MALTESE CITIZEN DETAINED IN SAUDI CRACKDOWN
The Malta Independent on 31st December reported that Saudi media mogul Waleed Al Ibrahim, detained in the corruption crackdown in Saudi Arabia, is amongst those listed as having acquired a Maltese passport last year, and is therefore now a Maltese citizen, according to a list published in the Government Gazette.
HOW GARDAÍ HAVE PUSHED THE KINAHAN CARTEL TO THE BRINK OF COLLAPSE IN 12 MONTHS
The Journal in Ireland on 31st December carried an article about the downfall of the Kinahan cartel. In 2016 they were a force to be reckoned with based in the south inner city areas of Crumlin and Drimnagh. A callous murder followed an indiscriminate one, the gunmen knew they would be safe. They were well paid and had been promised to be protected from harm – both physical and judicial in the aftermath of the killings they carried out.
BELGIAN FINANCE MINISTER HAS ASKED EUROCONTROL TO GIVE HIM DATA ON PRIVATE JETS REGISTERED IN TAX HAVENS
The Brussels Times carries an article saying that to be able to fly in Europe, private jet owners – even those officially registered in tax havens – have to pay contributions to the Eurocontrol air traffic control system every year. In the Paradise Papers, newspapers found Eurocontrol invoices addressed to locations in tax havens, but it has refused to provide figures regarding the number of private jets which are billed to addresses in tax havens. But now the Belgian Finance Minister has requested access to this data. He also requested figures for Eurocontrol’s other 40 member countries. The data Eurocontrol and other organisations collect can be a precious source of information for many countries in their fight against tax fraud. This is an international goal”, says the Minister.
HEZBOLLAH AND IRAN IN LATIN AMERICA
On 31st December Global Risk Insights carries an article about Hezbollah and Iran in Latin America, saying that terrorists groups originating from the Middle East are increasingly co-operating with local criminal elements and drug cartels. It asks, what are Middle Eastern networks doing in faraway Latin America? The Iranian regime associates with the Bolivarian Alliance of the Countries of Our America (ALBA), a group created by Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, which resists the US through political and economic means. According to the US government, Iran has relied on Latin America to evade sanctions by signing economic and security agreements in order to create a network of diplomatic and economic relationships. Among all of Iran and Hezbollah’s allies in Latin America, Venezuela is perhaps the most important. For example, Iran’s Parchin Chemical Industries, subject to US, UN and EU sanctions, set up facilities in Venezuela. Another area of concern is identified as the tri-border area between Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina – the article claims that it has been estimated that Hezbollah cumulatively nets some $20 million a year from this area alone. The article also claims that Hezbollah and Iran are able to partially bypass US sanctions by taking advantage of an arrangement known as “nesting” – where a foreign financial institution gains access to the US financial system by operating through a US correspondent account belonging to another foreign financial institution.
GERMANY ALLEGES RYANAIR TAX FRAUD
Channel News Asia on 31st December reported that German prosecutors had charged 5 employees of a British recruitment agency working with Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair over millions of euros in allegedly unpaid social security payments for its pilots. No Ryanair staff were among the accused but “investigations against employees of Ryanair over incitement to the alleged activities continue,” said the prosecution service in the western city of Koblenz. The 5 employees of 2 British-based recruitment agencies allegedly withheld a total of about €6 million in social security contributions for 277 pilots flying Germany routes for Ryanair.
TAX PENALTIES CONSIDERED BY UK TO FORCE TECH GIANTS TO CO-OPERATE WITH TERRORISM FIGHT
The Belfast Telegraph on 31st December reported that Internet companies such as Twitter and Facebook could be penalised through taxes if they fail to co-operate with UK Government efforts to fight terrorism and tackle online extremism, a minister has said.
USAF BEGINS PROGRAMME TO REPLACE MINUTEMAN ICBM
The February 2018 edition of the Air Force Magazine reports that the USAF has begun its efforts to field a next-generation ICBM system to replace the Minuteman. It announced in August the award of 2 contracts for technology maturation and risk reduction (TMRR) work. The contracts, to Boeing and Northrop Grumman, pave the way for replacing the Minuteman III with what is being called the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD). One will be chosen in 2020 to build the system.
RARE EARTH ELEMENTS: NATIONAL SECURITY ISSUE FOR THE US?
If you want to have one more thing to potentially worry over, the February 2018 edition of Air Force Magazine from the USAF carries an article saying that a long list of obscure elements are vital for advanced electronics and military systems, and that China has cornered the market. It refers to yttrium, dysprosium, samarium, neodymium. They are rare-earth elements (REE) — described as little-known but crucial ingredients in much modern US military aerospace technology. It cites the example of a small, high-power laser weapon that the Air Force Research Laboratory wants to test in a tactical fighter aircraft by 2021. Its active gain medium is a flexible optical fibre infused with a rare-earth element such as erbium or neodymium. Furthermore, rare-earth elements are widely used in strong, permanent magnets impervious to temperature extremes, and are used in fin actuators, in missile guidance, and control systems; disk drive motors installed in aircraft and tanks; satellite communications; and radar and sonar systems. It claims that until the 80s, the US was the leader in mining and production of the substances, but now China is the source of over 90% of rare-earth oxides and the producer of a majority of the globe’s strongest rare-earth magnets. The article says that the largest rare-earth mine, by far, is at Baiyun Obo in the Inner Mongolia.
