REPORT CLAIMS LESS THAN 1% BITCOIN TRANSACTIONS INVOLVE ILLICIT FUNDS
Bitcoin.com reports that the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Center of Sanctions and Illicit Finance in conjunction with blockchain analytics company, Elliptic, has published a study seeking to track the circulations of illicit funds within the bitcoin economy from 2013 to 2016. The research concludes that the share of funds of illicit origin comprises less than 1% of all bitcoin flows, and has exponentially declined as the cryptocurrency has gained increasing adoption and popularity. It does say that Dark Net marketplaces account for more than 97% of illicit funds circulated throughout the bitcoin economy between 2013 and 2016 with over 50% of illicit funds originating from no more than 2 anonymous marketplaces during each year. The report recommends that financial authorities in all jurisdictions must increase AML enforcement of “bitcoin mixers” and online gambling services, and target Dark Net websites to expose “their vulnerabilities publicly” in order to “increase customer skepticism” regarding the integrity and perceived security of said platforms.
JAPAN TO HELP DEVELOPING COUNTRIES ENFORCE UN SANCTIONS ON NORTH KOREA
Japan Today on 21st January reported that Japan will help developing nations in Africa and Asia that maintain diplomatic relations with North Korea enforce UN trade sanctions. By helping to train personnel and providing equipment to stem arms trade and money laundering, Japan hopes to cut key North Korean sources for acquiring foreign currency. The Foreign Ministry is expected to earmark ¥1.2 billion for that purpose in the supplementary budget for the fiscal year ending in March. North Korea is believed to acquire foreign currencies through the trade of arms and ammunition in Africa, where some nations also have relied on Pyongyang to train soldiers.
WHISTLEBLOWER SUING ERNST & YOUNG OVER GOLD DEALINGS WITH DUBAI FIRM
On 21st January, the Observer reports that Ernst & Young has been accused of “unlawful, unprofessional and unethical” conduct over its relationship with a Dubai firm that was allegedly involved in money laundering and buying gold from conflict zones. The claims are made in documents filed in the high court by lawyers acting for Amjad Rihan, a former partner at E&Y who exposed the alleged scandal 3 years ago. He led a team given the job of auditing the Kaloti group, which at the time commanded half of Dubai’s gold refining market. His lawyers say that after blowing the whistle, Rihan was ordered by his employer to return to Dubai. He was dismissed when he refused.
THAI POLICE ARREST A VIETNAMESE NATIONAL WHO ALLEGEDLY RAN INTERNATIONAL NETWORK THAT TRAFFICKED MASSIVE QUANTITIES OF ELEPHANT IVORY, RHINO HORN AND WILDLIFE
The Washington Post on 20th January reported that Boonchai Bach, 40, was arrested in a Thailand province that borders Laos, in connection to the illegal trafficking of 14 African rhino horns to Thailand in December. The case, which involved $1 million worth of rhino horns, also implicated a Thai official, a Chinese smuggler and a Vietnamese courier. The article claims that the Bach family, with Boonchai as the kingpin, led the illegal trafficking of exotic Asian and African wildlife, including elephant ivory, rhino horns, pangolins, tigers, lions and other endangered species, to major dealers in Laos, Vietnam and China, according to the Freeland Foundation. Authorities are said to also believe the Bachs were the main supplier of Vixay Keosavang, a Laotian wildlife dealer dubbed the “Pablo Escobar of wildlife trafficking” in a 2013 New York Times story.
NAMES SUGGESTED FOR NEW US SANCTIONS LIST INCLUDE ARSENAL OWNER
Quartz.com on 20th January reported on “furious” lobbying campaign going on in Washington over a blacklist of oligarchs close to President Putin, due to be published by the Treasury on January 29th. Names mentioned include Alisher Usmanov, an oligarch with reportedly close Kremlin ties, and a metals magnate with a $15.9 billion fortune who owns a large stake in Arsenal FC and was the subject of 2 Paradise Papers reports.
