United Kingdom

Global sanctions guide

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United States of America
  1. Does the UK have a sanctions regime in place?

Yes. The UK must adhere to UN and EU sanctions. Although EU regulations are directly effective in the UK, any criminal penalties for contravening the provisions are introduced by way of a UK statutory instrument.

Sanctions which are in effect generally apply to:

  • any person in the UK
  • any UK citizen wherever located (usually including British Overseas Territories citizens, British Overseas citizens, British subjects and British Protected Persons)
  • any corporate entity operating in the UK
  • any corporate entity incorporated or constituted under the law of any part of the UK wherever located (including overseas branches of UK companies)
  1. Does the UK implement UN sanctions?

Yes. As a member of the UN, the UK must implement UN Security Council resolutions into UK law. As the UK is also a member of the EU and the EU implements all UN Security Council resolutions, the UK’s compliance with EU regulations also ensures its compliance with the UN sanctions regime.

  1. Does the UK implement an autonomous sanctions regime?

Yes. As well as following the sanctions put in place by the UN and EU, the UK has an autonomous terrorist sanctions regime and has powers over the regulated sector under the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008 and the Terrorist Asset-Freezing etc. Act 2010.

  1. What is the nature of the sanctions regime in the UK?

The most frequently applied measures are:

  • arms embargoes
  • bans on exporting equipment that might be used for internal repression
  • export controls
  • asset freezes and financial sanctions on designated individuals and corporate entities
  • travel bans on named individuals
  • bans on imports of raw materials or goods from the sanctions target

In general terms, it is a criminal offence to:

  • deal with funds or economic resources belonging to, owned, held or controlled by a Designated Person, if it is known, or if you have reasonable cause to suspect, that you are dealing with such funds or economic resources
  • make funds available to, or for the benefit of, a Designated Person if it is known, or if you have reasonable cause to suspect, that you are making funds so available
  • make economic funds available to, or for the benefit of, a Designated Person if it is known, or if you have reasonable cause to suspect, that you are making economic resources so available and, in the case of making economic resources available to a Designated Person, that the Designated Person would be likely to exchange the economic resources, or use them in exchange, for funds, goods or services
  1. Does the UK maintain a list of sanctioned individuals and entities?

Yes. HM Treasury maintains a consolidated list of sanctions targets in the UK. This list comprises of all individuals and entities that have been designated by the UN, the EU and the UK.

  1. Are there any other lists related to sanctions?

Yes.  Other lists include:

  1. Does the UK have a licensing or authorisation system in place?

Yes. HM Treasury is responsible for licensing exemptions to financial sanctions. Applications must be made for a licence to release funds from frozen accounts, or to make funds, economic resources or financial services available to or for the benefit of a designated individual or entity. HM Treasury may also issue general licences that apply to all individuals or entities designated under a particular regime.

The Export Control Organisation (part of the BIS) is responsible for licensing exemptions for exporting and trading in certain goods (particularly strategic goods, software, technology and dual use goods such as chemicals) which are controlled as a result of sanctions.

The Import Licensing Branch (also part of the BIS) is responsible for licensing exemptions for importing certain products which are subject to bans, quotas or surveillance as a result of sanctions.   

  1. What are the consequences for a breach of sanctions in the UK?

It is a criminal offence to breach a financial sanction without an appropriate licence or authorisation from HM Treasury. The penalties for breaching sanctions can vary across the various regimes, however, in general terms, any individual found guilty of an offence shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years and/or an unlimited fine. Corporate entities acting in breach of financial sanctions can also commit a criminal offence and be liable to an unlimited fine. Where an offence has been committed by a corporate body and is proven to have been committed with the consent or connivance of, or neglect on the part of, a director, manager, secretary or similar officer of the corporate body, or any individual who was purporting to act in any such capacity, that individual, as well as the corporate body, is guilty of an offence and can be imprisoned or fined.

It is also a criminal offence to export strategic or controlled goods that are subject to sanction and embargo regimes without a specific licence issued by the Export Control Organisation. The export of some goods is banned outright. Penalties can vary depending on the nature of the offence. They include: revocation of a licence; seizure of goods; issuing of a compound penalty fine; and imprisonment for up to ten years.

Any individual found guilty of an offence under the Terrorism Act 2000 for dealings with a terrorist organisation is liable on conviction to imprisonment for up to 14 years and/or an unlimited fine.

  1. Who are the relevant regulators in the UK and what are their contact details?

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has overall responsibility for the UK’s policy on sanctions and embargoes, including the scope and content of international sanctions regimes.

HM Treasury is responsible for implementing and administering financial sanctions in the UK. This work is carried out by its Financial Sanctions Unit. Financial Sanctions, Sanctions & Illicit Finance, HM Treasury, 1 Horse Guards Road, London SW1A 2HQ. Tel: 020 7270 5454 or email: financialsanctions@hmtreasury.gsi.gov.uk.

The Financial Conduct Authority is responsible for ensuring that regulated firms have adequate systems and controls to comply with UK Sanctions requirements.  Tel: 0300 500 0597 or email: firm.queries@fca.org.uk.

The Export Control Organisation within the BIS is responsible for trade sanctions, such as bans on weapon exports and for export licences. Tel: 020 7215 4594 or email: eco.help@bis.gsi.gov.uk.

The International Trade and Export Control Directorate of BIS and HM Revenue and Customs advise and deal with trade policy, regimes and procedural issues governing imports to the UK. The Import Licensing Branch issues licences needed to import certain goods. Email:  enquiries.ilb@bis.gsi.gov.uk.

Contributor law firm

Eversheds Sutherland, One Wood Street, London, EC2V 7WS, United Kingdom