General License Transactions in Syria

Charitable activities in relation to Syria is under General License 11 which is entitled to authorizing certain services in support of NGO or Non-Governmental Organization committees in Syria dating back to September 26, 2011. This General License states that NGOs are permitted to support not-for-profit activities and this includes humanitarian projects, relief assistance to refugees, helping displaced persons, and providing health services which also include activities in support to democracy-building in Syria, activities with education in Syria, combating illiteracy, increasing access to education, activities in support of non-commercial development projects, and activities in support of the preservation and protection of cultural heritage sites.

Defining Authorized Transactions

The cultural heritage sites authorization does come with a condition that US persons engaging in transactions pursuant to the protection of cultural heritage cites are required to file quarterly reports not later than 30 days following the end of the calendar quarter with OFAC.

Other than all the activities, under the General License umbrella, they do not need quarterly reports other than when a person is transferring certain funds or providing services for the preservation and protection of cultural heritage sites in Syria.

In contrast, much of the charitable activities and humanitarian assistance in Syria does not need a specific license and is not as limited in scope as the ITSR but it is important for entities and NGOs to be aware that there are still limitations on certain activities in relation to humanitarian activity in Syria and that individuals donating to Syria is federally carved out unless a person is under the guide of a non-governmental organization.

How Transferring Funds Works

US banks are authorized to process and transfer a fund on behalf of US or third country NGOs. Although banks are authorized to do this, they may be hesitant because of the liability for them in transferring funds directly to Syria; it is recommended that they reach out to Sanctions Council to assist with the matter.

FAQS About Authorized Transactions

They frequently asked question number 229 which asks if they need a specific license from OFAC to send US origins through their medicines in Syria, and the answer is no, they may send US origins through their medicine in Syria without a specific license from OFAC, the Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security, BIS, making jurisdiction over the most exported items in Syria. They do not use specific licenses on US origin foods or medicine that is sent to Syria.

Frequently asked question number 231 asks, can US NGOs deliver humanitarian assistance directly to Syria and under General License 11, this is authorized. However, they should be aware of the DIS export requirement for the delivery of humanitarian assistance to Syria. NGOs must also be wary of not engaging in transactions with the Syrian government for anyone on the SPN list. If a person is dealing with Syrian entity, the Syrian person should consult Sanctions Council prior and preemptively to engaging these persons and entities so that a person does not violate any provisions of the Syria Sanctions Regulations.

What is the BCCC Settlement?

BCCC is a Belgium-based credit card issuer and this was wholly on subsidiary of Alpha Card Group which was owned partly by the American Express Company which is the US financial institution. American Express violated the Cuban Asset Control Regulation or CACR and had to pay a fee of $204,277 to settle the potential civil liability for 1,818 violations of the CACR.

What happened is American Express purchased Alpha Card Group and BCCC was part of the Alpha Card Group and after this acquisition, the American Express had not done enough due diligence.

BCC credit cards were given to Cuban nationals and this resulted in a violation of the CACR. Although American Express did voluntary self-disclose the violation and OFAC considered it a non-egregious case which was limited under the formula, it was settled for $204,277 with the Office of Foreign Asset Control.