On 22nd December, the United States’ Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned three Egyptian nationals – Ahmad al-Khatib, Haytham Ahmad Shukri Ahmad al-Maghrabi and Mohamed Sherif Mohamed Awadd – who it says are part of an “al-Qaida support network in Brazil”. In addition, two entities linked to the individuals, Enterprise Comércio de Moveis e Intermediação de Negocios Eireli and Home Elegance Comércio de Moveis Eireli, have been added to the Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) List. The US is designating the individuals and their companies as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs).
According to the Treasury, al-Maghrabi is the Brazilian contact of Ahmed Mohammed Hamed Ali, an al-Qaida operative who was designated by the US in 2001. Meanwhile, Awadd allegedly “received financial bank transfers” from other al-Qaida associates and was “involved in printing counterfeit currency” in support of Mohamed Ahmed Elsayed Ahmed Ibrahim, another Brazil-based individual who has been sanctioned by the US for assisting al-Qaida. Al-Khatib is also accused of supporting Ibrahim.
With regards to the entities, Home Elegance Comércio de Moveis Eireli is a São Paulo furniture seller, in which Awadd has shareholding and management interests. Enterprise Comércio de Moveis e Intermediação de Negocios Eireli is another furniture store in São Paulo, which the Treasury says is linked to al-Khatib.
Elsewhere, on 30th December, the UNSC added the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIL) Tunisian affiliate, Jund al-Khilafah in Tunisia (JAK-T), and its “emir”, Ashraf al-Qizani, to its ISIL/al-Qaida sanctions list. This action was implemented by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) on 31st December and by the United Kingdom’s Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI) on 4th January. The US had previously sanctioned JAK-T and al-Qizani as SDGTs in February 2018 and December 2020, respectively.
On 24th January, the council removed a Tunisian national, Khalil Ben Ahmed Ben Mohamed Jarraya, from its ISIL/al-Qaida sanctions list. In the subsequent days, OFSI and SECO mirrored the council’s action. Jarraya was first listed in 2003. He was detained in Italy in 2008 after being implicated in a case “related to terrorism”, before being deported to Tunisia in 2015.
This came after the council delisted three branches of the al-Haramain Islamic Foundation from its ISIL/al-Qaida sanctions programme on 17th January. Of these, one is based in Somalia and was first listed in 2002. This action was then replicated by OFSI and SECO in the following days.
The parent charity, which was based in Saudi Arabia, came under suspicion by the US for its alleged ties to al-Qaida. In particular, the Treasury alleged that its Somali affiliate had provided “salaries” to the group and also to al-Itihaad al-Islamiya (AIAI), a Somali terrorist organisation. By 2004, the organisation and its overseas branches were ordered to close by Saudi authorities.
In separate action, OFAC removed two African individuals from its SDN List on 22nd November. The duo, Saeed al-Masri of Egypt and Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi of Libya, had been sanctioned by the US as SDGTs. No reason was given as to why they were delisted at this time, although it should be noted that both have been dead for several years.
Alongside this update, minor administrative amendments were made to the listings of seven other African individuals who had also been sanctioned as SDGTs. These were: Mahfouz Ould al-Walid of Mauritania, Aly Soliman Massoud Abdul Sayed of Libya, Aboud El Zomor of Egypt, Djamel Moustfa of Algeria, Ali Maychou of Morocco, Mohammed Ibrahim Sulaiman of Sudan, and Mire Ali of Somalia. All seven remain subject to US sanctions, including Maychou, even though France claimed to have killed him in Mali in 2019.
Ethiopia & Eritrea
OFAC issued its first sanctions under the recently created programme with regards to the conflict in Ethiopia on 12th November. The targets were Eritrean actors “that have contributed to the crisis and conflict”. The Treasury added that the “presence of Eritrean forces is an impediment to ending the ongoing fighting and increasing humanitarian access” to the affected areas.
Amongst the designations was the Eritrean Defence Forces (EDF), which the US deems to have played a role in obstructing a resolution to the crisis in Ethiopia. In addition, OFAC targeted Eritrea’s ruling party, the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ), and Abraha Kassa, for his high-ranking involvement in the party since the crisis began.
