On June 17, 2021, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued three general licenses related to the sanctions programs of Iran (General License N), Syria (General License 21) and Venezuela (General License 39), “Authorizing Certain Activities to Respond to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic.” Along with the general licenses, OFAC also issued related frequently asked questions (FAQs) 906, 907, 908, 909, 910, and 911. The general licenses provide time-limited but broad authorizations for certain COVID-19 related transactions and activities beyond current humanitarian exemptions, exceptions and authorizations in place under these programs. The general licenses expire on June 17, 2022.
Iran General License N
General License (GL) N authorizes the following transactions otherwise prohibited by the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (ITSR):
- transactions and activities related to the exportation and importation of goods, services and technology for use in connection with the prevention, diagnosis or treatment of COVID-19, including research or clinical studies, to Iran, the Iran government or third persons for resale to Iran or the Iran government;
- importation into the United States or other dealings related to goods exported or reexported to Iran or the Iran government pursuant to GL N that are broken, defective or non-operational or connected to recalls, adverse events or safety concerns for routing maintenance or return;
- transactions and activities involving the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) or the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) and any entity owned 50% or more by NIOC that may otherwise be prohibited by the ITSR, the Global Terrorism Sanctions Regulations, or Executive Order 13224; and
- processing of funds transfers or trade finance transactions ordinarily incident and necessary to give effect to the transactions and activities authorized in paragraphs (a) and (b) of the general license.
Transactions involving the export of technology must be designated EAR99 under the Export Administration Regulations or not otherwise subject to multilateral export control regimes. The exportation or reexportation of the following remain prohibited:
- goods or technology to CBI, NIOC or any entity in which NIOC owns a 50% or greater interest;
- goods, technology or services to military, intelligence or law enforcement purchasers or importers;
- goods, technology or services to facilitate the development or production of chemical or biological weapon or weapon of mass destruction.
FAQ 907 lists the covered COVID-19-related goods or technology. The list includes various personal protective equipment (PPE); personal hygiene products and supplies; vaccines and vaccine ingredients or components; products related to transporting, storing, and administering vaccines; software and technology related to COVID-19 testing kits, equipment and diagnostic imaging tests; ventilators, oxygen tanks and supplies to deliver oxygen; and medical units. Notably, COVID-19 related medical devices designated as EAR99 on the List of Medical Devices Requiring Specific Authorization do not require a specific license for export to Iran pursuant to GL N.
Syria General License 21
GL 21 authorizes all transactions and activities related to the exportation of services to Syria related to the prevention, diagnosis or treatment of COVID-19 (including research or clinical studies), including those involving the Syrian government, Polymedics, LLC, Letia Company or any entity in which Polymedics or Letia own, whether individually or in the aggregate, 50% or greater interest. Any exportation or reexportation of items to Syria must be licensed or otherwise authorized by the Department of Commerce. The GL does not authorize the exportation or reexportation of goods, technology or services to military, intelligence or law enforcement purchasers or importers.
Venezuela General License 39
GL 39 authorizes all transactions and activities related to the prevention, diagnosis or treatment of COVID-19 (including research or clinical studies) involving the following entities:
- the Venezuelan government;
- Banco Central de Venezuela (BCV);
- Banco de Venezuela, S.A. Banco Universal (Banco de Venezuela);
- Banco Bicentenario del Pueblo, de la Clase Obrera, Mujer y Comunas, Banco Universal C.A. (Banco Bicentenario del Pueblo); and
- any entity owned individually or in the aggregate 50% or greater interest by these banks.
Like FAQ 907, FAQ 909 provides a list of authorized transactions and activities. This general license does not authorize any transactions or activities involving Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PdVSA), Banco de Desarrollo Economico y Social de Venezuela (BANDES), or Banco Bandes Uruguay S.A. (Bandes Uruguay), or with any entity owned individually or in the aggregate 50% or greater interest by these entities.
FAQ 906 explains that these general licenses are independent of the humanitarian authorizations under each sanctions regime such that any conditions or other requirements thereunder do no apply with the intended transaction or activity is authorized under these licenses. FAQ 908 lists the types of services authorized by Iran GL N and Syria GL 21, including, treatment, training, promotional materials, research, repairs, clinical studies and public education, among others.
FAQ 910 provides that financial institutions may process financial transactions incident to the transactions and activities authorized by the general licenses and barring knowledge of a violation, may rely on the originator of the funds transfer with regard to compliance with the general licenses. Finally, FAQ 911 provides that non-US persons will not be sanctioned for engaging in activities authorized by the general licenses.