Iran Sanctions and Special Circumstances

How do the sanctions apply to Iranian-controlled entities operating in third countries?

OFAC Attorney: The sanctions against Iran apply to all entities that are formed under the laws of Iran. If it is a subsidiary of an Iranian company that is located in France, for example, that would be a violation because the company that owns the subsidiary is an Iranian company.

How do sanctions apply to Iranian individuals who have sought asylum in third countries?

OFAC Attorney: Someone who has asylum is no longer a normal resident in Iran and has no intent to return to Iran, but it would depend on the interpretation at OFAC. The legal background of asylum is that someone is leaving their country for specific reasons related to human rights or abuses in that regard, so I do not believe the sanctions would apply to them.

What should someone’s next step be if they had money and/or property from a relative in Iran?

OFAC Attorney: The person’s first step should be to determine how much has been inherited and what has been inherited. If it is money, they need to make sure that the funds are being held in an account that is not an Iranian account and that is not associated with one of the banks that appears on the SDN list for one of the other sanctions programs, namely the global terrorism or weapons of mass destruction sanctions programs. It has to be in a privately held Iranian bank. They would have to make sure that the funds are transferred through a wire transfer to a third country outside of Iran, and then from that third country directly to their account in the United States through the standard financial transfer networks. They need to avoid the use of hawalas, which are people who do informal money transfers and are prevalent in the Middle East. Hawalas send money to and from countries without the use of wires. There is usually a person who has a ledger in the U.S. and someone who has a ledger in Iran, and they keep track of the money on a ledger but then distribute the funds personally. That method would be inconsistent with the authorizations contained in the sanctions, so someone using them would cause a violation of the sanctions even though the underlying transaction would have been authorized if processed through the traditional financial network.

Do sanctions prohibit communication or visiting Iranian websites?

OFAC Attorney: No, they do not. One of the key exemptions in the Iran sanctions and many other sanctions programs is the regulation of personal communications. People in the United States are not prohibited from communicating with people in Iran or from visiting Iranian websites.

What steps should a U.S. citizen working for an organization that will operate in/with Iran take?

OFAC Attorney: If someone is involved with the United Nations (UN) or an organization related to the UN, or is a contractor for the UN, they need to be cautious of certain things. OFAC has made some general licenses for U.S. persons who might otherwise have to deal with Iran through these international organizations, but they need to make sure that the people that they are dealing with are not related to the other sanctions programs that target Iran, such as weapons of mass destruction proliferators and specially -designated global terrorists. Even though they might be allowed to conduct certain transactions for their international organization in Iran, that does not give them the authority to transact with these other entities that are designated pursuant to other programs. There is still an exposure to risk in that situation.