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Airbnb says it may have violated international sanctions; admits ‘significant monetary penalties’ possible

Airbnb

By Dan Byrne for AMLi

HOME-SHARING GIANT Airbnb has voluntarily offered up information which may prove it went against US sanction rules.

According to public offering document filed by the company Monday, it is now in discussions with the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) about some of its activities which may have come in conflict with US sanctions against foreign states and individuals.

Airbnb began the discussions following an internal review – the results of which were submitted to OFAC in September.

Current talks centre around Airbnb’s business in Cuba, which began to bloom as relations normalised between the Caribbean nation and the United States under Barack Obama.

Restrictions and sanctions re-tightened when Donald Trump assumed the Presidency in 2017.

As a result of the ongoing deliberation regarding Airbnb’s actions in Cuba, the company “could be subject to potentially significant monetary civil penalties and litigation… brand reputation could be materially adversely affected,” according to the filed documents.

It is also understood that OFAC had previously issued “cautionary letters” to the company following self-disclosures about Ukraine-related sanctions.

The US had issued a number of sanctions against Russian or pro-Russian bodies and individuals deemed to have played a part in the annexation of the Ukrainian territory to Russia in 2014 – a move still unrecognised internationally.

Separately, Airbnb has made similar reports of potentially harmful dealings with entities sanctions by the UK or EU, the documents said.

The company acknowledges it may be required to alter internal controls to ensure similar issues don’t surface in future.

The news comes as the latest in a string of examples showing that sanction violations can return and haunt some of the biggest businesses worldwide.

As recently as September, the American arm of Deutsche Bank was hit with a fine of over half a million dollars for handling cash for individuals involved in the Ukranian crisis, and previously sanctioned by OFAC.

At the time, OFAC acknowledged that the actions of these “large and commercially sophisticated” organisations was harmful to the US sanctions program.

Financial sanctions against individuals and organisations continue to be a major part of western foreign policy – particularly amongst the US, UK and EU governments. 

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