Q: On February 14, 2008, OFAC issued guidance stating that the property and interests in property of an entity are blocked if the entity is owned, directly or indirectly, 50% or more by a person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to an Executive Order or regulations administered by OFAC. We act as an intermediary bank in wire transfers between other banks. Does OFAC expect banks that are acting as financial intermediaries to research non-account parties that do not appear on the SDN List, but are involved with or referenced in transactions that are processed on behalf of correspondents?
A: A wire transfer in which an entity has an interest is blocked property if the entity is 50% or more owned by a person whose property and interests in property are blocked. This is true even in instances where such a transaction is passing through a U.S. bank that (1) is operating solely as an intermediary, (2) does not have any direct relationship with the entity (e.g., the entity is a non-account party), and (3) does not know or have reason to know the entity’s ownership or other information demonstrating the blocked status of the entity’s property. In instances where all three conditions are met, notwithstanding the blocked status of the wire transfer, OFAC would not expect the bank to research the non-account parties listed in the wire transfer that do not appear on the SDN List and, accordingly, would not pursue an enforcement action against the bank for having processed such a transaction.
If a bank handling a wire transfer currently has information in its possession leading the bank to know or have reason to know that a particular individual or entity involved with or referenced in the wire transfer is subject to blocking, then the bank will be held responsible if it does not take appropriate steps to ensure that the wire transfer is blocked.
OFAC expects banks to conduct due diligence on their own direct customers (including, for example, their ownership structure) to confirm that those customers are not persons whose property and interests in property are blocked.
With regard to other types of transactions where a bank is acting solely as an intermediary and fails to block transactions involving a sanctions target, OFAC will consider the totality of the circumstances surrounding the bank’s processing of the transaction, including the factors listed above, to determine what, if any, enforcement action to take against the bank. [01-15-15]