UK companies have filed a record number of reports of possible sanctions violations over the past year.
The annual report of the UK Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI) shows that it received 140 voluntary disclosures, relating to transactions with a total value of £982 million, in the last financial year. In the previous year, it received 99 reports relating to transactions worth £262 million.
OFSI states that the highest number of reports in 2019-20 concerned potential breaches of the sanctions regime relating to Libya. The agency says this was to be expected due to the amount of assets linked to Libya that have been frozen in the UK. Assets worth approximately £12 billion, linked to former Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi and his associates, are currently under UK control.
OFSI says that most of the reports it receives come from the banking and financial sectors, with others being made by the legal profession as well as charities and the insurance and travel industries.
The agency was given the power to impose civil penalties for sanctions breaches in 2017. It has so far imposed three penalties; with the biggest being the £20.47M fine to the UK bank Standard Chartered, for breaching EU trade restrictions by executing loans to a Russian-owned financial institution.
The significant increase in the reporting of potential sanctions breaches to the OFSI has to be seen as a welcome indication that firms across the board are taking their reporting duties seriously. The fact that a large proportion of the reports are being made with regard to jurisdictions that are considered to be risky is also a positive development.