July 1, 2021

Venezuelan businessman challenges OFAC designations under Kingpin Act

On June 29, 2021, Venezuelan businessman Samark José López Bello filed a complaint in the US District Court for the District of Columbia to challenge US sanctions imposed against him and 13 of his companies in 2017, that were issued pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act by the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.  López Bello is seeking declaratory and injunctive relief for allegations that he provided material assistance to a specially designated narcotics trafficker (SDNT), Tareck Zaidan El Aissami, who, at the time of designation, was the Vice President of the Government of Venezuela and not a SDNT when the alleged conduct occurred.  

In the complaint, López Bello claims that he has never had any involvement in drug trafficking and has never supported narcotics trafficking activities by El Aissami or any other individual, and alleges that OFAC violated his right to due process when he was designated simultaneously with El Aissami in 2017 based on an administrative record comprised of alleged conduct that predates El Aissami’s designation as an SDNT.  López Bello contends that the OFAC designations have had a devastating effect on his business operations and international reputation and has led to the forfeiture of $160 million in assets.  Consequently, he requests, among other things, that the court vacate the 2017 designations against him and his companies, order OFAC to rescind the 2017 designations and declare the 2017 designations against him and his companies to be unlawful.