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Sanction and Embargoes

Al Hilal Bank Sanctions Policy Statement

United Arab Emirates (UAE), as a member of the UN, is committed to implement the United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs), including those related to UN sanctions regimes. Consequently, through the Cabinet Resolution No. 74 of 2020, the UAE is implementing UNSCRs on the suppression and combating of terrorism, terrorist financing & countering the financing of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, in particular targeted financial sanctions (TFS) regimes as defined by the UN.

Sanctions have taken several different forms, in pursuit of a variety of goals. The measures have ranged from comprehensive economic and trade sanctions to more targeted measures such as arms embargoes, travel bans, and financial or commodity restrictions. The United Nations Security Council has applied sanctions to support peaceful transitions, deter non-constitutional changes, constrain terrorism, protect human rights, and promote non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).

Al Hilal Bank (AHB) AHB is committed to complying with the sanctions laws and regulations of the United Arab Emirates UAE, United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs), the United States Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC), the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom, as well as other applicable sanctions laws and regulations in the jurisdictions in which AHB operates, subject to the primacy of local laws and regulations.

AHB Sanctions Policy defines the minimum standards which all AHB entities must comply with, including:

  • Prohibiting business activity, including prohibitions on commencing or continuing customer relationships or providing products or services or facilitating transactions that AHB believes may violate applicable sanctions laws. This includes prohibitions on business activity with individuals or entities named on a sanctions list or activity, directly or indirectly, involving countries or territories subject to sanctions. As of October 2019, these countries and territories include (Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria and the Crimea region).
  • Compliance with applicable sanctions laws may result in delays to the processing of customer transactions while additional due diligence is conducted and information obtained on the nature of the underlying transaction or the parties involved.
  • AHB may be required under applicable sanctions laws, regulations or AHB Sanctions Policy to Block or reject transactions where they fall outside of AHB’s risk appetite.
  • AHB is required to report breaches of sanctions laws to the relevant regulatory authority. This can include any attempt by a customer to evade sanctions laws.

AHB may, in its sole discretion, also decide not to process transactions, provide products or services or otherwise facilitate transactions even where permitted by applicable sanctions laws and regulations where these activities fall outside of AHB risk appetite.

Clients brief explanation of the Complex legislation

Al Hilal Bank does what it can to help its customers understand how these changes may potentially impact their Transactions.

While most businesses will rarely be affected by sanctions and embargoes, the consequences for breaking the rules can be severe. So we suggest you study this page carefully and, if necessary, seek independent legal advice before entering into any transaction with international clients or their agents.

In this page you’ll find a straight forward summary of sanctions and embargoes – how they work, your obligations as a business and the potential penalties for non-compliance.

What is “Sanctions” ?

A sanction is a restriction that’s imposed on a country, a specific person, a legal entity or an organisation. They’re used by governments as a non-violent foreign policy tools to fight activities such as financial crime, human rights abuses, the sheltering of international criminals, nuclear weapons development and terrorism.

Sanctions affect financial institutions such as AL Hilal Bank (and their customers) because they place restrictions and controls on the movement of goods, services and money. We, and our customers, are legally bound to adhere to the sanctions imposed by relevant jurisdictions. Typical restrictions associated with sanctions include:

  • Prohibiting the transfer of funds to and/or from a sanction country and/or Specifically Designated Nationals (SDN);
  • Freezing the assets of a government, entity, individual or resident of a sanctioned country;
  • Prohibiting particular types of activities;
  • Imposing travel bans; and
  • Other financial and diplomatic restrictions.

What is an “Embargo”?

An embargo is a unilateral or collective restriction on the import or export of goods, materials, capital or services into or from a specific country or group of countries. Embargoes are similar to sanctions and are legal barriers to trade.

AL Hilal Bank, and our customers, are legally bound to adhere to embargoes imposed by relevant jurisdictions. What are the penalties for failing to comply with a sanction or embargo?

Infringements of sanctions or embargoes, or dealing with Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs), are regarded as serious offences with severe penalties to match, including seizure of goods, significant fines and even imprisonment.

