Legal challenge for medical tourism agencies in Iran


On November 5, 2018, wind-down periods for transactions with Iran ended. The second and final set of US secondary sanctions that had been lifted pursuant to the Iran nuclear deal (known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA) came back into effect.

Companies engaging in or facilitating sanctionable or prohibited business after November 5 now face a significant risk of sanctions or enforcement action by the US government.

Any medical tourism agency targeting Iranians or sending people to Iran could run into legal trouble if they also target US patients, send people to the USA, or deal with US based or owned companies. With it being impossible to use any debit or credit card payments in Iran, or send money to Iran, even EU or US individuals will have problems in paying for hotels or hospitals.

US secondary sanctions

US secondary sanctions on Iran affect many activities engaged in by non-US companies. The secondary sanctions that came back into force on November 5 targets:

  • Transactions by foreign financial institutions with the Central Bank of Iran, most Iranian financial institutions and most Iranian companies
  • The provision of underwriting services, insurance, or reinsurance

November 5 also marked the end of the wind-down authorisation for US-owned or -controlled foreign entities, which are again subject to the US primary sanctions regime with respect to Iran.

Transactions related to the provision of medicine and medical devices to Iran remain authorised for US companies and US-owned or -controlled foreign entities.

Businesses need to carefully assess their potential exposure to US sanctions now that the pre-JCPOA sanctions regime is back, while also taking into account other considerations, such as the EU Blocking Regulation.

EU Blocking Regulation

The European Union and its Member States have declared that they will stick to their obligations and intend to counter the re-imposed US sanctions. So, any business in the EU that wants to do business in Iran is caught between a rock and a hard place with conflicting USA and EU laws.

In addition to the so-called Blocking Statute which prohibits EU-based individuals and entities (including foreign subsidiaries of US companies) from complying with the re-imposed US sanctions – the EU, as part of its commitment along with China and Russia to preserve effective financial channels with Iran, initiated and proceeded with the creation of a ‘Special Purpose Vehicle’ to facilitate payments for Iran trade. Given the aggressive enforcement posture of the US, it remains unclear whether such measures can succeed, with many EU and other companies already ending their operations in or with Iran as a result of the US sanctions.

The US has been consistent and clear in messaging that it intends to aggressively enforce the re-imposed Iran sanctions.

Companies around the world engaged in Iran-related activities, whether directly or indirectly, should carefully evaluate any such transactions and undertake appropriate diligence measures in light of the legal and reputational risks of falling under the scrutiny of the US government.



Do you have some news or a press release that you’d like to share with the medical travel industry?

Publish for FREE on IMTJ.


Related News

Cayman Island reopens borders

10 August, 2020

Protocols could restrict medical travel to Caymans

Thailand opens for medical travellers

07 July, 2020

Strict tests required for inbound patients to Thailand

Outbound UAE medical travel

07 July, 2020

UAE patients allowed to travel abroad

EU co-ordinates contact tracing

29 June, 2020

COVID-19: plan for seamless cross-border tracing across Europe

Repurposing Cayman Island healthcare

24 June, 2020

Health City is testing for COVID-19 immunity