Q: How do I differentiate between an "inquiry" and a "payment instruction" when a customer wants to send a wire transfer to a sanctioned party or country?
A: In those programs with blocking provisions, OFAC's regulations block all "property" in which a target has an interest. The term "property" is very broadly defined, including present, future or contingent interests. In the case of a wire transfer, the bank will be holding blocked property upon the receipt of concrete instructions from its customer to send the funds. In this case, the funds must be blocked and reported to OFAC within ten days. If, on the other hand, a customer simply asks "Can I send money to Cuba?" there is no blockable interest in the inquiry and the bank can answer the question or direct the customer to OFAC. The same logic applies to cases where the transaction would be required to be rejected under OFAC regulations. There is not technically a "reject" item until the bank receives instructions from its customer to debit its account and send the funds. [01-15-15]