How does one get off the US Sanction List?

Based on the discussion that I had with a US Embassy official in Yangon on their recent activity in inviting Myanmar people (eg Tay Za of Htoo & Company and Steven Law of Asia World) on the OFAC SDN List for a discussion on what they can do to remove themselves from the SDN List – the following is a synopsis of my understanding of the process for removal.

If your name appears on the US Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)’s Specially Designated National (SDN) List that means that you are engaged in activities that are considered detrimental to the US national security interest.

The OFAC objective of putting a person on the SDN List is to cripple his or her ability to do business internationally and to be engaged in activities that are detrimental to the US national security interest. The restrictions include a freeze on all US assets held by the individual; denial of access to the US financial system i.e. you cannot remit money in US Dollars via the international banking system; and US citizen and corporation will not be able to do business with you.

The OFAC SDN List is an administrative matter and not a criminal matter so there is no point petitioning to the US State Department or the Justice Department. The department that you need to convince is OFAC itself and no one else.

What is important in getting yourself remove from the OFAC SDN List is to provide evidence from neutral 3rd parties that shows that whatever allegations that OFAC have collected about you that put you on the SDN List is refuted convincingly. For example evidence that:

  1. You are not involved in business with others who are on the SDN List for example North Korea, Iran, Syria, etc.
  2. You are not involved in illegal activities such as arms trafficking, narcotics, human trafficking, human right abuses, etc that support terrorist network overseas, nuclear proliferation or infringe on basic human rights.
  3. For Myanmar tycoons that are labelled as cronies by the OFAC they need to
    • address allegations against them such as dealings with the Myanmar military, land grabs, human right abuses, etc.
    • show what they and the organizations that they controlled have done to support political and economic reforms in Myanmar.

Take note that it may take 6 to 9 months to get yourself remove from the OFAC SDN List from the date of filing a “Request for Reconsideration” with OFAC.

Hiring an international law firm that has experience getting people remove from the OFAC SDN List and understand how OFAC works is an important first step.

If you believe that you are truly innocent of all allegations that OFAC has against you then present your evidence and convince them that they ought to remove your name from the SDN List. It is not impossible to get your name off the OFAC SDN List – it is just time consuming.

Andrew Tan

This article was published in Myanmar Business Today Journal.

The views expressed above are those of the author and not necessarily represent the views of the government agencies, companies or individuals mentioned in the article. Read our complete disclaimer policy here.

Andrew Tan is the Managing Director of Consult-Myanmar Co Ltd. Consult-Myanmar is a Yangon-based Singapore-owned company that is incorporated in Myanmar. Consult-Myanmar provides business advisory, business partner search, company incorporation and immigration service to foreign investors that are interested to start a business in Myanmar.

NB: Take note that Myanmar has been taken off the US Sanction List by President Obama’s Executive Order signed on 7th October 2016. See US terminated remaining sanctions against Myanmar on 7 Oct 2016.

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