Moreover, Hagos Ghebrehiwet was sanctioned for “having materially assisted” the PFDJ by acting as its economic advisor. Red Sea Trading Corporation (RSTC), which manages the party’s financial interests, was also designated for being an entity under Ghebrehiwet’s ownership or control. So too was the Hidri Trust, which is the holding company for the party’s business enterprises.
As part of this action, OFAC issued Ethiopia General License 4, “Authorizing the Wind Down of Transactions Involving Hidri Trust or Red Sea Trading Corporation”. It also updated FAQ 927 and published two new FAQs, 935 and 936.
Discussing the measures, the US State Department clarified that the sanctions “are not directed at the people of Eritrea [or] Ethiopia”, but rather to “impose costs on those prolonging the crisis”. An official later added that the US “stands ready to pursue additional sanctions, including against the Government of Ethiopia, regional authorities, and the TPLF [Tigray People’s Liberation Front]”.
The US introduced this sanctions regime in September 2021, in response to the escalating conflict in northern Ethiopia. A month earlier, OFAC had targeted the EDF’s chief of staff, General Filipos Woldeyohannes, for his alleged role in the conflict.
In a related matter, President Joe Biden notified Congress of his intent to terminate the designation of Ethiopia – alongside Guinea and Mali – as a beneficiary sub-Saharan African country under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). The White House said that the country was non-compliant with the programme’s eligibility criteria, on the basis of “gross violations of internationally recognized human rights”. The termination came into effect on 1st January 2022. The AGOA was enacted in 2000 and provides eligible sub-Saharan African countries with duty-free access to certain US markets.
Mali & Guinea
Following the expiration of a deadline set by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for Mali’s leaders to make “concrete progress” on the holding of elections, the body imposed additional “economic and financial” sanctions on the military regime on 9th January. These include a closure of land and air borders with the country, and a suspension of all “commercial and financial” transactions between member states and Mali. Exemptions have been made for food products, pharmaceutical products, medical supplies and equipment, petroleum products, and electricity.
In addition, the state’s assets in central and commercial banks located within ECOWAS have been ordered to be frozen. Mali has also been suspended from “all financial assistance and transactions” with its financial institutions, including the Bank for Investment and Development (EBID) and the West African Development Bank (BOAD).
Earlier, on 7th November, the heads of state imposed travel bans and asset freezes on Malian individuals and groups – including the entire transitional authorities and institutions – deemed responsible for obstructing the country’s transition. The measures also affected each target’s family members. In addition, Mali’s membership of ECOWAS remains suspended, as it has been since the military deposed President Bah Ndaw in a coup in May 2021.
In a related development, the Council of the European Union amended its Mali sanctions regime on 13th December to allow the EU to “autonomously impose restrictive measures” on those who obstruct the country’s political transition.
Meanwhile, ECOWAS is maintaining its existing sanctions on Guinea, which include a suspension from its governing bodies and travel bans and asset freezes imposed on members of the ruling junta and their families. The measures were first implemented in September 2021, in the aftermath of the coup which toppled President Alpha Condé.
Elsewhere, as referenced above, the US removed Guinea and Mali’s status as AGOA beneficiaries at the beginning of January. With regards to Guinea, the stated reason was a lack of progress towards establishing the protection of the rule of law and political pluralism. For Mali, the same reason was given, in addition to failing to address alleged human rights violations.
In a separate matter, the nine-year sentence of Malian national Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi was reduced to seven years by the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) appeals chamber. He is now scheduled for release on 18th September 2022.
Al-Mahdi was convicted of war crimes by the court in September 2016, specifically the intentional directing of attacks against religious and historic buildings in Timbuktu during the Islamist insurgency in northern Mali in 2012.
On 3rd December, the UNSC granted another six-month humanitarian travel exemption for three members of the Gaddafi family. The individuals concerned are Safia Farkash (Muammar Gaddafi’s widow), Aisha Gaddafi (his daughter), and Muhammad Gaddafi (his son). The exemption was last extended by the UNSC in June 2021, having first been granted in December 2020. All three have been under UN sanctions since 2011.
