25th January 2018
COMBATING TERRORISM CENTER: CTC SENTINEL
The January 2018 edition of the CTC Sentinel is now available, with articles that include –
- “Spaniards, You Are Going to Suffer:” The Inside Story of the August 2017 Attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils
- The Evolution of Shi`a Insurgency in Bahrain: the threat of Iranian-backed Shi`a cells in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia is likely to expand with their use of unmanned air and sea vehicles, anti-armor weapons, and assassination tactics.
- Red on Red: Analyzing Afghanistan’s Intra-Insurgency Violence – the Afghan Taliban movement now finds itself enduring sustained internal divisions and threats from rival factions, and its fracturing is weakening its ability to sustain its current position, with the emergence of the Islamic State in Khorasan Province, a group that includes some disaffected Afghan Taliban commanders, resulting in conflict.
- The Potential Jihadi Windfall from the Militarization of Tunisia’s Border Region with Libya: as a significant number of Tunisian foreign fighters who fought in Iraq, Syria, and Libya are returning to the country.
- A View from the CT Foxhole: Nicholas Rasmussen, Former Director, National Counterterrorism Center (interview): Rasmussen was Director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) between December 2014 and his retirement from US federal government service in December 2017.
CIA: NORTH KOREA’S ARMS TRAFFICKING POSES THREAT OF NUCLEAR PROLIFERATION
OAN News and the Independent report that the CIA Director has warned that the CIA believes North Korea is trying to expand its illicit global sales of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile technology. He stressed North Korea’s covert arms trade to countries such as Iran, Cuba, and Venezuela could trigger a global nuclear arms race, and that this could undermine the UN non-proliferation regime, and make an international doomsday a reality.
ECONOMIC SANCTIONS AND AML DEVELOPMENTS: 2017 YEAR IN REVIEW
On 23rd January, Paul Weiss published “Economic Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Developments: 2017 Year in Review”. This article included the detail that –
- US Treasury Secretary Mnuchin estimates that he spends “probably over 50%” of his time on national security and sanctions issues;
- OFAC levied $120 million in civil penalties (including settlements) in 2017, up from $21 million in 2016, but down from the record-setting $1.2 billion levied in 2014;
- OFAC took 18 enforcement actions against companies in a large range of industries, including the agency’s largest ever enforcement action against a non-financial institution—an approximately $100 million settlement with Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE;
- sanctions measures targeting non-US financial institutions could be increased further if legislation currently pending in Congress—the Otto Warmbier Banking Restrictions Involving North Korea (BRINK)—becomes law;
- 2017also saw increased activity involving US state-level sanctions measures. For example, in May 2017, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed two Bills that expand divestiture and contracting sanctions involving Iran, the Terror State Divestiture Act and the Terror State Contracting Act (the latter also added sanctions involving Sudan and Foreign Terrorist Organizations);
- The new OFAC “33% rule” will pose additional compliance challenges for companies doing business with Russian entities in support of exploration or production for new deepwater, Arctic offshore, or shale projects worldwide;
- FinCEN issued $323 million in penalties in 2017 (compared to $20 million in 2016);
- In November, FinCEN issued an advisory identifying a number of specific red flags that might be indicative of illicit North Korea-related financial activity. The advisory underscores the fact that the US Government expects compliance departments to keep pace with increasingly sophisticated criminal strategies;
- FinCEN issued a Final Rule requiring checks on ownership and control for financial institutions to undertake, with this to be enforced from 1st May 2018; and
- Both the Senate and House of Representatives are discussing measures to modernise the US AML/CFT regime.
GERMAN ARMS EXPORTS FELL IN 2017
Reuters reports that German arms exports dropped by 9% to €6.24 billion last year, ARD TV reported, following a pledge by the co-governing Social Democrats (SPD) to restrict weapons sales to non-allied countries. Germany is the world’s third-biggest arms exporter, but weapons sales remain a domestically sensitive issue given the country’s WW2 history.
AUSTRALIAN ANTI-BRIBERY LAW REFORM: IMPLICATIONS FOR UK BUSINESS
On 17th January, Bright Line Law published a briefing which examines Australia’s proposed new anti-bribery architecture, drawing out the differences with the UK framework and implications for British companies doing business in Australia. It expands existing bribery offences and introduce a new corporate offence which, for UK business, will affect subsidiaries or associated companies in Australia and depending on the scale of financial and trading activities, can capture foreign companies. It should counter the criticisms of the OECD Working Group on Bribery in 2012.
ILLICIT TRADE PROTOCOL – UK LICENSING OF TOBACCO MANUFACTURING MACHINERY
On 25th January, HMRC issued a Tax Information and Impact Note about HMRC’s additional powers to stop excise duty evasion on tobacco products through control of tobacco product manufacturing machinery. The measure will also allow for appropriate sanctions against a person or business possessing unlicensed tobacco manufacturing machinery.
