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How can I send money to someone in a country with sanctions?

Sending money worldwide has never been easier – but what can you do when loved ones are in a country with sanctions?

Unfortunately, world politics can stand in the way of being able to help your friends and family in sanctioned countries.

Sanctions take into consideration the political climate of a country, its human rights record and the people and organisations within it that the Australian government wants to avoid financially supporting.

Australia currently has economic sanctions on countries like Iran, North Korea and Syria. While you may discover options to get around these sanctions to support friends and family, the government often considers these to be illegal.

A note on Myanmar and Côte d'Ivoire

After many years of sanctions against Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Australia officially announced that the government would lift its long-standing trade sanctions in September 2016, in accordance with the UN Security Council. That said, many banks and money transfers have yet to establish themselves there. Before you complete your transfer, first confirm that your selected provider is able to fully deliver your funds.

On the other hand, Myanmar (sometimes called Burma) had sanctions lifted against it in 2012 but reinstated partly in October 2018. You'll still be able to send money to Myanmar, but be wary of only sending money to friends and family you know well.

Sanctioned nations

There are over a dozen countries that Australia has sanctions against, which you can read more about on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's website (DFAT), but only a few that you can't send money to from Australia.

  • Iran. Australia first sanctioned Iran after the Iranian Revolution in 1979, further expanding economic sanctions when Iran refused to give up its uranium enrichment program for nuclear weapons. However, some of these sanctions were dropped in 2015.
  • North Korea. Australia has no diplomatic relations with North Korea due to its lack of democracy, freedom and basic human rights.
  • Syria. Australia placed economic sanctions on the country as civil war swept throughout the nation and President Assad was accused of supporting terrorist groups and violating the basic human rights of Syrians.
  • Sudan. The UN Security Council placed sanctions on Sudan due to the humanitarian crisis and human rights violations, and Australia follows these sanctions. While you can't send money to Sudan, you're still able to send money to South Sudan.

Sending money to sanctioned countries – and the potential consequences

There are ways that people have chosen to get around these economic sanctions. But we stress that doing so is illegal and exposes you to severe legal and financial penalties.

If you choose to route your money through a country that doesn’t have sanctions against your intended destination – the UK, for example – you could be charged by Australia with money laundering.

If you hold a bank account in another country as a resident of that nation, research the rules in place for sending money to a sanctioned nation from that account.

What is money laundering?

Money laundering takes illegally obtained money and attempts to conceal the source, destination or identity of those funds. In Australia, it's illegal. If you're convicted of money laundering crimes, you may face prison time or significant fines.

When in doubt

If you’re in doubt as to whether you can send money to a sanctioned country, always assume that transferring funds from Australia to a sanctioned nation is illegal unless a lawyer tells you otherwise.

For more information about sending money to these countries, look into DFAT's list of sanction nations.

Compare money transfer services here and see supported countries

Frequently asked questions

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Adrienne Fuller

Adrienne Fuller leads the publishing team over at finder.com. She has one goal: to deliver the accurate and transparent information she wishes she had when she made some of life's important financial decisions. When she's not helping folks save money, she's hiking with her two Catahoulas around her home in San Diego.

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