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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, the world’s politics can stand in the way of your help to friends and family in sanctioned countries.

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

Canada 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, you should avoid pursuing them. If you send money to an intermediary to get around sanctions in Canada, you may face tough legal and financial consequences.

Sanctioned countries

Financial prohibitions prohibit persons in Canada and Canadians outside Canada from conducting financial transactions with, or on behalf of certain listed persons. Canada’s sanctions apply financial prohibition provisions on the following countries:

  • Eritrea
  • Iran
  • Libya
  • North Korea
  • Russia
  • South Sudan
  • Syria
  • Ukraine
  • Venezuela
  • Yemen
  • Zimbabwe

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 Canada with money laundering.

What is money laundering?

Money laundering is any activity that illegally obtains money and attempts to conceal the source, destination or identity of those funds. In Canada, money laundering is illegal under federal and state laws. The specific laws about what constitutes money laundering and its prosecution may differ. However, if you’re convicted of money laundering crimes, you can face years in prison and significant fines.

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.

Note that Canada has the discretion to grant you special permission to send money to family members in countries like Iran. You must be able to prove that your funds are not for commercial purposes, and how much you send could be limited.

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 Canada to a sanctioned nation is illegal unless a lawyer tells you otherwise. Always assume that you can’t do something indirectly that you wouldn’t be able to do directly.

Compare money transfer services here and see supported countries.

Frequently asked questions

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Written by

Adrienne Fuller

Adrienne Fuller is the former head of publishing at Finder US. With a decade of experience creating guides in finance and education, she aimed to deliver the accurate and transparent information she wished she had when she made some of life's important financial decisions. Adrienne has a BA from Colorado College and loves to hike with her two Catahoula dogs. See full profile

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