Regulatory & Disciplinary
"Corker Binning is a truly exceptional firm."
THE LEGAL 500 2021
The law in the UK concerning sanctions falls into two main categories: trade sanctions which prohibit or restrict the cross-border movement of goods and services (for more detail about our experience in trade sanctions, please take a look at our page on export controls and trade controls) and financial sanctions, which prohibit or restrict the cross-border movement of money and other economic benefits.
At Corker Binning, we have many years’ expertise in advising businesses and individuals about both categories of sanctions. We have particular expertise where a business learns that it has breached a sanction. This situation may arise where a business is contacted by the Export Control Joint Unit (ECJU), which is part of the Department for International Trade, or the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI), which is part of HM Treasury (HMT), or because it has learned of the breach independently and is now considering whether it should be disclosed to the authorities.
The United Nations and European Union have, over the past 15 years, increasingly turned to the use of financial sanctions as a weapon to combat persons and organisations whose actions are considered to be politically unacceptable. These financial sanctions include asset freezes, targeted measures which restrict the provision of economic benefits and the requirement to notify or seek the consent of OFSI before receiving money from certain countries, particularly Iran. Criminal liability arises under UK law if these UN or EU sanctions are breached by individuals or companies transacting with prohibited entities or receiving money without notifying or seeking authorisation from OFSI.
Banks, insurance companies and other FCA regulated entities will often take sophisticated measures to stay abreast of the latest developments in financial sanctions. There are many law firms in the UK which provide compliance advice about these risks. What makes Corker Binning stand out from these firms is that we have practical experience of advising businesses which learn that they may have committed a criminal offence (either deliberately or inadvertently) by breaching a particular financial sanction. Whilst disclosing the breach voluntarily to OFSI may often be the wisest course of action, such disclosures need to be handled very carefully so as to reduce the risk of prosecution. There is no positive obligation to disclose a breach and sometimes the less risky course of action is to restructure the commercial operations of a business (without making a disclosure to OFSI) so as to become compliant in future. At Corker Binning, we are familiar with the legal and practical issues that arise from this difficult decision. We have helped a number of businesses avoid prosecution, and we understand how the new civil penalty regime operated by OFSI, which was introduced in 2016, works in practice.
We also have expertise where a business is notified by OFSI and/or the National Crime Agency (NCA)/police that it may have committed a “sanctions busting” criminal offence. We advise from the initial investigatory stage (including interviews under caution), to negotiating with the prosecutor to achieve a non-prosecution outcome, as well as defending charges in the criminal courts. Similarly, we are able to advise directors or senior employees who may be the subject of an internal investigation by a financial institution or company into suspected misconduct.