Sunday, May 3, 2020


Wisser on trial in South Africa.

If you are using an internal, proprietary platform to insure that you do not onboard OFAC-sanctioned individuals or entities, please remember: (1) Your program should not have a feature that confers approval on unsuitable targets if the user makes multiple requests for approval, after which the program times out and gives approval,  or (2) If your New Accounts staff has a habit of passing SDNs by a finding of fact that the applicant is NOT the same as the sanctioned individual.

American Express Travel Related Services, the principal subsidiary of AmEx, issued a prepaid "Global Travel" card to an OFAC-sanctioned Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) proliferation violator, who was previously SDN-designated, and had a related felony conviction, where he received an 18-year sentence gor nuclear smuggling (suspended). Reports on the matter have indicated that AmEx used its own automated sanctions compliance program to determine whether the applicant had sanctions on record against him. When the program was employed multiple times, it "timed out" or
ceased to finction, and the applicant was approved.

At that point, reports indicate that the case was sent to a compliance officer, who concluded, erroneously, that the sancrioned individual named was not the applicant, and approved him. What you have is a textbook compliance failure on two fronts, a program that failed to properly identify him, and a live officer who, for an unknown reason, approved him, even though the facts indicated that he should have been declined. Whether this constitutes compiance malpractice I leave in the judgment of the reader.

the result is that GERHARD WISSER, a German engineer linked to Pakistan's illegal nuclear program, was able to conduct 41 transacrions, totally over $35,000. there were a number of mitigating factors, including self-reporting by AmEx, and no fine was levied by Treasury. The point that should be made is that, if you have an automated program, please make sure it works properly, and do not allow your staff to defeat its purpose by overruling its conclusions, without cause.

Readers who wish to learn more may access the Finding of Violation details on the Civil Penalty here.

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