Sanctions: what you need to know
Following the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation on 24 February 2022, the majority of governments have imposed a number of financial sanctions on Russia and on targeted individuals and organisations. Sanctions have also been imposed on Belarus.
The sanctions are aimed at encouraging Russia to cease actions that destabilise, undermine or threaten the territorial integrity, sovereignty or independence of Ukraine.
We have produced the following note to highlight the sanctions currently in place and provide information on the steps that members and member’s firms must take to comply with and uphold these sanctions. We will update this as necessary.
In general, the UK, EU and US have committed to ensuring that a number of Russian banks are removed from the SWIFT messaging system.
Restrictive measures have been imposed that prevent the Russian Central Bank from deploying its international reserves in ways that undermine the impact of the sanctions.
Additionally a transatlantic task force will be launched that looks at ensuring the effective implementation of these financial sanctions by identifying and freezing the assets of sanctioned individuals and companies that exist within the above jurisdictions. The work also involves engagement with other governments to detect and disrupt the movement of illicit money, and to deny these individuals the ability to hide their assets in jurisdictions across the world.
The situation has also fast forwarded work on transparency and the implementation of registers of overseas entities (particularly in the UK), which will require anonymous foreign owners of property to reveal their real identities to ensure criminals cannot hide behind secretive chains of shell companies.
Due to the large number of sanctions, this note only covers those that have generally been imposed in a unified manner. The list of sanctions per jurisdiction (UK, US, EU, Canada, Japan, Australia and Switzerland) can be found below.
The sanctions regimes impose serious and extensive restrictions on dealing with the individuals or entities listed.
What you must do
Firms must have appropriate policies in place to ensure they comply with sanctions legislation, including undertaking regular and appropriate checks of sanctions lists.
If you find out that a person or organisation you are dealing with is subject to the financial sanctions, we strongly recommend that you follow the guidance set out by the relevant sanctions legislation
Firms should check the financial sanctions lists before offering services or undertaking transactions for clients. If an individual is on the sanctions list and subject to an asset freeze, firms may not deal with those funds or make resources available to that person.
Firms must also ensure they comply with any reporting obligations if they suspect a customer is a designated person under the financial sanctions regime.
Breaching the financial sanctions requirements can result in a criminal prosecution or a fine.
When carrying out your firm’s anti-money laundering (AML) risk assessment, you should consider how likely it is that your clients may be on the sanctions lists.
The regimes list can help you assess risk, but bear in mind there may be some retainers where it is not immediately apparent that a person or entity may have some connection to a relevant regime.
STEP would strongly advise that members fully understand the origin of any assets under the ownership and control of their clients.
Members that have reporting obligations under local legislation or have concerns about sanctions evasion or money laundering should make a report to the relevant agency(ies).
Members are advised to check the latest sanctions list and any local guidance regularly.
Your professional standards obligations
We would like to take this opportunity to remind members about their obligations under STEP’s Codes of Conduct:
- Members have an obligation to comply with the law, nor shall they knowingly provide active assistance to clients to breach the laws and regulations of any jurisdiction to which the client is subject.
- Members must act honestly, and shall decline to act and withdraw their representation if they know, or have reasonable grounds to suspect, that carrying out their client’s instructions would involve assisting in an illegal activity.
- Members shall act with integrity and conduct themselves in a manner that inspires the confidence, respect and trust of their clients and the wider community. Members shall not engage in conduct that brings into question the integrity of the Society or their own professional integrity and competence.
- Members shall provide objective advice and exercise independent professional judgment. Members should not permit their independence, objectivity or integrity to be compromised.
We would encourage members to review their existing business as relevant in light of the current situation.
We would also strongly encourage all members and their firms to review their risk assessments and governance arrangements to ensure that they are sufficiently robust in meeting AML regulations, and that all staff have received appropriate and up-to-date training.
Key legislation and official guidance
- Russia sanctions regime - see here
- Economic measures against Russia and lethal military equipment for Ukraine - see here
- Special Economic Measures (Russia) Regulations - see here
- Canadian sanctions on Belarus - see here
- Swiss sanctions on Russia - see here
- Further trade and financial sanctions (4 March) - see here
- The UK Sanctions List - see here.
- Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018 - see here.
- The Russia (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 - see here.
- Statutory guidance - see here.
- UK Financial sanctions: general guidance - see here.
- UK Russia financial sanctions specific guidance - see here.
- OFSI enforcement and monetary penalties for breaches of financial sanctions guidance - see here.
- The National Crime Agency “Red Alert” (July 2022) - see here
- US sanctions press release - see here
- US sanctions list - see here
- US sanctions list updates - see here
- Russia-related designations; Belarus designations; Issuance of Russia-related Directive 2 and 3; Issuance of Russia-related and Belarus General Licenses; Publication of new and updated frequently asked questions (24.02.22) - see here
- Specially designated nationals list update (25.02.22) - see here
- Specially designated nationals list update (15.03.22) - see here
- Russia-related designations; Issuance of Russia-related Directive 4 and Russia-related General License 8A (28.02.22) - see here
- US sanctions on Belarus - see here
- FinCEN (red flags) - see here
- Multilateral Russian Oligarch Task Force launch - see here
- Task Force KleptoCapture launch - see here
- Further sanctions - 8 May 2022 - see here