On top of these penalties, your transactions and your business could be placed at risk. For example, your payments may be confiscated or your funds frozen, restricting your cash flow. You may also be subject to increased due diligence by regulators, financial institutions and counter parties on your future transactions and activities, or financial institutions will refuse to handle transactions on behalf of your company. Ultimately, it’s highly likely that your business reputation will be significantly damaged.

What sort of transactions should I be wary of?

If you or your business are involved in any of the following transactions, you may be at risk:

  • You make a payment to someone who is subject to sanctions or embargoes (SDN);
  • You make a payment to someone in a sanctioned country, even if their account is located in a non-sanctioned country.
  • The movement of funds or goods in your transaction involves a party that’s subject to sanctions or embargoes (for example airlines, banks, shipping vessels and ports).
  • Consider transhipment risks. Certain sanctions effect the classification and treatment of goods even if they are just transiting through a country subject to sanction e.g. goods transiting through Iran to a 3rd country destination would be treated as being of Iranian origin from a US sanctions compliance perspective.

The different types of sanctions:

Multilateral - These are sanctions adopted by more than one country against another country. They’re usually issued by super national bodies such as the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), the European Union or the Arab League; and

Autonomous - These are sanctions adopted by just one country against another country. They’re usually issued by domestic government bodies such as the USA Office of Foreign Asset

Asset and Control (OFAC), USA Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS); or Her Majesty’s Treasury (HMT) in the UK. Sanctions aren’t always imposed on an entire country; there are various forms of targeted sanctions, including: SDN’s.

Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs)

SDNs can be individuals or entities (such as financial institutions, companies, shipping vessels, ports or airlines) and they can be located anywhere in the world.

Authorities designate SDNs for a number of reasons. They may be linked to human rights abuses, nuclear proliferation, terrorism, narcotics trafficking, transnational criminal organizations, or they may support sanctioned regimes.

In most cases, entities that are beneficially owned by or significantly linked to an SDN will also be considered an SDN

Goods and Services

Common sanctioned goods and services range from weapons and rough diamonds to the provision of higher education in specific sciences. The sanctions cover the supply, sale, transfer, maintenance and provision of training in these goods or services, and include fund transfers related to their trade.

Arms embargoes

Arms embargoes prohibit the trade of certain weaponry as well as products and technologies that may normally be used for civilian purposes but which have military applications (Dual Use Goods). These items commonly require an export trade licence.

Keeping up with changes

The nature of sanctions and embargoes means that they’re subject to frequent and sometimes sudden changes. They can be imposed at any time and by any country, international organization or super national body. In general, the effect is immediate.

All financial institutions have a duty to ensure that they comply with applicable sanction and embargo regimes. Failing to do so could lead to significant regulatory enforcement action, fines, criminal charges in the UAE or elsewhere, and serious reputation damage.

That’s why we, or our correspondent banks, may request certain information about the nature of your business transactions and activities, to determine whether you are complying with current sanction and embargo regimes.

If you don’t provide all of the information we request from you, we may not be able to complete your financial transaction and your relationship with our bank and the reputation with the wider financial community may be at risk.


Circumvention is the taking of specific action to avoid detection of the involvement of SDN or country subject to sanctions in a transaction. For example this would include

  • Omitting or altering details in payment instruction
  • Altering or misrepresenting the port of loading or port of discharge on a Bill of Lading or airports on an Air Waybill
  • Routing of payment via an unconnected 3rd party with no apparent commercial involvement or interest in the transaction
  • Providing fake or tampered documentation to support a transaction
  • All of the above activity would be seen as criminal / fraudulent activity and an offence under federal laws.
  • Al Hilal Bank, and our Correspondent Banks, takes an extremely strong stance where this activity is identified and will likely exit the client relationship and, in most cases, any other relationships with parties involved.

Who implements sanctions and embargoes?

