Skip to main content
Blockquote icon
At the time of writing, there are currently 28 countries subject to economic sanctions in the UK regime alone


Under the United Nations, international sanctions have been around for about 50 years. They are restrictive measures aimed at countries, organisations and individuals intended to prevent or settle conflicts, stop nuclear proliferation, combat terrorism and prevent human rights violations.

Any person or organisation who operates internationally needs to make sure they aren’t violating the international sanctions regime by unwittingly doing business with sanctioned individuals or entities. Getting this wrong can have disastrous consequences.

  • Check your counterparties

    Know who you’re dealing with and that they are who they say they are and not hiding behind an opaque company or shady representative. If you’re dealing with a company, make sure you get evidence as to who ultimately owns the company. Once you’ve gathered the information, check the deal makes sense.

    Risk Umbrella

  • Follow the money

    Whether you’re sending or receiving money for goods or services, check where it’s ultimately coming from or going to. This information is vital to understand the potential sanctions risks involved.

  • Check the lists

    Once the information has been collected on the counterparties and you understand the flow of funds, the names of any organisations and individuals involved can be checked against the sanctions lists. The main sanctions lists have been established by the UN, the UK (HM Treasury), the EU and the US (OFAC). However, any government can create sanctions lists.

  • Understand who’s on the list

    Organisations and individuals on the sanctions lists are there because they engage in illegal activities. The types of activities include:

    1. Money laundering
    2. Terrorism
    3. Drug trafficking
    4. Human rights violations
    5. Arms proliferation
    6. Violating international treaties
  • Know the main countries

    Sanctioned organisations and individuals can be located anywhere in the world. However, there are also specific countries that have sanctions placed upon them. It is imperative when doing business internationally that you understand whether the goods, services and transactions are lawful to and from the countries you’re dealing with.

  • Consider the different types of sanctions

    There are several categories of sanctions, some are applied at the individual or organisation level, such as: asset freezes and travel bans. Others are aimed at countries, such as: trade, immigration, diplomatic, environmental and military sanctions.

  • Reduce your sanctions risk

    You can reduce the risk of violating sanctions laws by gathering all your information and checking it against the relevant sanctions lists, plus keeping clear records to evidence this. If you come across a sanctioned individual or organisation trying to do business with you, you must report it to your country’s relevant sanctions enforcement agency. In the UK, there are various agencies, including: the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (financial sanctions); and the Export Control Joint Unit (trade sanctions).

  • Understand the offences

    There are certain criminal offences that have been created in relation to sanctions. In the UK, these make it a crime to make funds available to, or deal with the funds of, a sanctioned individual or organisation, directly or indirectly. In terms of trading in goods or services, if you supply or receive these in breach of sanctions rules, this is also a criminal offence.

  • Know the penalties

    Depending on the category of sanctions breached, penalties can vary. In the case of financial sanctions breaches in the UK, a financial penalty of up to £1,000,000 or 50% of the sum in question, whichever is greater, may be imposed, as well as a prison sentence of up to 7 years. For trade sanctions, the prison sentence may be anywhere up to 10 years.

  • Seek specialist advice

    International sanctions rules are complex and far-reaching, and the consequences for getting it wrong can cause catastrophic damage to organisations, both financially and reputationally. If you’re unsure whether you’re properly complying with the rules, always seek specialist advice.

Corinna Venturi My Inhouse Lawyer

Written by Corinna Venturi
Principal at My Inhouse Lawyer

One of our values (Growth) is, in many ways, all about cultivating a growth mindset. We are passionate about learning, improving and evolving. We learn from each other, use the best know-how tools in the market and constantly look for ways to simplify. Lawskool is our way of sharing with you. It isn’t intended to be legal advice, rather to enlighten you to make smart business decisions day to day with the benefit of some of our insight. We hope you enjoy the experience. There are some really good ideas and tips coming from some of the best inhouse lawyers. Easy to read and practical. If there’s something you’d like us to write about or some feedback you wish to share, feel free to drop us a note. Equally, if it’s legal advice you’re after, then just give us a call on 0207 939 3959.

Like what you see? Book a discovery call

How it works



It starts with a conversation about you.  What you want and the experience you’re looking for



We design something that works for you whether it’s monthly, flex, solo, multi-team or includes legal tech



We use Workplans to map out the work to be done and when.  We are responsive and transparent

Like to know more? Book a discovery call

Freedom to choose & change


A responsive inhouse experience delivered via a rolling monthly engagement that can be scaled up or down by you. Monthly Workplans capture scope, timings and budget for transparency and control


A more reactive yet still responsive inhouse experience for legal and compliance needs as they arise.  Our Workplans capture scope, timings and budget putting you in control


For those one-off projects such as M&A or compliance yet delivered the My Inhouse Lawyer way. We agree scope, timings and budget before each piece of work begins

Ready to get started? Book a discovery call

How we can help

Help Boxes Desktop
Help Boxes Mobile

Like what you see? Book a discovery call

Recent Posts

8 May 2024

An introduction to Incoterms

7 May 2024

An introduction to employee ownership

18 April 2024

Wrongful trading and the twilight zone

9 April 2024

Getting your business ready for sale

28 February 2024

About Shareholders’ Agreements

28 February 2024

Restrictive covenants & beyond

29 January 2024

Data subject access requests

16 January 2024

Getting to know your company books

22 November 2023

How to avoid a dispute

7 November 2023

Directors’ conflicts of interests