a civil money penalty of $100,000 and a five year ban from AML supervisory employment.

Assistant Attorney General for National Security Matthew Olsen, Director, BIS Office of Export Enforcement John Sonderman and OEE Deputy Director Dan Clutch headline the Advanced Forum on Global Export Controls in Washington, DC February 28 & 28.

The primary focus of Commerce's export enforcement activities this year will be high-profile cases coordinated with other agencies, both in the US and in league with allied counterparts. In a discussion sponsored by Baker McKenzie January 30, Assistant Secretary for Export Enforcement Matt Axelrod shared his thoughts on the evolving state of Export Control, and his expectations for the coming year.

Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) imposed a civil penalty of $153,175 against Wabtec Corporation, a global manufacturer and supplier of rail technology headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to resolve 43 violations of the antiboycott provisions of the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) (antiboycott regulations) alleged in BIS’s Proposed Charging Letter. Wabtec voluntarily disclosed the conduct to BIS, cooperated with the investigation by BIS’s Office of Antiboycott Compliance (OAC), and took remedial measures after discovering the conduct at issue, which resulted in a significant reduction in the penalty.

House Select Committee on China Chairman Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc) is continuing to put pressure on Ford Motor Company because of its partnership with China-based electric-vehicle battery maker Contemporary Amperex Technology Company Limited (CATL) to build a Michigan factory. Mr. Gallagher and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash) said their "cursory review" uncovered evidence that Ford plans to use technology and software from at least four Chinese companies that supply the same types of information technology tools to the Chinese military, North Korean government and China’s Ministry of Public Security.

The Commerce Department published a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) for establishing new requirements for Infrastructure as a Service providers (IaaS or “cloud infrastructure providers”). The proposed rule introduces potential regulations that require U.S. cloud infrastructure providers and their foreign resellers to implement and maintain Customer Identification Programs (CIPs), which would include the collection of “Know Your Customer” (KYC) information.

Swiss-based, Singapore-registered, and US Government-funded commodity trader Trafigura Group announced that one of their cargos of Russian fuel was struck by a missile as it left the Red …

Democratic lawmakers joined their republican colleagues in calling out the Biden Administration's efforts to declare the Socialist Republic of Vietnam a market economy. "We are especially concerned by reports that Commerce pledged to the government of Vietnam that your agency’s review will result in a favorable determination, to the detriment of U.S. industries and workers,"the Senators write.

October's six-month relief of sanctions on trading with the government of Venezuela appears in jeopardy, as conditions for their continuation appear not to have been met. Bipartisian immigration reform, however, has been supported by increased civil aviation cooperation between Washington and Caracas, while US and European oil companies have been assiduously reviving production in Venezuela's oilfields.  

Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson convened a roundtable with representatives of non-governmental organizations, international organizations, and U.S. government implementers to discuss the designation of Ansarallah (“Houthis”) and the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issuance of five additional general licenses.   Treasury reiterates that Yemen is not subject to jurisdiction-based sanctions, nor will it become subject to jurisdiction-based sanctions on February 16, 2024.  U.S. sanctions do not stand in the way of humanitarian activities and the delivery of essential commercial goods to the people of Yemen

The United States and Mexico today announced the successful resolution of the USMCA Rapid Response Labor Mechanism (RRM) matter at the Autoliv Steering Wheels Mexico facility in El Marqués in the state of Querétaro, Mexico, where workers were previously denied their freedom of association and collective bargaining rights.  After the United States requested Mexico’s review of the matter, Mexico and the company took several actions to address violations of labor law, including reinstating dismissed workers and correcting other employer interference in union activities.

The leaders of the House Select Committee on China are questioning whether the US government is effectively enforcing a law aimed at keeping out of the US market products made in China by forced labor. Committee Chairman Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc) and ranking Democrat Raja Krishnamoorthi (Ill) have sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, calling for immediate action to strengthen enforcement of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act.

Rewards for Justice is offering a reward of up to $15 million for information leading to the disruption of financial mechanisms of the U.S.-designated terrorist organization Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Hossein Hatefi Ardakani is Iranian businessman who has helped acquire and supply sophisticated technology that has supported IRGC weapons production and sales. U.S.-origin flight guidance components procured by the Ardakani network have been identified in recovered wreckage of Shahed drones in Ukraine and other conflict zones.

The Council of the European Union adopted a position on a regulation to ban products made with forced labor from the EU market. This mandate aims to combat forced labor, introducing improvements to the initial proposal. The proposal defines forced labor per International Labour Organization standards and requires authorities to assess risks from various sources, including civil society submissions and a forced labor risk database. If forced labor is suspected, investigations may be initiated, leading to product withdrawal and market/export bans.

Six U.S. Departments published a Supplemental Advisory, reminding businesses and individuals of the compliance and reputational risks associated with trading with the military regime in Rangoon.   While North American companies continue to engage in Burmese extractive industries, the growing ring of sanctions means firms in the Rare Earths, Timber and Precious Metals trade run an increasing risk of negative legal, financial, or reputational consequences.

Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Jose W. Fernandez met with Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh in Hanoi on January 25, 2024. In their meeting, Under Secretary Fernandez "reaffirmed the United States as an enduring partner" and expressed support for the rapid development of Vietnam’s semiconductor ecosystem as part of the U.S.-Vietnam Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.  This effort includes cooperation to launch workforce development initiatives.  "The US will work with Việt Nam in supporting Vietnamese schools to have over 50,000 engineers in this field in the next few years.  That's important for Việt Nam's development of a semiconductor industry," Mr. Fernandez stated.

Legislation barring federally-funded medical providers from signing contracts with foreign adversary biotech companies has been introduced in both the Senate and the house of Representatives. The  Prohibiting Foreign Access to American Genetic Information Act of 2024 would ban all biotechnology companies that are owned or controlled by a foreign adversary, such as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and whose business practices threaten national security, from receiving U.S. taxpayer dollars through federal contracts, grants, and loans.

While foreign ownership of U.S.agricultutal land has grown nearly 50% in the past six years,  USDA and national defense agencies may not have all the information they need to know about which countries are investing and where, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Foreign investors in U.S. agricultural land are required to submit forms describing their transactions to USDA, as required by the Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act of 1978 (AFIDA). But the GAO notes AFIDA was not designed as a national security program, and "AFIDA forms are focused on data collection rather than identifying potential national security concerns."

The European Commission has  issued new Guidelines on data gathering and processing on export controls.   This follows the Commission White Paper on export controls, released Thursday 25 January, which highlights the need to fully implement the EU’s dual-use regulation. The Guidelines set out in detail the process for the collection of licensing data by the European Commission and the competent authorities of the Member States. The White Paper suggests several measures, including the reinforcement of uniform controls in the EU, establishing a forum for political coordination on export controls, enhancing the coordination of new National Control Lists, and moving forward the evaluation timeline of the Dual-use Regulation.

Former Locke Lord, LLP Equity Partner Mark Scott was sentenced to 10 years in prison by U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos for laundering approximately $400 million of proceeds from the massive international fraud scheme known as “OneCoin.”  The sentencing followed Mr. Scott's conviction on all counts at trial on November 21, 2019. Beginning in early 2016, Mr. Scott formed a series of fake private equity investment funds in the British Virgin Islands known as the “Fenero Funds.”  He then disguised incoming transfers of approximately $400 million into the Fenero Funds as investments from “wealthy European families,” when in fact the money represented proceeds of the OneCoin fraud scheme.

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