Sanctions laws and regulations are a critical tool used by governments to achieve foreign policy objectives. They are economic measures that countries use to restrict trade, financial transactions, or other economic activities with targeted countries, entities, or individuals. These measures are implemented to penalise certain countries or entities for violating international norms or to promote compliance with international law. Sanctions laws and regulations are a vital part of international relations, and understanding them is crucial for any business, investor, or individual who engages in global commerce.

Areas of expertise

Sanctions Services

Types of Sanctions

Sanctions can take different forms, depending on the situation and objectives of the country imposing them. Common types of sanctions include trade restrictions, financial sanctions (‘asset freezes’), travel bans, and arms embargoes. Trade restrictions may include bans on imports and exports of certain goods or services, while financial sanctions may prohibit the provision of financial services, such as loans or investments, to targeted entities or individuals. Travel bans can restrict the movement of individuals, while arms embargoes can prevent the transfer of weapons and military equipment.

One of the most significant challenges of sanctions is ensuring that they do not harm innocent people or businesses. Sanctions can have unintended consequences, such as causing economic hardship for the people of the targeted country or hurting businesses that rely on trade with that country. As a result, many countries and organisations have implemented safeguards to prevent unintended consequences.

UK, US and EU sanctions authorities

In the United Kingdom, the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI) was established to ‘…ensure that financial sanctions are properly understood, implemented and enforced’ in the jurisdiction. The statutory basis of the UK sanctions’ regime includes the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018, the Counter Terrorism Act 2008 and the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001. Since the start of the war in Ukraine the UK government has introduced further targeted sanctions under the provisions of Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act 2022.

In the United States, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), is responsible for administering and enforcing economic sanctions against targeted countries, entities, and individuals. OFAC’s regulations provide detailed guidance on how to comply with sanctions laws and regulations, including instructions on identifying and blocking the assets of sanctioned entities and individuals.

In the European Union, the European External Action Service (EEAS), is responsible for implementing the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy, including its sanctions regime. The EEAS provides guidance and support to EU member states and businesses on how to comply with EU sanctions laws and regulations.

International joint sanctions

There has been a growing trend towards coordinated sanctions by multiple countries to maximise their impact.  The United Kingdom, United States and the EU having implemented joint sanctions against Russia for its annexation of Crimea and that coordination has continued following the conflict in eastern Ukraine. However, the effectiveness of these coordinated sanctions depends on the cooperation and coordination among the participating countries.

Sanctions laws and regulations are critical tools for the UK and US government to achieve foreign policy objectives. They can take different forms, including trade restrictions, financial sanctions, travel bans, and arms embargoes, and can have unintended consequences. As such, it is essential for businesses, investors, and individuals to understand sanctions laws and regulations and to comply with them to avoid legal and financial penalties. Cooperation and coordination among countries are also crucial for the effective implementation of sanctions and achieving their intended objectives.

Prevention is better than a cure

How Richardson Lissack can help

It is essential for businesses, investors, and individuals to understand sanction laws and regulations and to comply with them to avoid legal and financial penalties.

Our lawyers are available to assist you and provide legal advice.

Contact London 020 3753 5352 or Manchester 0161 834 7284. Alternatively you can email

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