Sanctions violations in the US and UK can be enforced by imposing both criminal and civil penalties. 

Criminal Penalties

In the US, a person who willfully commits, willfully attempts to commit, or willfully conspires to commit, or aids or abets in the commission of, an unlawful act pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act may be fined not more than $1,000,000, or if a natural person, may be imprisoned for not more than 20 years, or both.1

In the UK, penalties for breaches of sanctions are set out in the relevant UK statutory instruments.  Criminal fines are unlimited and the Policing and Crime Act 2017 increased maximum prison sentences for sanctions violations to seven years. 

Civil Penalties

In the US, statutory guidelines and OFAC’s enforcement guidelines provide the base penalty amount for each apparent civil violation.  OFAC will adjust the base penalty amount after considering aggravating and mitigating factors.  OFAC considers voluntary self-disclosure and subsequent cooperation as mitigating factors that may lower the penalty amount in the event of enforcement. See the OFAC Principles of Enforcement topic in the Sanctions Enforcement section. 

For a non-egregious violation, ignoring any adjustment of the penalty based on aggravating or mitigating factors, the base penalty amount would be approximately the value of the transaction, determined specifically by a schedule provided in OFAC’s enforcement guidelines, capped at $295,141 per transaction.  In the event a company voluntarily discloses an apparent violation to OFAC, the base amount of the proposed civil penalty is one-half of the transaction value capped at a maximum base amount of $147,571 per violation.

For egregious violations, the base penalty amount is the statutory maximum penalty.  If the company submits a voluntary self-disclosure, the base penalty amount is reduced to one-half the statutory maximum.

OFAC enforcement guidelines are described at 31 CFR Part 501 Appendix A.

In the UK, OFSI has the power to impose monetary penalties of up to £1 million or 50% of the value of the breach (whichever is higher) on the basis of a civil standard of proof.  Guidance on OFSI’s monetary penalties can be found here

The Policing and Crime Act 2017 also added financial sanctions violations to the list of offenses for which Serious Crime Prevention Orders may be imposed on the basis of a civil standard of proof.  Such orders are aimed at preventing further serious crime.


1 See 50 USC § 1705(c).


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