OFAC – SDN – and the absurd.

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad is on the SDN list but not his wife Asma.

Many of Gadaffi’s relatives are also listed on the SDN list.

And guess who is not on it? Fidel and Raul Castro.                         

What is SDN? No, it’s not a sexually-transmitted disease but a list of individuals and entities that comprise a list regulated by OFAC.

What is OFAC? Directly from the US Treasury’s website: “The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Department of the Treasury administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions based on U.S. foreign policy and national security goals against targeted foreign countries and regimes, [such as Iran, Sudan, Syria and Cuba] terrorists, international narcotics traffickers, those engaged in activities related to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and other threats to the national security, foreign policy or economy of the United States. OFAC acts under Presidential national emergency powers, as well as authority granted by specific legislation, to impose controls on transactions and freeze assets under US jurisdiction. Many of the sanctions are based on United Nations and other international mandates, are multilateral in scope, and involve close cooperation with allied governments.”

Businesses and professionals have to know their customers and sometimes they’re are not even customers but if you fail to take certain steps, such as obtaining a special OFAC license when you deal with certain countries such as Iran, Sudan, Cuba and Syria, it can cost you dearly. It can cost you dearly even if you are a American citizen victim of one of those regimes as I will explain.

What is a SDN?

As part of its enforcement efforts, OFAC publishes a list of individuals and companies owned or controlled by, or acting for or on behalf of, targeted countries. It also lists individuals, groups, and entities, such as terrorists and narcotics traffickers designated under programs that are not country-specific. Collectively, such individuals and companies are called “Specially Designated Nationals” or “SDNs.” Their assets are blocked and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from dealing with them. [U.S. Treasury 09-10-02]

Essie and Iran 

Most American women are familiar with the Essie brand of nail polishes. Apparently the women in Iran also have a demand for the product as Essie Cosmetics and one of its officers were slapped with a penalty of $750,000 for having sent three shipments of the polish worth about $30,000 during a three month period between September 2009 and January 2010. Good thing that neither the company nor its officer had previously violated OFAC regulations and they were awarded by a reduction in penalty to only $450,000 as settlement of allegations involving unlicensed exports to Iran in violation of the Iranian Transaction Regulations (the “ITR”) administered by OFAC.

Richland Trace Homeowners Association and the Former Liberian Regime of Charles Taylor

This is case that will send chills to the local condo associations, homeowner associations, and local attorneys in South Florida. Can you imagine having a dead-beat neighbor who fails to pay maintenance fees and when the homeowner’s (or condo) association forecloses on its lien and collects funds to get “reimbursed” they are slapped with an OFAC penalty? It’s true.
This is the summary obtained from the US Treasury site: “Richland Trace Homeowners Association, Inc., Dallas, TX, has been assessed a penalty of $9,000 for violating the Former Liberian Regime of Charles Taylor Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. part 593 (the “Regulations”). Richland Trace used $9,500 of the proceeds from the February 3, 2009, sale of property in which a person designated pursuant to Executive Order 13348, Blocking Property of Certain Persons and Prohibiting the Importation of Certain Goods from Liberia, had an interest, to reimburse itself for past assessments and late fees that had accrued against the property since December 2005. As a result, OFAC determined that Richland Trace violated the prohibition against dealing in blocked property.”


Then there is Cuba, a place near and dear to my heart.  The land where my parents and grandparents were born. A place only 90 miles from our Florida coast yet so foreign and distant.  A place I refuse to visit until it is a free country: a country free of the Castro brothers and free of political prisoners, including American Alan Gross.

There is even a special hotline in Miami to report OFAC violations related exclusively to Cuba. There are 36 entities in Cuba in the SDN list and about 65 individuals worldwide. Go figure, neither Fidel and Raul Castro – nor any other individual with the last name of Castro is on the SDN list.

Metropolitan Life got in trouble for sending a $30,000 life insurance benefit to someone in Cuba; the New York branch of Commerzbank AG had to pay a $175,000 fine for trading a letter of credit that contained the name of an individual on the SDN and a vessel also on the list. There are others of course, mostly related to big banks which fail to follow regulations.

 Ana, Cuba and OFAC

Now I get to the story of  Ana Margarita Martinez, a mother, grandmother, Cuban-American raised in Miami, patriotic, conservative, religious, a victim and a plaintiff.  Many have heard of the shoot-down by the Cuban government of two American planes of the organization Brothers to the Rescue, carrying American citizens in 1996. My cousin Sylvia Goudie de Iriondo, Andres Iriondo and the pilot Jose Basulto and co-pilot Arnaldo Iglesias were on the third plane that was fortunate to avoid the MIGs and returned safely to Miami. They were over international waters. Nothing ever happened to the murderers of our 4 heroes. Ana Margarita awoke that morning to find out that her husband was missing. He was a volunteer with the organization Hermanos al Rescate (“Brothers to the Rescue”) which specialized in flying over the Florida straits to look for desperate Cubans who took to the ocean in rafts – thousands and thousands have died trying.  Ana’s husband was a Cuban spy – we came to learn – who cowardly returned to Cuba. Ana obtained a judgment of over $20M against the Cuban government for having perpetrated such a travesty against her and her family. The Cuban pilots who shot the planes down are also not on the SDN list.

 So what does OFAC and Ana have in common? Well, the Obama administration and OFAC interceded – and prevailed – to keep Ana from enforcing writs of garnishment to collect her judgment against the Cuban government because she didn’t have an OFAC license. Here is a link to the Judge’s order. If I were a trial lawyer, I would have volunteered to appeal her case to the U.S. Supreme Court. There is a basic principal in law that when the letter of the law and its intent are at odds, that the intent should prevail. The goal of OFAC is to enforce economic sanctions pursuant to our foreign policy against target foreign countries and enemy regimes – such as Iran, Syria, Cuba and Sudan – not against innocent U.S. citizens as in Ana’s case.

 Please help me get a response from our government officials as to why Fidel and Raul Castro are not on the Specially Designated Nationals’ list. It is time to revise OFAC and what it stands for and with whom it stands.

One thought on “OFAC – SDN – and the absurd.

  1. With a name like Asma…

    Annoyed by Clinton’s (or Hiilary’s or Huma’s) harassment of the “inconvenient” Hnos. al Rescate (Chen Guangcheng just found out what it’s like to be “inconvenient” to the heavily hindquartered Madame Secretary in the Peking “Ortegazo Molelo Chino”), I gave the group $1000. Then the shootdown and Roque’s defection occurred. I was abashed that my contribution might somehow have financed this thing. In the wake of Clinton’s pro-forma nothing-done reaction to the crime (later to be followed by more of the same from Bush and Obama), Captain Basulto announced he’d be appealing henceforth only to Cubans. Recalling how American vets turned out to express their solidarity after the Tugboat Massacre, I disagreed. But that’s a few years ago now; every year we’re lesser in number and for a long time now the Boxerized Pentagon has been interested primary in promoting gender-bending/sexual experimentation in the armed services at the expense of patriotic readiness while strewing the body parts of our deceased real fighting men around Dover and having Justice prosecute those who got the job done and made it back alive.

    The enforcement of the exception against Ana Margarita is as disgusting as those who implement it. No matter who’s in the White House or Congress (few now who served their country), the “somebody else’s kid, right?” crowd rules as the bureaucracy sticks to its epicene dream, peculiar to it since Eisenhower and Kennedy, of “getting into bed with” the Castros and their band of “revolutionary” murderers. Many changes are needed and they can’t be accomplished overnight, more’s the pity.

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