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Your complete guide to sanctions lists and effective sanctions screening for the aviation sector

Your complete guide to sanctions lists and effective sanctions screening for the aviation sector

Ever since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the international sanctions landscape has become quite hard to navigate. It used to be the domain of the financial industry, and suddenly we all had to jump on board, keeping up with the latest sanctions regulations to avoid costly mistakes. Sanctions screening is now a vital compliance step also in the aviation industry.

The purpose of this guide is to help you dive into the topic of sanctions, understand how it can affect your aviation business, and learn how you can help your sales, operations, and dispatch teams set up an easy-to-manage due diligence process by implementing a sanctions screening software.

  1. What are sanctions, sanctions lists, and sanctions screening?
  2. Why are sanctions lists important for the aviation sector?
  3. What are the most important sanctions watchlists?
  4. How can you perform effective sanctions checks, ensure sanctions compliance, and avoid severe legal consequences?

What are sanctions, sanctions lists, and sanctions screening?

Understanding the terminology is the first step to help you get your head around the topic of sanctions. Below are the few basic terms to get you started:

Sanctions are a form of coercive measure imposed by a country or international body against another entity (country, organization, individual, ship, aircraft, or even a specific sector / industry), in response to actions that violate international law, abuse human rights, or pose a threat to peace and security. Sanctions can prohibit specific activities, including but not limited to transportation and travel.

Sanctions regime is a collection of sanctions measures put in place for a particular set of purposes.

Sanctions lists are the watchlists issued as a reference tool for everyone to identify all the entities subject to sanctions. These lists are created and maintained by the relevant authorities in charge of implementing and enforcing sanctions. To learn more about some specific sanctions lists, jump straight to What are the most important sanctions watchlists? section of this article.

Sanctions screening is the process of checking businesses, organizations, individuals, and government agencies against the ever-changing sanctions lists.

Why are sanctions lists important for the aviation sector?

All businesses in all sectors need to carry out effective sanctions screening to detect customers who are featured on sanctions lists. This is vital in order not to suffer severe legal consequences of breaching any imposed sanctions, for example, by:

  •  accepting payment from a subject of sanctions,

  • transporting a passenger placed under a travel ban,

  • or flying any aircraft that belongs to a sanctioned entity.

Unfortunately, the sanctions lists can sometimes be changed literally just before your flight departure and so it’s quite easy to get “hit by a bus” if you don’t have any solutions that help you automate the screening process and issue a warning for any last-minute updates. No carrier wants to meet the same fate as Emperor Aviation did in November 2022. The US Department of the Treasury's OFAC embargoed eight jets operated by this Maltese business operator due to detected links to Suleiman Kerimov, a Russian billionaire oligarch closely tied to Vladimir Putin. What’s more, Emperor Aviation is now also featured on the OFAC sanctions lists (which can be disastrous for any business).

A man looks frustrated with the amount of work that a manual sanctions screening requires.

What are the most important sanctions watchlists?

Different countries and international organizations maintain their own sanctions lists. You can check them one by one, using the links provided under each description in this section. Below are ten of the most important lists that carriers should be aware of:

• OFAC Sanctions Lists (USA)

The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is a division of the U.S. Department of Treasury that administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions. OFAC maintains some of the most comprehensive and widely enforced sanctions lists in the world, including the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN) List as well as several non-SDN sanctions lists. The SDN list includes individuals, companies, groups, and entities that have been identified as a threat to the US national security or foreign policy. Their assets are blocked and everyone is generally prohibited from dealing with them. The non-SDN sanctions lists currently include six more lists administered by OFAC but new non-SDN style lists may always be added if the office deems it necessary.

The above-mentioned OFAC lists have all been merged for the purpose of the Sanctions List Search online tool that employs fuzzy logic on its name search field to look for potential matches.

• UN Sanctions List

The United Nations Security Council Consolidated List includes individuals, entities, and other groups subject to any coercive measures imposed by the Security Council. The consolidation is meant to help with watchlists screening, so be aware that the criteria for listing specific names here are not always the same. For each instance where the measures were imposed in response to a threat, a dedicated Security Council Committee manages the sanctions regime. Each committee publishes the relevant names of individuals and entities, along with any sanctions applicable. The UN member states are required to administer these restrictive measures, as specified on the websites of all the related sanctions committees.

The UN Security Council Consolidated List is available for export in XML, HTML and PDF formats.

• HM Treasury Sanctions List (United Kingdom)

The Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI), part of His Majesty's Treasury (HM Treasury), maintains a sanctions list known as the Consolidated List of Financial Sanctions Targets in the UK. This list includes individuals, entities, and countries that are subject to financial sanctions in the UK under the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018 and other UK legislation. It also details the sanctions measures imposed, and provides a statement of reasons for any UK designations. The HM Treasury updates the combined UK sanctions list regularly (typically on a monthly basis), but updates can be made more frequently if necessary. The criteria for inclusion on the list may involve terrorism, any abuse of human rights, or other activities that pose a threat to the UK national security or foreign policy.

The Consolidated List of Financial Sanctions Targets can be downloaded in XML, CSV, XLSX, PDF, plain text, and XML formats, or accessed online via the OFSI Consolidated List Search.

• EU Sanctions List

The European Union’s Consolidated Financial Sanctions List includes persons, groups, and entities subject to the EU’s financial sanctions and freezing of assets. These restrictive measures serve as a tool to safe-guard the EU's fundamental interests and values, uphold democracy, enforce human rights, execute international law, maintain peace, prevent conflicts, and improve international security. The application of sanctions is mandatory for both the public and private sector. To facilitate this task, the European Commission maintains and updates a combined list of sanctions.