Separately, the Council of the EU de-listed Baghdadi Mahmudi – prime minister of Libya during the fall of the Gaddafi regime – from its Libyan sanctions list on 9th November. Later in the month, SECO mirrored the EU’s action. Mahmudi fled the country in August 2011, only to be extradited by Tunisia the following year. He faced trial on charges of committing acts that led to the “unjust killing” of Libyans and was sentenced to death by firing squad in 2015. Ultimately, this did not occur and he was released from prison in July 2019 on health grounds. The former prime minister was first sanctioned by the EU in March 2011 for his involvement in “violence against demonstrators”, as Libya’s civil war intensified. He was also targeted in the following weeks by OFSI and OFAC, and remains subject to British and American sanctions.
Later, OFAC delisted Rodrick Grech from its Libya sanctions programme on 21st December. In 2018, he had been implicated by the Treasury in a ring allegedly involved in smuggling oil from Libya into Europe. According to the US, Grech “transported the Libya-originated fuel to European ports”. It is not clear why the restrictive measures against him have been lifted at this time.
In another development, OFSI removed and replaced its listing for Quren Salih Quren al-Qadhafi, who was Libya’s ambassador to Chad during the Gaddafi era, on 19th January. While he was initially listed in 2011 due to his status as a key official, the UK has relisted him on suspicion of being involved in activities which benefit the remnants of the former regime.
In particular, OFSI suspects him of being involved in recruiting foreign mercenaries and violating the UNSC’s arms embargo on Libya. Moreover, he is believed to be associating with one of Gaddafi’s sons, Saif al-Islam, in undermining the UN-led political process in the country. Al-Qadhafi also remains subject to UNSC and EU sanctions.
Elsewhere, on 28th January, the UNSC amended its listing for another of Gaddafi’s sons, Saadi, in order to update his passport details. This action was mirrored by both OFSI and SECO. Despite still being subject to an asset freeze and travel ban, he reportedly departed Libya for Istanbul in September 2021, following his release from prison.
OFAC designated a Congolese businessman, Alain Mukonda, and 12 entities related to him under the Global Magnitsky sanctions programme on 6th December. Several minor administrative amendments were also made to the listings of entities associated with Dan Gertler, the Israeli businessman under US sanctions since 2017.
According to the Treasury, Mukonda assisted Gertler after his designation at that time by “opening bank accounts” and making payments believed to be worth between $11m and $13.5m. OFAC’s action was taken in consultation with the State Department, which said the US would “continue to partner with the [President Felix] Tshisekedi administration and the Congolese people to fight corruption, end impunity, and promote accountability”.
In a separate development, the EU extended its sanctions regime on the DRC for another year. The programme, which is now due to expire on 12th December 2022, currently contains 10 individuals who are subject to an asset freeze and a ban on entering the EU.
This was previously 11 individuals when the regime was last renewed in December 2020. However, the listing of Jean-Claude Kazembe Musonda – the former governor of Haut-Katanga province, who died in July 2021 – has been removed. His delisting has been mirrored by SECO, which also renewed the listings of the other 10 individuals still designated by the EU.
Elsewhere, on 8th November, the US Justice Department announced that two Congolese individuals – Herdade Lokua and Jospin Mujangi – had been indicted on charges of trafficking ivory and rhino horns. The department also alleges that the pair violated the Lacey Act’s prohibitions against falsely labelling shipment containing wildlife.
Following the arrests on US soil, the Congolese government seized $3.5m worth of items related to wildlife trafficking in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), as part of this joint investigation, named Operation Kuluna.
On 13th December, the EU sanctioned the Wagner Group, a private military company linked to the Russian authorities. In addition to the organisation itself, eight individuals and three entities connected to it have also been subjected to an EU asset freeze and travel ban.
Of relevance to the group’s operations in Africa, its parent organisation – which is said to be responsible for “serious human rights abuses” in Libya, the Central African Republic (CAR), Sudan, and Mozambique – has been designated under the EU’s Global Human Rights regime.
Also sanctioned under this programme is Valery Zakharov, a “key figure” in the group’s command structure who is acting as the security counsellor to President Faustin-Archange Touadéra of the CAR. The EU deems him “responsible for serious human rights abuses” committed by the group in the country.
