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US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)

The US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is a financial intelligence and enforcement agency of the US Treasury Department.

What Is the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)?

The US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is a financial intelligence and enforcement agency of the US Treasury Department. Its main role is to compile and publish the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (SDN), which is a list of individuals and companies owned or controlled by, or acting for or on behalf of, targeted countries. The OFAC is tasked with imposing economic and trade sanctions on members of this list. 


These targeted individuals and countries include terrorists and narcotics traffickers and those involved in foreign aggression, among others. Sanctions can be imposed for other illegal activity, such as cyber-terrorism. Their assets are blocked and United States citizens are prohibited from dealing with them. The sanctions are approved by Congress or by the president in a state of emergency. 


OFAC was founded in 1950 when China entered the Korean War. In response, then-U.S. president Harry Truman declared it a national emergency and froze all Chinese and Korean assets that were subject to US jurisdiction.


In addition, the OFAC can also impose sanctions based on mandates by the United Nations. Some countries that are on the SDN list, as of 2021, are the Balkans, Zimbabwe, and Russia, further to the latter’s occupation of Crimea in 2014.


OFAC has started cracking down on crypto activities since 2020, investigating the transactions of the leading digital asset exchangeCoinbase, fining companies like BitPay and warning firms that assist ransomware victims to pay their attackers that they could be penalized.

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US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)

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