Sanctions allow States like Australia to respond to situations of international concern, without the use of armed force. Sanctions measures may involve restrictions on trade or engaging in commercial activity, travel bans, and various other measures depending on the relevant sanctions regime.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) states that it is your responsibility to ensure you do not contravene a sanctions law. The sanctions laws of other countries may also apply to the overseas activities of Australian citizens and companies.
DFAT provides guidance on steps that may be taken to prevent breaches.
If you intend to engage in activity with a sanctioned country, you need to know who you are dealing with and be aware of the implications under sanctions law. Due diligence typically involves conducting your own checks to understand the company structure, the end user and the end use of a good.
Checking DFAT’s Consolidated List can also help ascertain:
- If a person or entity is subject to targeted financial sanctions.
- Whether you are dealing with freezable or controlled assets (assets owned or controlled by a designated person or entity).
If you are holding a freezable or controlled asset, you are required to “freeze” the asset and inform the AFP as soon as possible.
Pax sanctions portal
As of 1 October 2020, the Online Sanctions Administration System (OSAS) has been replaced by the new Australian sanctions platform, Pax.
Pax allows you to:
- Ask a question about sanctions.
- Request an Indicative Assessment to see whether you are affected by sanctions.
- Apply for a sanctions permit.
If you believe a proposed business activity may be affected by sanctions, it is worth investigating whether you meet the criteria for a permit to proceed with the activity.
Australian Sanctions Office
As of 1 January 2020, DFAT established the Australian Sanctions Office (ASO). The ASO provides a range of support relating to sanctions compliance including:
- Free presentations on Australian sanctions law for individuals, Australian businesses, universities and other organisations in Australian major capital cities.
- ASO speakers are available to present at seminars hosted by industry groups, professional associations and peak bodies.
While sanctions allow States to take measured responses to situations of international concern, they can create a legal minefield for businesses and individuals. A range of support is available to better understand and comply with sanctions laws such as the Pax sanctions portal, and resources provided by the ASO.
Nevertheless, it is highly recommended to get expert legal advice, especially in international dealings which may involve the sanctions laws of other countries.