Sanctions information gathering powers

The Autonomous Sanctions Act 2011 (Cth) provides “designated CEOs” with broad information gathering powers.

A designated CEO is a Chief Executive Officer of a designated Commonwealth entity. A designated Commonwealth entity is defined in section 4 of the Autonomous Sanctions Act as a Commonwealth entity that:

  • is a designated Commonwealth entity under the Charter of the United Nations Act 1945; or
  • is specified in an instrument under section 5 of the Autonomous Sanctions Act.


The power to request information or documents

Under section 19 of the Autonomous Sanctions Act, a designated CEO may require a person to give information or documents for the purpose of determining whether a sanction law has been or is being complied with. The CEO is required to give the person a written notice of this request.

The person must provide the information or documents by the time and in any manner or form as specified in the notice. The time specified in the notice must be reasonable. The person may request an extension of time to provide the information or documents, however, the request must be before the time specified in the notice lapses.

The CEO may require the information to be verified by, or given on, oath or affirmation that the information is true.


Obligation to comply with the notice

A person must comply with the notice even if it would be in breach of another law of the Commonwealth, a State or a Territory.

It is not possible to use the privilege of self-incrimination to justify not providing information or documents. However, neither the information given nor the giving of the document is admissible in evidence against the individual in any criminal proceedings, or in any proceedings that would expose the individual to a penalty, other than proceedings for an offence against:

  • section 17 (false or misleading information given in connection with a sanction law); or
  • section 21 (failure to comply with requirement to give information or document).

Failing to comply with the requirement is a criminal offence with a penalty of up to 12 months imprisonment.


CEO’s power to disclose information or documents

The Autonomous Sanctions Act empowers the CEO to disclose any information or give any document, if its purpose is related to the administration of a sanction law, to the following:

  • a Minister of the Commonwealth, a State or a Territory;
  • the CEO of another Commonwealth entity;
  • a State or Territory entity;
  • a foreign government entity;
  • a public international organisation;
  • a person or entity specified by the Minister in a legislative instrument

Prior to disclosing the information, the CEO must be satisfied that the recipient of the disclosure will not disclose the information to anyone else without the CEO’s consent. The CEO also has the power to make and keep a copy of the documents.

An officer of the designated Commonwealth entity may copy or make a record of the information or document or disclose it to another officer of the entity, for a purpose connected with the administration of a sanction law.

If the CEO or an officer in good faith, gives, discloses, copies, makes a record of or uses information or a document under section 18, 19, 23 or 24 of the Act, they are not liable:

  • to any proceedings for contravening any other law because of that conduct; or
  • to civil proceedings for loss, damage or injury of any kind suffered by another person or entity because of that conduct.

Nyman Gibson Miralis provides expert advice and representation in complex cases involving international sanctions.

Contact us if you require assistance.