Telecoms firm breached sanctions by facilitating international calls

Out-Law News | 01 Nov 2019 | 6:13 pm | 1 min. read

A telecommunications provider breached UK sanctions rules by indirectly facilitating international telephone calls to a designated entity subject to economic sanctions.

The actions of Telia Carrier UK Ltd (Telia) resulted in it "repeatedly making funds and economic resources indirectly available" to Syrian mobile network SyriaTel, according to a notice from the UK's Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI) (3-page / 1.5MB PDF).

OFSI originally fined Telia £300,000 for the breaches, although this was reduced to £146,341 on appeal.

Tom Stocker

Partner

The case emphasises the breadth of 'economic resources' covered by the sanctions regulations.

Sanctions expert Tom Stocker of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said that the case was an interesting one as it "emphasises the breadth of 'economic resources' covered by the sanctions regulations" - in this case, the indirect provision of telecoms services to a designated entity.

Telia, which appealed its fine through the ministerial review process, provided further clarification on the nature of the transactions which breached the sanctions rules. This clarification was sufficient to justify a reduction in the fine imposed, as it significantly reduced the assessed value of the breaches from £480,000 to £234,000, according to the penalty notice.

OFSI said that the ministerial review process would not normally be used to present additional information, but that it passed on the information in this case "given the likely significant impact".

OFSI, which is part of the UK Treasury, has the power to impose civil penalties for breaches of financial sanctions in cases where it is not in the public interest to prosecute. The maximum penalty is the greater of £1 million and 50% of the estimated value of the funds that were the subject of the breach.

In a 'note on compliance' appended to the penalty notice, OFSI said that the case "illustrates that 'economic resources' can cover a wide variety of tangible and intangible resources".

"Companies need to be able to recognise when they are in breach of the regulations and take immediate action to stop their activity and report it to OFSI," it said.