UK PROPOSAL FOR A VOLUNTEER BORDER FORCE
On 30th December the Mail Online reported that a “Dad’s Army” of unpaid border guards is set to be Britain’s first line of defence against terrorists, people smugglers and organised crime gangs at hundreds of vulnerable air and sea ports. The “Special Volunteer Force” would police isolated marinas, harbours and airfields but with no powers to interrogate or arrest suspects.
SECOND SHIP DETAINED BY SOUTH KOREA SUSPECTED OF SUPPLYING NORTH KOREA
Yonhap News on 31st December reported that South Korea has seized and inspected a Panama-flagged ship suspected of selling oil to North Korea at sea in violation of UN sanctions. The 5,100-ton Koti is being held in the western port of Pyeongtaek-Dangjin, Gyeonggi Province. It is the second known vessel under probe by South Korea on suspicions of ship-to-ship supplies of petroleum products to North Korea, banned under the international sanctions over its nuclear and missile programs. The authorities said most of the crew of the ship are Chinese or from Myanmar.
CALL FOR CRACKDOWN ON BINARY OPTIONS SCAM THAT COSTS UK INVESTORS £300 MILLION
The Mail on Sunday on 31st December carried a piece calling for the UK to follow Canada and ban binary options trading, ad not just seek to have the FCA regulate it. http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/article-5223481/Call-crackdown-300m-binary-options-scam.html#ixzz52sK9WArS
IRAN’S BALLISTIC MISSILE PROGRAMME FROM AN INTERNATIONAL LAW PERSPECTIVE
On the Jurist.org website, guest columnist Alireza Ranjibar of the Iranian Association for UN studies discusses approaches to the ballistic missile programme under international law. He argues that the US approach, including calling for its allies to join in sanctions against Iran is questionable compliance with international law. He cites the principle of sovereign equality as one of the oldest and most fundamental principles of international law, saying that the US cannot restrict other countries’ rights to develop and research comparable weapon systems from the perspective of the sovereign equality. He also points out that the 3 most prominent critics of Iran’s programme are themselves “armed to the teeth” (he refers to the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia – all hostile to Iran).
IRANIAN DRONES AND YEMENI DRONE BOATS
Linked from an Arms Control Wonk podcast of 1st January about Iran and its use of drones was a March 2017 paper from Conflict Armament Research. It refers to the use of drones by the Houthi forces in Yemen to attack the Saudi-led coalition’s missile defence systems. This, it says, illustrates the Houthi and Saleh-aligned forces’ ability to employ low-cost technology against the coalition’s sophisticated military assets. These are, it argues, Iranian-made drones.
Also, in December 2017, Conflict Armament Research produced another paper on Iranian or Yemeni “drone boats”, being “water-borne improvised explosive device (WBIED)” – so not a suicide attacker, but remote-controlled. The example illustrated was a 10-feet motor boat conversion. It concludes that evidence presented in this report suggest that the WBIED originated in Yemen, was modified with external components and expertise, and deployed by Houthi forces. For illustrations see –
For some details on the family of Iranian drones see –
The podcast is at –
WEAPONS OF THE ISLAMIC STATE
In December 2017, Conflict Armament Research produced a 202-page report on the weapons of Islamic State, the fruit of a 3-year investigation in Iraq and Syria. This covered acquired materiel, including diverted legitimate supplies and salvaged former US material, and local production of chemicals and equipment for its IED, but noting that many of the group’s weapons — and notably ammunition — are newly-manufactured, having been delivered to the region since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011.
CHINESE REGULATOR FINES BANK OVER FAKE GUARANTEES
South China Morning Post on 1st January reports that the Postal Savings Bank of China, the country’s largest bank in terms of branch numbers, has been fined $80 million by the banking regulator over its role in a scandal involving fake guarantees for bonds that has engulfed regional lender Guangfa Bank. It has handed out fines to 3 financial institutions over the Guangfa affair, which occurred when 2 bonds issued by Cosun Group, a manufacturer of phones, went into default in 2016. The insurer for the bonds, Zheshang Property and Casualty Insurance, had been issued fake letters of guarantee made using counterfeit corporate seals by Guangfa Bank staff. The bank, the dominant one in Guangzhou was also found to have diverted funds in a fraud to cover losses, and was given the biggest ever fine levied by the regulator in December 2017.
LIEGE AIRPORT CARGO EXPANSION
Lloyds Loading List reports on 1st January that Liege Airport will invest €50 million in new cargo facilities in 2018 in expectation of attracting more freighter flights. Already Belgium’s largest cargo airport, it is set to benefit as operators are being forced to find alternative airports due to the shortage of slots at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport.
PAKISTAN ACTS AGAINST LASHKAR-E-TAIBA
The Jerusalem Post reports that Pakistan’s government plans to seize control of charities and financial assets linked to Islamist leader Hafiz Saeed, who the US has designated as a terrorist, according to officials and documents reviewed by Reuters. It claims that Pakistan’s civilian government detailed its plans in a secret order to various provincial and federal government departments on December 19th targeting 2 charities – Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and the Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation, described as fronts for Lashkar-e-Taiba (“Army of the Pure” or LeT), a group Saeed founded in 1987 and which Washington and India blame for the 2008 attacks in Mumbai that killed 166 people. On 1st January, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), issued an order that prohibits any companies from donating money to Saeed, LeT, JuD, FiF and other groups and individuals who are named on the UN Security Council sanctions lists. The newspaper says that it is the first time Pakistan has made a major move against Saeed’s network, which includes 300 seminaries and schools, hospitals, a publishing house and ambulance services; and that the action is (in part) due to the risk of blacklisting by FATF.