United Kingdom


1. Does the UK have a sanctions regime in place?

Yes. The UK implements sanctions under regulations made under the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018 (‘SAMLA’). As of 11pm on 31 December 2020, the UK left the EU and ceased to directly apply sanctions implemented by member states under the Common Foreign and Security Policy, but did transfer into UK law nearly all EU sanctions that were in force at that time. The Global Human Rights Sanctions were the first autonomous UK sanctions issued under SAMLA. In addition, the UK also has an autonomous terrorist sanctions regime under the Counter Terrorism Act 2008 and the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001.

2. Does the UK implement UN sanctions?

Yes, UN sanctions are implemented in UK domestic law under SAMLA.

3. Does the UK implement an autonomous sanctions regime?

The sanctions measures the UK is able to apply are:

  • trade sanctions (e.g. arms embargoes, bans on exporting equipment that might be used for internal repression
  • export controls)
  • financial sanctions (e.g. asset freezes and financial sanctions on designated individuals and corporate entities)
  • immigration sanctions (e.g.travel bans on named individuals)
  • aircraft sanctions
  • shipping sanctions In general terms, it is a criminal offense 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.

4. Does the UK maintain a list of sanctioned individuals and entities?

HM Treasury’s Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (‘OFSI’) maintains a Consolidated List for those subject to financial sanctions (as updated with information on financial sanctions made under SAMLA from FCDO’s UK Sanctions List). It comprises of individuals and entities sanctioned under UK and UN financial sanctions. The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (‘FCDO’) also maintains the UK Sanctions List, which consists of all designations made under SAMLA (whether financial or not).

5. Are there any other lists related to sanctions?

Yes. Other lists include:

  • OFSI’s list of entities subject to capital market restrictions.
  • HM Treasury’s list of individuals and entities who are subject to financial sanctions for alleged terrorist activity
  • The Home Office’s list of proscribed terrorist groups and organisations which are banned under UK law pursuant to the Terrorism Act 2000
  • The Department for International Trade’s UK Strategic Export Control Lists which form the basis of determining whether any products, software or technology intended for export are ‘controlled’ and therefore require an export license. These lists are published collectively as the UK Consolidated List of Strategic Military and Dual-Use Items that Require Export Authorisation. The UK Military List is another of these lists but is maintained separately.

6. Does the UK have a licensing or authorization system in place?

Yes, the licensing regime differs depending on the nature of the activity. OFSI is responsible for licensing exemptions to financial sanctions. Specific licence applications must be made to OFSI prior to engaging in any activity that may contravene the UK sanctions regime, such as releasing 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. OFSI has also indicated that it intends to extend the licensing regime to provide for more general licences, as is more commonly seen under the US sanctions regime. General licences will be issued by OFSI under such conditions as HM Treasury deems appropriate and will usually be considered in response to unforeseen circumstances where it has been decided that issuing a general licence will best support the Government’s policy priorities. Individuals and entities may rely on applicable general licences without applying or otherwise notifying OFSI of the intention to do so. However, it is critical that all applicable terms of the general licence are complied with before engaging in the relevant activity that would otherwise constitute a violation. The Secretary of State of the Department for International Trade (via the Export Control Joint Unit) 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 is responsible for licensing exemptions for importing certain products which are subject to bans, quotas or surveillance as a result of sanctions.

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

It is a criminal offense to breach a financial sanction without an appropriate license or authorization from OFSI. The penalties for breaching sanctions can vary across the various regimes, however, in general terms, any individual found guilty of an offense shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a period not exceeding seven years and/or an unlimited fine. Corporate entities acting in breach of financial sanctions can also commit a criminal offense and be liable to a fine to the value of 50% of the total breach or £1m (whichever is the greatest). Where an offense 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 offense and can be imprisoned or fined. It is also a criminal offense to export strategic or controlled goods that are subject to sanction and embargo regimes without a specific license. The export of some goods is banned outright. Penalties can vary depending on the nature of the offence. They include: revocation of a license; seizure of goods; issuing of a compound penalty fine; and imprisonment. Any individual found guilty of an offense under the Terrorism Act 2000 for dealings with a terrorist organization is liable on conviction to imprisonment for up to 14 years and/or an unlimited fine.

8. 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. King Charles Street London SW1A 2AH United Kingdom T: (+44) 20 7008 1500 E: sanctions@fcdo.gov.uk W: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/foreign-commonwealth-development-office

The Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (“OFSI”) - OFSI is responsible for implementing and administering financial sanctions in the UK. OFSI is part of HM Treasury. Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation HM Treasury 1 Horse Guards Road London SW1A 2HQ United Kingdom T: (+44) 20 7270 5454 E: OFSI@hmtreasury.gov.uk W: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/office-of-financial-sanctions-implementation

The Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”) – The FCA is responsible for ensuring that regulated firms have adequate systems and controls to comply with UK Sanctions requirements. Financial Conduct Authority 12 Endeavour Square London E20 1JN United Kingdom T: +44 (0)20 7066 1000 E: firm.queries@fca.org.uk W: www.fca.org.uk

Department for International Trade (“DIT”) - DIT implements trade sanctions and other trade restrictions and has overall responsibility for trade sanctions licensing. There is also a dedicated team within DIT that is responsible for dealing with complaints and other issues relating to the Blocking Regulation. DIT’s import licensing branch is responsible for implementing trade sanctions relating to imports. King Charles Street Whitehall London SW1A 2AH United Kingdom T: +44 (0) 20 7215 500 W: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-international-trade If you need to contact DIT, a number of contact forms are also available on their website depending on where you are based or the reason for your enquiry.

Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (“HMRC”) - HMRC is responsible for enforcing export controls in the UK. HM Revenue & Customs Customs Enforcement Policy Team 1st Floor, Customs House Annex, 32 St Mary At Hill London EC3R 8DY Voluntary disclosures of trade sanctions breaches are made to HMRC. Further guidance is available on the UK Government website.

Export Control Joint Unit (“ECJU”) - DIT’s Export Control Joint Unit has overall responsibility for trade sanctions licensing. Licence applications can be made through the online export licensing system SPIRE. Certain trade-sanctions applications, for example, the purchase of petroleum products for humanitarian relief in Syria, are not processed on SPIRE and can be made by contacting tradesanctions@trade.gov.uk.

Export Control Joint Unit 2nd Floor 3 Whitehall Place London SW1 A 2AW T: (+44) 20 7515 4594 E: exportcontrol.help@trade.gov.uk W: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/export-control-organisation For general guidance on export controls and trade sanctions, contact the ECJU.

Contributor law firm

Zia Ullah,

Partner, Head of Corporate Crime

Kimberley Jones,


Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP

1 Wood Street London EC2V 7WS United Kingdom

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