Return to Sender: Packages Returned Due to OFAC Sanctions

We have been getting an increasing number of calls relating to shipments being returned due to OFAC sanctions. Most people are perplexed that these seemingly innocuous shipments would be in violation of U.S. economic sanctions administered by the United States Department of the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). However, it is important to understand that the liability for a violation is not only upon the shipper but also upon the company facilitating the shipment. As such, shipping and delivery services are becoming more sensitive to facilitating these shipments.

Essentially, once a package has been returned to you “due to OFAC sanctions” there could be a number of reasons why the package was rejected. Here are some common questions you should ask yourself if you find a package returned to you “due to OFAC sanctions”:

1. Was the package destined for Iran, Sudan or Cuba and lacking a description of the contents?

2. Was the shipment to any of those countries an unlicensed commercial shipment?

3. Was the shipment a personal gift destined for an individual in Iran or Sudan, with a stated value exceeding $100?

All of these reasons can form the basis of shipping companies’ refusal to process such packages. As mentioned above, if the shipping companies were to process the shipment, not only could you be liable for attempting to send such packages, but the shipping companies also could be liable for their role in processing them.

As always engaging in any type of transactions with a sanctioned country can be perilous. In order, to ensure that you are full compliance with U.S. law always check the OFAC website and in particular the information relating to that country based sanctions program. If you are still unable to decipher whether your transaction will be authorized, contact and OFAC attorney who is experienced in navigating OFAC rules and regulations.

The author of this blog is Erich Ferrari, an attorney specializing in OFAC matters. If you have any questions please contact him at 202-280-6370 or

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