US doubles down on sanctions against Ortega regime

The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has added another family member to its growing list of sanctioned individuals close to Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega.

The agency placed Ortega’s son, Rafael Antonio Ortega Murillo, and three companies on the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN) List for allegedly financing and laundering money to the regime.

The two companies owned or operated by Rafael Ortega are Inversiones Zanzibar, S.A. and Servicio De Proteccion Y Vigilancia, S.A. OFAC said in early 2019 Rafael Ortega diversified Ortega family financial holdings by acquiring gas stations under “figurehead names” in advance of the expected sanctions.

OFAC said one of Rafeal Ortega’s companies, Distribuidor Nicaraguense de Petroleo S.A. (DNP), is also controlled by Nicaraguan Vice President and First Lady Rosario Maria Murillo De Ortega. DNP has been used by the Ortega family for winning noncompetitive contracts with Nicaraguan government institutions, according to the agency.

“Rafael Ortega is the key money manager behind the Ortega family’s illicit financial schemes,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a statement.

As a result of OFAC’s action, all property and interests in property of Rafael Ortega and of any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50% or more by him that are in the U.S. or in the possession or control of U.S. persons are now blocked. 

OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all dealings by U.S. persons with individuals and entities on the SDN List.