On November 15, 2018, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned 17 officials of the Government of Saudi Arabia for their purported role in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The individuals include Saud Al-Qahtani, the now former royal court adviser and consultant to crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, and General Mohammed Alotaibi, Saudi Arabia’s consul general in Istanbul. This followed outreach on October 10, 2018 from leaders of both parties in the U.S. Senate to President Trump seeking a determination on the imposition of sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act with respect to any foreign person responsible for a human rights violation in connection with the death of Mr. Khashoggi.
This sanctions announcement is limited to the named individuals, and no broader sanctions apply to Saudi Arabia or its government. The 17 officials have been added to OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) List. This means that the individuals are considered blocked parties and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any transactions with the officials. Moreover, any SDN property or property interests that enter U.S. jurisdiction, including US Dollars transiting the U.S. financial system, must be blocked and reported to OFAC. OFAC also applies sanctions to entities owned 50% or more by a designated person.
Sanctions were imposed pursuant Executive Order (E.O.) 13818, which implements the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act. The Global Magnitsky Act authorizes sanctions against those determined to have been, among other things:
Responsible for or complicit in, serious human rights abuse;
A current or former government official who is responsible for or complicit in corruption; or
A current or former leader or official of any entity, including a government entity, engaged in the above.
In its press release, OFAC noted that all 17 officials were determined to be responsible for, or complicit in, or having directly or indirectly engaged in serious human rights abuse. The U.S. government has been active in enforcing the Global Magnitsky Act via E.O. 13818, with the Trump Administration now having made 101 Global Magnitsky designations since issuing the E.O. in December 2017.