The Consolidated Financial Sanctions List is based on the Official Journal of the EU and can be accessed in CSV, XML, and PDF formats.

• EU Travel Ban List

Other than the Financial Sanctions List, the European Union also maintains the Consolidated List of Travel Bans. This list includes all the persons subject, under EU sanctions, to any travel restrictions. Those targeted on the list cannot enter any of the European Union member states, or travel beyond the borders of their home country if they are an EU citizen.

The Consolidated List of Travel Bans is available as a PDF or an XML file.

• SECO Sanctions List (Switzerland)

Swiss sanctions are imposed through ordinances issued by the Federal Council. All sanctioned individuals, entities, and countries are added to the Sanctions List of the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (“SECO”). Swiss sanctions may, in particular, restrict transactions in goods and services, payment and cash or in-kind transfers, the movement of persons, and any scientific, technological, or cultural exchanges. The imposed measures can also involve prohibitions, licensing and reporting obligations, and other restrictions of rights. Non-compliance with sanctions may result in significant legal and financial penalties.

The full SECO Sanctions List is available in XML format but it is also possible to use the online SECO Sanction Data Search.

• Canadian Sanctions List

Canadian sanctions impose restrictive measures against countries, individuals, or entities accountable for corruption, terrorist activities, killings, torture, and other gross violations of human rights. These measures can restrict or prohibit trade, financial transactions, or other economic activity as well as seize or freeze any property situated in Canada. The Consolidated Canadian Autonomous Sanctions List includes all those sanctioned under the Special Economic Measures Act and the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act. Sanctioned foreign nationals can be denied entry into Canada under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

The Consolidated Canadian Autonomous Sanctions List can be viewed as PDF or XML or searched in the online database.

• Australian Sanctions List

The Consolidated Australian Sanctions List registers all persons and entities subject to Australian sanctions laws. In general, entities can be targeted with financial sanctions, and persons can be subject to both financial sanctions and travel bans. You should check this list before undertaking any activity to ensure you do not contravene Australian sanctions laws. Undertaking any activity connected to a sanctioned person or entity may be treated as a serious criminal offence. Non-compliance with sanctions entails the risk of a penalty of up to 10 years in prison for individuals as well as considerable fines for individuals and corporate bodies.

The Consolidated Australian Sanctions List is published online in a XLSX file.

• UAE Local Terrorist List

The UAE Local Terrorist List has been created to identify individuals and entities that are suspected of terrorism, and those that have already attempted or committed terrorist acts. The Supreme Council for National Security is responsible for maintaining the Local Terrorist List. New entries in that list can be added without any prior notice and regardless of whether criminal proceedings have been initiated. Failure to apply freezing measures within 24 hours after a designation has been made as well as any provision of funds or services for the benefit of the designated individual or entity is punishable by a fine of up to 5 million AED (over 1 million USD), imprisonment of up to seven years, and other appropriate sanctions.

The most recent Local Terrorist List can be downloaded as a PDF or XLS file from the website of UAE’s Executive Office for Control & Non-Proliferation.

• Interpol Red Notice

While this list may not strictly fall under ‘sanctions lists’ (as defined at the beginning of this article), it is still an important list to follow to ensure the safety of your flight, crew, and passengers. The International Criminal Police Organization is an intergovernmental body that helps police around the world increase safety, with shared data on crimes and criminals. A Red Notice is not an international arrest warrant, but rather a worldwide request to help locate and provisionally arrest an individual wanted by any of the Interpol member countries. Extracts of Red Notices are shared at the request of the concerned country as well as to ask for the public's help in finding the wanted individual, or in case of a threat to public safety. However, Interpol member countries apply their own laws when it comes to arresting the searched person.

To check any public Red Notices, you can use Interpol’s online search tool.

The above lists may partly overlap but they also feature unique entries, which makes it all the more important to streamline your screening process for checking all the necessary lists. Seems like an impossible task to complete? It doesn’t have to be!

PnrGo offers a Sanctions Screening tool that automatically scans your passengers, crew members, and aircraft.

How can you perform effective sanctions checks, ensure sanctions compliance, and avoid severe legal consequences?

The challenge that we all face now is how to stay sanction-compliant easily and avoid any unnecessary business damage or legal consequences. The fact that more and more countries and international bodies, such as the UN or EU, have started mass adding new individuals and entities (sometimes a few hundred in one go) to their own separate sanctions lists, makes it really hard to perform sanctions screening manually. Luckily, there are tools that can help make the lives of sales representatives, flight dispatchers, and flight operations officers much easier and less stressful in regards to global sanctions.

PnrGo offers a sanctions screening software built specifically with air operators in mind. It enables both manual and automatic scanning of passengers, entities, and aircraft against all the sanctions lists mentioned in this article (more lists will be added in the future). Manual screening is useful for your sales team at the initial vetting stage, prior to approving any reservations for flights (instead of checking the relevant lists one by one, they can now use a common search tool). With automatic screening, your operations and dispatch teams can receive email notifications and updates as soon as any new matches against any of these lists are found for your crew, passengers, and aircraft. This way you can react in time to keep your business safe and compliant.

If you have any further questions regarding our sanctions screening system, or if there is an additional sanctions list that is important to your business right now, you can contact our Sales Team to discuss what we can do for you.


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