In recent years, the use of sanctions as a foreign policy tool has grown exponentially, making it an important topic for individuals and businesses alike to understand.  Put simply, a sanctions list is not just a mere list of names; it is a tool used by governments and international organizations to impose restrictions on certain individuals, entities, or countries. But there's a lot more to it than that. 

In this article, we'll dive deeper into what a sanctions list is, how it works, and why it matters in today's global political landscape. 

What are Sanctions?


Sanctions are measures taken by one country or group of countries to restrict or prohibit trade, economic activity, or diplomatic relations with another country, group of countries, or individuals or entities associated with them. These measures can include trade embargoes, asset freezes, travel bans, and restrictions on financial transactions. 

Sanctions are usually imposed in response to a perceived violation of international law or human rights, or to advance foreign policy objectives such as promoting democracy or combating terrorism. The goal of sanctions is to exert pressure on the targeted country or entity to change its behaviour or policies.

The purpose of a sanction list is to provide a clear and transparent mechanism for identifying individuals, organizations, or countries that have been sanctioned, and to facilitate compliance with the sanctions by the affected parties and third parties.


Who is on a Sanctions List?


The reasons for placing someone or something on a sanction list can vary, but typically they are intended to punish or deter activities that are deemed harmful or destabilizing.


a. Individuals 


Individuals who are placed on a sanction list are often those who are suspected of involvement in criminal activities, such as terrorism, money laundering, or human rights abuses. 


b. Organizations 


Organizations that are subject to sanctions are often those that engage in activities that are deemed harmful to national or international security, such as weapons trafficking or the funding of terrorist organizations.


In the US, the Patriot Act restricts American companies from offering "material support" to suspected terrorist organizations, while the United Nations Security Council enforces laws like the Al Qaida and Taliban Order (2006) to achieve the same objective. Sanctions lists usually aim to combat various issues such as terrorism and its funding, narcotics trafficking, human rights violations, weapons proliferation, and violations of international treaties like arms embargo, as well as money laundering activities.


c. Countries 


Countries can also be placed on sanction lists, either by other countries or by international organizations such as the United Nations. Sanctions against countries can be imposed for a variety of reasons, including violations of international law, human rights abuses, or support for terrorism.


Examples of Key Sanctions Lists


One common way that sanctions are enforced is through the use of sanctions lists, which are compiled by various countries and international organizations. 


Some of the key examples of sanctions lists include:


1. U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) List: 


The U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) List is one of the most widely known and frequently referenced sanctions lists in the world. It includes the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (SDN List) and other lists of individuals, entities, and governments targeted for sanctions by the United States.

European Union (EU) Sanctions List: The EU maintains a sanctions list that includes individuals, entities, and governments targeted for sanctions by the European Union. This list is known as the EU Consolidated List.

2. United Nations Security Council Consolidated List: 


The United Nations Security Council Consolidated list has established sanctions regimes against various countries, including North Korea, Iran, and Syria. The sanctions lists maintained by the UN include individuals and entities that have been identified as being involved in activities that violate international law.

What are the Implications of Being on a Sanctions List?


Being on a sanctions list can have significant implications for individuals, entities, and even entire countries. The implications can vary depending on the specific sanctions list and the reasons why an individual or entity has been targeted. Here are some of the potential implications of being on a sanctions list:

1. Asset freezes: 


One of the most common implications of being on a sanctions list is having assets frozen. This means that any assets that an individual or entity holds within the jurisdiction of the sanctioning country or organization are blocked, and they cannot access or use these assets. This can include bank accounts, investments, and real estate.

2.  Travel restrictions 


Being on a sanctions list can also result in travel restrictions. This means that individuals or entities targeted by sanctions may be prevented from entering certain countries or regions, or may be subject to increased scrutiny and monitoring when travelling.

3. Business restrictions: 


Sanctions can also restrict the ability of individuals and entities to conduct business. For example, they may be prohibited from buying or selling goods or services with individuals or entities within the jurisdiction of the sanctioning country or organization. This can have a significant impact on the financial viability of businesses and individuals targeted by sanctions.

4. Reputation damage:


Being on a sanctions list can also damage the reputation of individuals and entities, potentially making it more difficult to conduct business or engage in other activities in the future.

5. Economic impact:


Sanctions can also have a broader economic impact, particularly when they target entire countries. This can include reduced trade, investment, and economic growth, as well as increased inflation and unemployment.

Use of sanctions lists in AML compliance


Sanctions lists are a crucial tool in anti-money laundering (AML) compliance. These lists are compiled by various government agencies and international organizations and contain the names of individuals and entities who are suspected of involvement in terrorist financing, money laundering, or other financial crimes.


Financial institutions and other businesses that are subject to AML regulations are required to screen their customers, transactions, and business relationships against these lists. This is done to ensure that they are not unwittingly providing financial services to individuals or entities that are on the sanctions lists.


Screening sanctions lists may involve the use of automated screening tools, manual reviews, or a combination of both. If a match is found during the screening process, the business must take appropriate action. This may include reporting the match to the relevant authorities, freezing the assets of the individual or entity, or blocking transactions with the sanctioned party.


Read: Sanction List Screening 




While the concept of sanctions is not new, the use of technology and global cooperation has made sanctions lists more effective than ever before. Though understanding the nature and purpose of sanctions lists is crucial for businesses, individuals, and governments alike, knowing the best sanction screening service to use is more crucial. 


See how 100+ leading companies use Youverify Compliance Solution for AML screening against real-time customer and business risks. Request a demo today.