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WASHINGTON – Today the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), in recognition of International Anti-Corruption Day and Human Rights Day, is sanctioning a diverse array of over 40 individuals and entities that are connected to corruption or human rights abuse across nine countries.
Over the course of 2022, Treasury took numerous actions to promote accountability for human rights abusers and corrupt actors across the world, including sanctions on dozens of individuals and entities including in the Western Balkans, Belarus, Liberia, Guatemala, the Russian Federation, Burma, and Iran. Treasury utilized various tools and authorities — including Executive Order (E.O.) 13818, which builds upon and implements the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act — to demonstrate the U.S. government’s focus on promoting respect for human rights and countering corruption.
“Corrupt actors and human rights abusers both rely on deficiencies in the international financial system to perpetrate their activities,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson. “Over the past year, Treasury has made combatting corruption and serious human rights abuse a top priority, including through the use of financial sanctions and addressing vulnerabilities in the U.S. and international financial systems. By exposing the egregious behavior of these actors, we can help disrupt their activities, dismantle their networks, and starve them of resources.”
The United States is committed to taking actions consistent with its values and recognizes that respect for human rights is a prerequisite for global peace, security, and prosperity. Today OFAC also designated two individuals and the networks of entities that they control in connection with serious human rights abuse aboard distant water fishing vessels.
Today’s actions are also a key component of the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to implement the first-ever U.S. Strategy for Countering Corruption, released in December 2021. Treasury is working diligently to implement other elements of the strategy, including efforts to curb illicit finance related to corruption. For example, as part of Treasury’s ongoing work implementing the Corporate Transparency Act, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued in September 2022 a final rule on beneficial ownership information reporting requirements, which will help stop corrupt actors and other criminals from using anonymous shell companies to hide their ill-gotten gains. Additionally, Treasury is working to enhance the transparency of the real estate sector, as well as strengthen global efforts to counter corruption at the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and other bodies, in support of the Strategy. Through these and other efforts, the Treasury Department is focused on addressing the vulnerabilities in the U.S. and international financial systems that the corrupt exploit to launder their illicit proceeds.
SERIOUS HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSE IN IRAN
Iran has experienced mass, countrywide protests following the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, who was arrested by Iran’s Morality Police in mid-September 2022 for allegedly improperly wearing a hijab. Iranian security forces have responded with violence to the protests, reportedly killing hundreds, including children, and arresting thousands. Since September, Treasury has issued five rounds of sanctions targeting the Morality Police, a range of Iranian security and government officials involved in the use of violence against Iranian protestors, prison officials involved in the detention of protestors, Iranian media officials associated with broadcasts of coerced confessions relating to the protests, and officials responsible for shutting down Iran’s Internet to stifle freedom of expression online.
Today’s action targets Ali Akbar Javidan (Javidan), the Law Enforcement Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran (LEF) commander in Iran’s Kermanshah Province who has direct oversight over forces that have killed protesters, including children and the elderly. The LEF was designated in 2011 pursuant to E.O. 13553, an Iran human rights authority, for being responsible for or complicit in serious human rights abuses in Iran since the June 2009 disputed presidential election. The LEF has repeatedly used excessive force in response to protests in Iran in recent years, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of unarmed protesters. Javidan has made public statements justifying the police response to the ongoing protests while valorizing the LEF forces for suppressing them. Javidan also publicly vowed to punish so-called moral crimes, including the alleged improper wearing of the hijab, during a July 2022 roundup of 1700 people.
Javidan is designated pursuant to E.O. 13818 for being a foreign person who is or has been a leader or official of an entity, including any government entity, that has engaged in, or whose members have engaged in, serious human rights abuse relating to his tenure.
Ebrahim Kouchakzaei (Kouchakzaei) served as an LEF commander in Chabahar, in Iran’s Sistan and Baluchistan Province. Kouchakzaei is the alleged perpetrator of a mid-September 2022 rape of a 15-year-old girl. According to reports, the incident, which occurred shortly after the death of Mahsa Amini, fueled major protests throughout the province in late September, leading to a violent backlash from security forces and the killings of more than 60 people.
Kouchakzaei is designated pursuant to E.O. 13553 for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, Iran’s LEF.
OFAC is also designating Allah Karam Azizi (Azizi), the warden of Iran’s notorious Rejaee Shahr Prison. Rejaee Shahr Prison is known to house political prisoners and those who protest against the regime. Those imprisoned there have suffered serious physical abuse at the hands of the prison’s guards. Azizi has personally ordered these abuses; under Azizi’s leadership, Rezaee Shahr Prison has remained a place rife with abuse, where prisoners suffer from physical abuse.and medical neglect.
Azizi is designated pursuant to E.O. 13818 for being a foreign person who is or has been a leader or official of an entity, including any government entity, that has engaged in, or whose members have engaged in, serious human rights abuse relating to his tenure.