PARADISE PAPERS – LINKS BETWEEN APPLEBY AND FBME
On 23rd January, the Guardian carried an article detailing how Appelby provided offshore services to the Cayman Islands holding company of FBME Bank for at least a year after the US Treasury published an extraordinary roster of allegations against the bank, and acted as its agent for more than a decade beforehand. FBME was accused of facilitating terrorist financing, transnational organised crime and the Syrian government’s chemical weapons programme and described as “a financial institution of primary money laundering concern” by FinCEN in 2014. The article says that Appleby withdrew from acting as the FBME holding company’s registered agent in December 2015, having apparently decided that “FBME did not fit [its] risk profile” and FBME Ltd effectively ceased to exist in the Cayman Islands as a result.
ENVIRONMENTAL ORGANISATIONS AND SHIPPING INDUSTRY CALL FOR CARRIAGE BAN ON NON-COMPLIANT FUEL
The British International freight Association reports that leading environmental organizations and the global shipping industry have joined in calling for an explicit prohibition on the carriage of non-compliant marine fuels when the global 0.5% sulphur cap takes effect in 2020. It reports that the IMO has agreed that from 1st January 2020 the maximum permitted sulphur content of marine fuel (outside Emission Control Areas) will reduce from 3.5% to 0.5%. Unless a ship is using an approved equivalent compliance method, there should be no reason for it to be carrying non-compliant fuels for combustion on board.
PRIVATE JETS OF WORLD LEADERS
As the World Economic Forum takes place in Davos, this feature from May 2017 by Air Charter Service provides some interesting details of the private jets likely to take the leaders there and back.
61 TAIWANESE TELECOMS FRAUD SUSPECTS HELD IN CROATIA
Focus Taiwan on 25th January reported that a total of 61 Taiwanese were arrested in Croatia on suspicion of telecoms fraud, during a raid on 2 separate locations near the city of Zagreb, according to foreign wire services. 2 of the suspects were also accused of “operating human trafficking networks and forcing victims into working in telecoms schemes,” the reports said. 59 Taiwanese suspects allegedly were lured by money offers to engage in telecoms fraud scams and had been held captive at the 2 locations, manning illegal “call centres” that targeted Chinese nationals, the reports said.
BRAZIL’S EX-PRESIDENT LULA LOSES BRIBERY APPEAL
The Week on 25th January reports that judges in Brazil have upheld the conviction of former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva for corruption and money laundering.
CHINESE COMPANY SINOVEL WIND GROUP CONVICTED OF THEFT OF US TRADE SECRETS
On 24th January, the US DoJ in a news release said that a manufacturer and exporter of wind turbines based in China was convicted of stealing trade secrets from AMSC, a US-based company formerly known as American Superconductor Inc, saying that it nearly destroyed an American company by stealing its intellectual property. Sinovel stole proprietary wind turbine technology from AMSC in order to produce its own turbines powered by the stolen intellectual property. AMSC developed the technology – software that regulates the flow of electricity from wind turbines to electrical grids. The case involved not the Chinese company and officials, but also Dejan Karabasevic, a Serbian former employee of AMSC Windtec Gmbh, a wholly-owned subsidiary of AMSC in Austria.
FORMER CONTRACTOR AT US MILITARY SEALIFT COMMAND PLEADS GUILTY TO CONSPIRACY, BRIBERY, AND FRAUD
A US DoJ news release of 24th January reported that a former contractor at the Military Sealift Command (MSC) pleaded guilty for accepting bribes totaling approximately $2.8 million in the course of a bribery and fraud scheme that lasted more than a decade. From 1999 the bribes were connected to arrangements with a telecommunications company from which MSC purchased maritime satellite communications services.
5 SOUTH AFRICAN POLICE OFFICERS ARRESTED FOR SMUGGLING STOLEN CARS INTO ZIMBABWE
Pindula in Zimbabwe reports that South Africa’s organised crime unit, the Hawks have arrested nine people including 5 policemen and 1 immigration officer on corruption charges, fraud and smuggling of stolen vehicles into Zimbabwe.
BOSNIAN MP FACES PROBE BY COUNCIL OF EUROPE AMID BRIBERY CLAIMS
Rferl reports on 25th January that Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Foreign Ministry says that parliament member Milica Markovic is under investigation over suspicions of corruption in connection with reports she authored on Armenia and Azerbaijan for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). The investigation stems from a report about a reservoir in the Sarsang region of Azerbaijan’s breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region, which is under the control of ethnic Armenians. Armenian and Bosnian media reports have alleged that Markovic was taking bribes to influence her reporting in favor of Azerbaijan.