Another individual, Aleksandr Kuznetsov, has been listed under the EU’s Libya programme. He is accused of being the Wagner Group’s commander of 1st Attack and Reconnaissance Company, which fought alongside the Libyan National Army (LNA) during the Second Libyan Civil War.
As a result, the EU has sanctioned him under its Libya programme for “[threatening] the peace, stability and security” of the country. On 13th January, SECO mirrored this action by adding Kuznetsov to its own Libyan sanctions list.
The group’s African operations have been targeted by sanctions before. In July 2020, OFAC sanctioned individuals and entities in Sudan linked to Yevgeny Prigozhin, the group’s alleged financier. A few months later, it then designated his interests in the CAR. Shortly afterwards, the EU and UK imposed restrictive measures on him.
OFAC added Leopoldino Fragoso do Nascimento (known as “General Dino”), Hélder Vieira Dias (known as “Kopelipa”), and the latter’s wife, Luísa de Fátima Giovetty, to its SDN List. On the same day, 9th December, it also designated five entities, three of which – Cochan S.A., Geni Novas Technologias S.A., and Geni SARL – are based in Angola.
Both Dino and Kopelipa are former government officials who the Treasury says “stole billions” from the state “through embezzlement”. As a result, they have been designated as former public officials involved in corruption. Four of the targeted entities are owned or controlled by Dino, whilst another is said to be owned or controlled by Kopelipa and Giovetty.
The trio, along with Dino’s wife, Amélia Maria Coelho da Cruz Nascimento, and the children of Kopelipa and Giovetty, have also been barred from entering the US. As an aside, it was reported in June 2021 that Mrs Nascimento had died.
In addition, Isabel dos Santos and her family were also on the list of targets banned from entering the US by the State Department. She is accused of being involved in “significant corruption” by “misappropriating public funds for her personal benefit”.
Dos Santos is the daughter of former president José Eduardo dos Santos and formerly chaired Angola’s state oil company, Sonangol. Although an Angolan court ordered her assets seized in December 2019, she has so far not been subjected to international financial sanctions.
On 18th November, President Biden ended the US’s sanctions regime with respect to the situation in Burundi. He did so after concluding that the climate which gave rise to the national emergency has been “significantly altered” by events such as the peaceful transfer of power in 2020, decreased violence, and reforms undertaken by President Évariste Ndayishimiye.
Accordingly, the 11 individuals listed solely under the Burundi sanctions programme have been removed by OFAC. Visa restrictions concerning these eleven individuals have also been lifted by the State Department. Those affected included Alain-Guillaume Bunyoni and Gervais Ndirakobuca, who have been the country’s prime minister and interior minister respectively since June 2020.
The national emergency was first declared in November 2015 by President Barack Obama, as unrest unfolded in the country following President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a third term in office.
Following the US’s action, the UK amended its Burundi sanctions regime on 17th January to better reflect the country’s political situation. It should be recalled that, upon leaving the EU in December 2020, the UK had already decided not to carry over the individual designations that existed under the EU’s Burundi programme. Nevertheless, it has been decided that the regime will continue to exist, due to the government’s longer-term democracy and human rights concerns regarding the country.
OFAC added ARC Resources Corporation Ltd (also known as Africa Resources Corporation), based in Juba, to its SDN List under the Global Magnitsky programme on 9th December. It also added Winners Construction Company Limited under the same programme. Both entities are linked to Benjamin Bol Mel, who was sanctioned for corruption by the US in December 2017.
The entities have been identified by the Treasury as those connected to ABMC Thai-South Sudan Construction Company Limited, which was linked to Bol Mel. It is alleged that ARC Resources has been used by the Government of South Sudan to launder money.
In addition, both entities “have been used to evade sanctions and travel restrictions” on Bol Mel, who previously served as the chairman of the South Sudan Chamber of Commerce, Industry, and Agriculture. In addition, he was a financial advisor to President Salva Kiir.
As part of the same action, OFAC also amended its listing for Al Cardinal, in order to reflect his links to the United Arab Emirates. He was first designated by the US in November 2019 and by the UK in April 2021.
