On June 29, 2020, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) published updated guidance intended to “enhance the availability of financial services” for the hemp industry (the Guidance).  Even though the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 legalized hemp[1] at the federal level, some banks have hesitated to provide financing to the hemp industry because they are uncertain of their obligations under the Bank Secrecy Act or Anti-Money Laundering regulations (BSA/AML).  The Guidance was published to clarify those obligations, and follows closely on the new National Credit Union Administration guidance for federally-chartered credit unions issued on June 20, 2020. 
Continue Reading Clearing the Air: FinCEN Guidance May Help Banks Find Their Way in the Field of Hemp Financing

This article originally appeared on Law360 on June 9.

The novel coronavirus and resulting global health pandemic and economic crisis created a perfect storm for bad actors to engage in fraud and financial crimes. Law enforcement’s response to the criminal activity spurred by the pandemic and economic stimulus and relief efforts are still nascent and focusing on low hanging frauds by individuals and small groups.
Continue Reading Another COVID-19 Enforcement Tool: Money Laundering Law

The summer of 2017 saw the U.S. Department of Justice’s docket still teeming with Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) cases. In this post, we draw a few lessons from three of them, which bring together three threads that seem often to weave together: bribery, kleptocracy, and money laundering.
Continue Reading News Flash: Kleptocrats Still Taking Bribe Money With One Hand and Laundering it With the Other

The U.S. Treasury Department has signaled the latest focus of its enforcement: real estate ventures with ties to money laundering schemes. Individual real estate investors and companies involved in luxury real estate, real estate development or investment, property management, and escrow or mortgage services around the globe should heed Treasury’s warnings.
Continue Reading Are You Within Reach of Anti-Money Laundering Enforcement? The Tentacles of Money Laundering Schemes Affect Real Estate Investors Worldwide

After weeks of negotiations and a Putin-backed delay, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2270 on March 2, 2016, imposing new sanctions against North Korea. According to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, the resolution imposes the strongest set of UN sanctions in over two decades. This article provides a summary of the new UN North Korea sanctions followed by an overview of the most recent developments in North Korea sanctions under US law.
Continue Reading The Day of North Korea Sanctions: the UN Imposes the Toughest North Korea Sanctions Yet While OFAC and State Designate More North Korean Entities

On October 10, 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice announced a civil settlement with Teodoro (“Teddy”) Nguema Obiang, Vice President of Equatorial Guinea and eldest son of the country’s current President, under the DOJ’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative. Through a combination of forfeiture and divestment, Obiang agreed to turn over $30 million in U.S.-based assets purchased in a “corruption-fueled spending spree,” according to the DOJ. Those assets include a Malibu mansion, Ferrari, and $1 million for life-size Michael Jackson statues Obiang had expatriated from the United States to Equatorial Guinea. He gets to keep a Gulfstream jet and most of his other Michael Jackson paraphernalia, however, including the red leather jacket MJ wore in “Thriller” and the white crystal-covered glove from the king of pop’s “Bad” tour. The settlement dollar-value represents less than half of what the DOJ sought; Obiang managed to send a bulk of his U.S.-based assets outside the United States, including several luxury cars. But the case still represents significant progress in the U.S. government’s anti-corruption efforts, particularly because this action was brought against an official still in power, and most of the settlement amount will be used for the benefit of the people of Equatorial Guinea.

Continue Reading Take the Mansion, But Leave the Thriller Jacket: DOJ Settles with Equatorial Guinea Veep for $30 Million in Assets Bought With Corrupt Proceeds

On March 5, 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it had frozen over $458 million of ill-gotten assets that former Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha and his co-conspirators had stashed in bank accounts across the globe.  The DOJ is seeking to recover almost $100 million more.  The largest-ever kleptocracy forfeiture action brought in the United States, this case is a victory for the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, a program launched by the DOJ Criminal Division’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section in 2010.  We wrote about the Initiative’s first-ever action here, brought in 2012, when the DOJ executed a forfeiture order of just over $400,000 against a former Nigerian governor.  And while the DOJ has seen great success in its actions against bribe-payers through the enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, initiatives to bring bribe-takers to justice have faced bumps in the road, probably because of the politically fraught and complex nature of such cases.
Continue Reading It Doesn’t Pay to Steal: In Largest Ever Kleptocracy Forfeiture Action, DOJ Seizes $458 Million