  • UAE – Central Bank of the UAE is responsible for the implementation of UAE sanctions lists, Arab League, and other sanctions and embargoes from time to time within the banking industry.
  • United Nations – The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is responsible for implementing United Nations sanctions and embargoes. All member countries under the Charter of the United Nations are obliged to abide by UN sanctions.
  • European Union – The EU implements sanctions and embargoes (commonly referred to as ‘restrictive measures’ in the EU) under the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) framework. EU sanctions and embargoes apply to all EU member states.
  • United Kingdom – Her Majesty’s Treasury (HMT) is responsible for the implementation and administration of international financial sanctions and embargoes in the UK.
  • United States –The United States Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is principally responsible for administering and enforcing autonomous US sanctions and embargoes however the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) of the U.S. Department of Commerce also administer a number of sanctions in additional to controll and licensing of exports form the United States.

Al Hilal Bank maintain a correspondent relation with the UK, EU, and USA Banks and has foreign currency clearing relationships with many of the leading international banks, It must therefore comply with the regulations of their jurisdictions.

For more information

Please see links below and seek independent legal advice.

Should you still then have a specific transaction you would like AHB to consider assisting you with then please contact your Relationship Manager or Branch who will be able to direct your enquiry to the correct department.

We would ask that you do not agree to participate in a transaction which may have a connection to a sanctioned country/party without first speaking with the bank.

Important: The information contained in this guide is general in nature and has been prepared by Al Hilal Bank PJSC (AHB) to assist its customers in understanding sanctions and embargoes. It is not intended to act as specific advice nor does it purport to contain all matters relevant to your circumstances or any specific transaction. As the environment relating to sanctions and embargoes is dynamic and evolving, this information is subject to change without notice. In particular, you should note that UAE specific circulars relating to economic sanctions may only be issued to concerned institutions and not issued generally to the public. We are not under any duty to update or correct it. All information should be checked for accuracy, currency and completeness. Current information can be obtained from

  • UN -
  • UAE Executive Office’s official website for the most recent publication of the UAE Sanctions List (UAE Local Terrorist List), issued by the UAE Cabinet: Website of the Executive Office
  • UNSC Consolidated List: Website of the UNSC
  • European Union Sanctions: website of the EU
  • UK Sanctions List - Website of the UK
  • USA - OFAC – Website of USA Office of Foreign Asset Control
  • USA - BIS – Website of Bureau of industry and Security

Website data correct at time of going to press.

Disclaimer and Limitation of Liability

To the fullest extent permitted under law, the following clauses exclude or limit our legal liability for the information contained in these publication, materials, documents and/or webpages (collectively, the “Materials”). You should read them carefully. The Materials have been prepared in accordance with the guidance of UAE Banks Federation and it is for general information purposes only. Whilst we have taken reasonable steps to ensure factual accuracy of the information contained in the Materials, information is provided herewith in good faith on an "as is where is" and "as available" basis and we do not make any representation or warranty of any kind, whether expressed or implied, as to the currency, availability, completeness and reliability of the information contained in the Materials. The information and all things provided herein may be inaccurate, incomplete or out of date by its time of publication or be corrupted, lost, destroyed, in part or in whole. Accordingly, we do not accept any responsibility arising in any way (including negligence) for any risks associated with use of the anything provided in these Materials, in particular without limitation: the technical errors in the information contained in the Materials. The use of the Materials and any platform which publishes these Materials is at your sole risk. We shall not be liable for any losses or damages or expenses (including legal costs) whatsoever arising out of or referable to the Materials or accessed through the platform containing the Materials. To the extent that it does not satisfy the laws of the country in which you reside or from which you are accessing the Materials, then the Materials are not directed to you. We do not represent or warrant that the Materials will be available and meet your requirements, that access will be uninterrupted, that there will be no delays, failures, errors or loss of transmitted information, and where delivered electronically that no viruses or other contaminating or destructive software properties that may be transmitted or that no damage will occur to your computer system. You have sole responsibility for adequate protection and back up of data and/or equipment and to undertake reasonable and appropriate precautions to scan for computer viruses or other destructive properties.

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