On 21st January, OFAC targeted a Hizballah network with connections to Africa, comprised of three individuals and 10 entities. Adnan Ayad – a “Hizballah-linked financial facilitator” with links to Morocco, Ethiopia, Ghana and Nigeria – is designated alongside his son, Jihad Adnan Ayad, who is said to be based in Zambia. The other individual, Ali Adel Diab, is also Zambia-based and is the son of Adel Diab, a “fellow Hizballah financier” who was designated by OFAC a few days prior.
The elder Diab is described by the Treasury as the elder Ayad’s “business partner”, whilst the sons are allegedly involved in the pair’s business interests in Zambia. These include two of the entities concerned, Hamer and Nail Construction Limited and Hamidco Investment Limited, both of which are based in Lusaka.
According to the US, networks such as these “have helped Hizballah obtain funds through networks of companies that operate under the guise of legitimate business enterprises” and therefore evade sanctions. All the targets of this action have been designated as SDGTs.
Nigeria has been removed from the US State Department’s list of countries of particular concern with regards to violators of religious freedom, on which Eritrea has been retained. The 2021 update, released on 17th November, also added Algeria to a special watch list which already included Comoros.
In addition, Boko Haram, Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP), al-Shabaab, Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), and Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM) were retained as entities of particular concern.
No reason was given for Nigeria’s removal or Algeria’s inclusion on the respective lists. In its 2021 annual report, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended the addition of Algeria to the special watch list, citing “systematic repression” of Christians, Ahmadiyya Muslims, and other minority groups.
However, the report also recommended the redesignation of Nigeria as a country of particular concern, which was not actioned by the State Department. It is therefore unclear on what basis each decision was taken. Nigeria was initially added to the list in December 2020.
Global Human Rights
On 6th December, the Council of the EU renewed its Global Human Rights sanctions regime for another year, now due to expire on 8th December 2022. The sanctions will therefore continue to apply to all individuals and entities on the list, with the exception of one deceased person, Mohammed al-Kani, who was reportedly killed in Libya in July 2021.
Later in December, President Biden extended the US’s Global Magnitsky programme, which had been due to expire on 20th December, for another year. Al-Kani is also listed under this regime, alongside several other African targets.
Ahead of the US’s Summit for Democracy, OFAC sanctioned Abel Kandiho under its Global Magnitsky programme. Kandiho, a Ugandan major general who serves as commander of military intelligence in the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF), is deemed “personally involved” in some of the “horrific beatings and other egregious acts” allegedly committed by his unit.
Following the designation, which took place on 7th December, the State Department said it is “committed to promoting democracy and accountability for those who abuse human rights around the world”. In late January, Kandiho was subsequently removed from his role at the UPDF and redeployed to South Sudan.
On 17th December, OFAC designated Ali Darassa under its CAR sanctions regime. The Treasury accuses him of being involved in “serious rights abuses” as a result of his leadership of the Union for Peace in the CAR (UPC) militia group, which has “killed, tortured, raped, and displaced thousands of people since 2014”.
The State Department added that Darassa’s decision “to abandon” the CAR’s 2019 peace agreement “further threatens the peace and stability of the country”. A few days after the US’s action, he was also sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), OFSI, and SECO.
Mutinous soldiers launched a coup in Burkina Faso on 23rd January. A day later, the military junta – which calls itself the Patriotic Movement for Safeguard and Restoration (MPSR) – announced that it had deposed President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré. It also suspended the country’s constitution and dissolved its parliament and government.
Reacting to the developments, ECOWAS suspended Burkina Faso from all its institutions on 28th January. A few days later, the African Union (AU) did likewise, until the “effective restoration of normal constitutional order”. It also threatened “punitive measures” against those responsible for any harm that may befall Kaboré.
On 9th December, OFAC sanctioned Prince Johnson, a Liberian senator and former warlord, under its Global Magnitsky sanctions regime. In addition to being “responsible for the murder” of former Liberian president Samuel Doe, the US accuses Johnson of using his position as a legislator to become “involved in pay-for-play funding with government ministries and organisations for personal enrichment”.
A French court has sentenced a French-Rwandan national, Claude Muhayimana, to 14 years’ imprisonment for complicity in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Muhayimana was a hotel driver at the time and is accused of “transporting Hutu militiamen who massacred hundreds of Tutsis”. His conviction was reached on 16th December and sentencing took place the same day.