US designates Waked network (including its lawyers!)

OFAC has imposed sanctions on the Waked Money Laundering Organisation, its leadership, 6 of its associates, and 68 related companies, designating them as Specially Designated Narcotics Trafficking Kingpins. Waked Hatum and Waked Fares are said to lead the organisation, which allegedly uses trade-based money laundering schemes, such as false commercial invoices, to launder drug proceeds on behalf of multiple international drug traffickers and their organisations.

OFAC has also issued 3 general licences authorising certain transactions and activities for a limited time in relation to 5 Panamanian entities owned or controlled by the Waked network, including 2 newspapers.  General Licence 2 and General Licence 4 assist with winding down transactions in relation to a hotel and luxury mall, and General Licence 3 is intended to allow both newspapers to continue printing and operating.

Among the 6 designated associates are 2 lawyers said to have provided Waked MLO with services including incorporating shell companies and serving various roles in Waked-related companies. It is unclear from the OFAC press release whether or not these lawyers knew what type of activities the parties they were providing services to were allegedly engaged in. The rule on prohibited facilitation applies to US counsel providing advice that furthers transactions by foreign business units and Iran, including services provided by lawyers before their clients were designated. See 31 C.F.R. §560.206:

§560.208 Prohibited facilitation by United States persons of transactions by foreign persons: “Except as otherwise authorized pursuant to this part, and notwithstanding any contract entered into or any license or permit granted prior to May 7, 1995, no United States person, wherever located, may approve, finance, facilitate, or guarantee any transaction by a foreign person where the transaction by that foreign person would be prohibited by this part if performed by a United States person or within the United States.”

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About Maya Lester QC

Maya Lester QC

Maya Lester QC is a senior barrister (Queen’s Counsel) at Brick Court Chambers with a wide-ranging practice in public law, European law, competition law, international law, human rights & civil liberties. She has a particular expertise in sanctions. The legal directories say she is the...

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