FBI PURSUES BINARY OPTIONS COMPANIES IN ISRAEL
On 21st January, the Times of Israel reported that agents arrived in Israel to question several alleged binary options fraudsters. They visited the offices of the major binary options platform provider SpotOption, and the company’s owner, Pini Peter, said the visit was not a raid, that the FBI had taken files from SpotOption’s computers, and that he had co-operated fully with the US authorities. The FBI also questioned Yossi Herzog, the owner of Yukom Communications Ltd, an Israeli company that has run the websites Bigoption.com and Binarybook.com. The CEO of this company, Lee Elbaz, was arrested in September when she landed at JFK airport, and remains under house arrest in the US pending her trial.
ISLE OF MAN-BASED CRYPTOCURRENCY MARKET GOES LIVE
IT-Online reports that online trader Coindirect.com has announced the initial launch of its ground-breaking platform for local currency trading. It is described as a cryptocurrency marketplace is designed to make trading in digital currencies simple, and is now live in the UK, South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya, ahead of a global rollout in early 2018. Brian Donegan, head of operations: e-business innovation at Isle of Man government, comments: “The arrival of Coindirect.com on the Island is a further example of how our digital economy value proposition and quality regulatory framework continues to attract digital currency exchange companies of the highest calibre.”
I WAS NEVER IMPEDED FROM INVESTIGATING CORRUPTION – FORMER MALTA POLICE COMMISSIONER JOHN RIZZO
On 21st January, the Malta Independent carried an interview with John Rizzo, has recently been nominated to serve on the Permanent Commission Against Corruption, to discuss his new position and the issues facing the police force.
MASS PROTESTS IN ROMANIA: “STOP CORRUPTION!”
Deutsche Welle on 21st January reported that up to 100,000 people have taken to the streets in Romania to support the independence of justice — against the ruling social democrats. Some marched 450 km in protest against changes to the justice laws which critics believed challenged the independence and efficiency of the judiciary in Romania
NEW SPECIAL COURT IN SRI LANKA TO HEAR FRAUD CASES
Colombo Page reports on 20th January that the Sri Lankan Prime Minister says a special high court will be set up to hear fraud cases and the functions of this court will commence within the next 2 months. The Attorney General’s Department has set up a separate unit after conducting discussions with the relevant authorities. The police has been involved in the procedures to investigate about 80 cases and 19 of them have already been filed by the Attorney General. A law has been enacted to implement the process of court hearings.
ISRAELI POLICE EXPECTED TO RECOMMEND PROSECUTION OF MINISTER
The Jerusalem Post repeats a story from Channel 2 News that police have finished investigating the corruption regarding state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and will likely recommend the state’s prosecution to indict Labor and Social Services Minister Haim Katz. It is alleged that he sought to force workers to join the Likud political party and vote for him when he chaired the workers’ union, and that he used worker and company resources for his own benefit.
MACAU CASINO CHIP THIEF ARRESTED, WHEREABOUTS OF CHIPS UNKNOWN
Calvin Ayre on 19th January reported that Macau police have arrested the prime suspect in the theft of $6 million in gaming chips from the Wynn Macau casino – 49-year-old Wynn Macau VIP gambling club croupier named Lei, and Lei’s 70-year-old uncle Ho, a Wynn Macau security guard. Police said only HK$20,000 of the HK$47.9 million worth of stolen chips has been recovered to date, and the suspects have so far not revealed the whereabouts of the remaining chips.
SPANISH POLICE DISMANTLE DRUG TRAFFICKERS’ SURVEILLANCE NETWORK
The Gibraltar Chronicle on 21st January reported that Spain’s Policia Nacional has released remarkable footage of a sophisticated radar surveillance system set up by drug traffickers in beachfront properties in La Linea. Officers raided 2 houses fitted with radars and high-tech antennae used by criminal networks to monitor law enforcement vessels and helicopters, enabling them to sneak drug shipments across the Strait of Gibraltar undetected.