On 4 October 2017, HM Treasury’s Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (“OFSI”) published a quick guide for UK businesses, with the aim of helping them understand and comply with financial sanctions. The guide is intended to help explain what financial sanctions are, when and how to comply with sanctions, and where to go for further information and guidance.

The guide sets out (at a high level) the remit of the UK sanctions regime, explaining that it applies to any business or individual carrying out activities within the UK, and any businesses established under UK law and operating overseas.

The main focus of the guide is advice regarding when OFSI should be contacted, and steps to take if a company believes that it is dealing with a sanctions target. The guide emphasises that companies have an obligation, under EU law, to report information to OFSI that facilitates compliance with financial sanctions; we note, however, that the specific reporting obligations enshrined in UK law only apply to companies operating in certain sectors (see our previous briefing for further information on the recent changes to the sanctions reporting framework). The guide also emphasises the reporting of suspected breaches, taking the position that it is in a potential defendant’s interest to report non-compliance with financial sanctions immediately. In reality, of course, it is in OFSI’s interests to encourage as much reporting as possible, and in regulated firms’ interests to consider the question of self-reporting breaches carefully. As many companies will already be aware, OFSI can also be contacted to apply for licences (where relevant licensing grounds exist), and for general enquiries about financial sanctions.

The guide includes a link to the consolidated list, which lists all designated persons (individuals and entities currently subject to financial sanctions) and contains a reminder to also check the ownership of relevant entities to ensure they are not owned or controlled by a designated person. The guide directs businesses to contact OFSI in circumstances where they are unsure whether or not they are dealing with a designated person, in addition to reminding companies of their obligation to freeze designated persons’ assets in the event that they do identify a match.

OFSI’s general guidance on financial sanctions contains more detailed information which is not included in the quick guide. The quick guide is unlikely to contain any information not already known to companies with existing sanctions programmes, but may provide a useful introductory guide to those who are new to the topic of sanctions compliance.