How the US Treasury imposes sanctions on me and every other "Stephen Law" on the planet - my letter to OFAC
This correspondence is copied to my UK Member of Parliament The Right Hon. Andrew Smith. Please copy him into your reply.
My name is "Stephen Law". The name "Stephen Law" appear on OFAC's "specially designated nationals" list:
Here is the actual OFAC listing for "Stephen Law", alias of "Steven Law"
This person is Burmese and is suspected by US Treasury of drug trafficking. He is the son of Lo Hsing Han (dubbed by US Treasury as "The Godfather of Heroin") and has a Singaporean wife. His addresses, as listed by you, are all in Burma and Singapore. None are in the UK.
I have discovered that, as a result of this listing, US Customs block shipments of goods to me here in the UK. Also when people try to wire me money from abroad (not just from the US, but from anywhere), for e.g. occasional travel expenses for academic conference attendance, the payment is interrupted and various checks are made before the funds are released. This became so bad during one period (a series of payments every single one of which triggered a block) that I had to switch to a different bank account. At no point was I told why this was happening (i.e. that you, OFAC, are responsible). The banks concerned believe they must keep this information from me (I was told this by my bank branch). Hence it took me many months to figure out what the source of the problem was: OFAC/US Treasury.
It appears any "Stephen Law" anywhere in the world will suffer this same treatment, as indeed will anyone who merely happens to have the same name or alias as one of your "specially designated nationals". This has proved frustrating, time-consuming and also costly to me personally. E.g. I have paid US$77 postage for goods it turns out I can never receive because they are returned by US customs to the US vendor because my name is listed. As a result of the OFAC listing, I cannot now order goods from - or receive gifts from friends and relatives in - the United States.
Can you inform me: given I am very obviously NOT the Burmese Stephen Law:
(i) how I can avoid having all goods shipped to me from the US to my UK address being blocked and returned to sender by US customs?
(ii) how I can avoid my own bank repeatedly asking me who I am (and requesting information including my DOB, which they already possess) before unblocking any payment from abroad?
My bank knows who I am, and they know I am not the Burmese "Stephen Law" on the specially designated nationals list, but still I have to go through this same rigmarole every single time money is wired to me. How do I avoid this please?
PS Ofac-caused delays to payments to me can run into weeks. On one occasion I ran up overdraft charges as a result of not receiving funds blocked by OFAC.
PPS I was interviewed by Foreign Policy magazine about all this a short while ago.Also interviewed by News Hour on BBC World Service.
PPS OFAC just phoned me and suggested I have my DOB and passport number put on all parcels posted from US and all money transfers, plus a note to contact them in case of problems. It's worth a try....
PPPS Have tried doing as OFAC suggeted (though I won't put my passport number on packages because of the obvious risk of identity theft). Did not work. Parcels still blocked. A parcel was blocked that gave my full name, date of birth, information regarding OFAC listing and that I was obviously not the OFAC-listed person. Still blocked.