EXILED CRIMEAN TARTAR LEADERS URGE MORE EU SANCTIONS AGAINST RUSSIA
Rferl reports that exiled Crimean Tartar leaders Akhtem Chiygoz and Ilmi Umerov have urged the EU to keep and expand sanctions imposed on Russia after its 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region. Chyigoz and Umerov were released from Russian custody in Crimea in October after being handed down prison sentences by Russian-controlled courts a month earlier. Chiygoz had been convicted of organising an illegal demonstration and was sentenced to 8 years in prison whereas Umerov received 2 years for separatism for his opposition to the Russian annexation of Crimea. Tartars are a Muslim minority in Crimea (and were deported en masse from the territory by the Soviet union after WW2).
DOMINICA-FLAGGED TANKER “DELIVERS OIL TO NORTH KOREA”
On 25th January, the Kenneth Rijock blog reported that the Japanese Navy has reported that it witnessed the Dominica-registered oil tanker, YAK TUNG, meeting a UN-sanctioned North Korean tanker, in the East China Sea, under circumstances that generally indicate an illegal transfer of oil between the 2 vessels.
TOBACCO SMUGGLING RING BUSTED BY AUSTRALIAN BORDER FORCE
Customs Today on 25th January reported that Australian Border Force officers began investigating a large number of passengers arriving from SE Asian ports based on intelligence gathered from previous operations. Over the course of the probe more than 40 people were identified bringing in large amounts of illegal tobacco packed in suitcases. Officers seized 107,000 cigarettes, $260,000 in cash, a laptop and a number of other luxury items.
CAYMAN ISLANDS: INTERNATIONAL TAX COMPLIANCE
Conyers Dill & Pearman has issued a briefing alert intended to aid businesses that may have obligations to report information under the Tax Information Authority (International Tax Compliance) (Country-by-Country Reporting) Regulations 2017, which were issued by the Cayman Islands on 15th December as part of its ongoing commitment to international tax transparency.
“HACKATHON” TO SEEK INNOVATIVE IDEAS TO COMBAT MONEY LAUNDERING
Computerworld on 25th January reports that AUSTRAC — the Australian government agency tasked with combating money laundering and terrorism financing — is seeking new and innovative ideas to aid its work through a 32-hour hackathon. The first ASEAN-Australia Codeathon will be held in Sydney from 14th to 16th March.
NEW YORK CITY SUES ‘BIG PHARMA’ FOR $500 MILLION FOR FUELING OPIOID EPIDEMIC
The Guardian reported on 23rd January that New York City has sued the makers of prescription painkillers such as OxyContin, Percocet and fentanyl that have played a central role in the opioid crisis killing tens of thousands across the nation. More than 60 federal lawsuits of a similar nature filed by cities and counties across the US are now being handled collectively by a federal judge in Ohio
REPORT: DRUG TRAFFICKERS EXPLOIT US INTERNATIONAL MAIL SYSTEM
On 24th January, the News Journal reported that 2 US Senators have published a “stunning new report detailing the Sub-Committee’s findings from its nearly year-long investigation into how drug traffickers exploit vulnerabilities in the international mail system to easily ship synthetic drugs like fentanyl from China into the US. Last year, 318 million international packages entered the US with no advanced electronic data on shipper and recipient name, address, or contents — which is used by federal law enforcement agencies to target packages containing illegal items, like fentanyl, according to the report. The Senators are to hold a public hearing titled “Combatting the Opioid Crisis: Exploiting Vulnerabilities in International Mail”, which will reveal the details of the investigation as well as policy recommendations resulting from the findings. The article says that the report reveals that –
- Fentanyl sellers in China operate openly on the Internet, prefer using the US Postal Service and their preferred method of payment is cryptocurrency like bitcoin.
- Online sellers in China transship purchases through other countries to reduce the risk of illegal opioids being identified and seized.
- The Postal Service and US Customs failed to recognise and prepare for the increase in international shipments.
- The Postal Service receives advanced electronic data (AED) on only 36% of all international packages
TRACE PODCAST: UNDERSTANDING SUSPENSION, DEBARMENT AND BLACKLISTING
In the latest TRACE podcast, Jessica Tillipman provides a comprehensive and fast-paced explanation of how the government and others use suspension, debarment and blacklisting for punishment or deterrence.
THE 8 CRIMINAL ARMIES SUPPORTING VENEZUELA’S PRESIDENT MADURO
Insight Crime on 22nd January reported that the editor of one of Venezuela’s most important media organisations alleged that a combination of security forces and armed groups linked to organised crime have helped the government of President Nicolás Maduro stay in power. The 8 groups are named in the article.
THE RECURRING PROBLEM OF OVERBURDENED SOLDIERS
Think Defence has an interesting article dealing with an issue that does seem relevant though not a new one. When even a beat police officer seems weighed down by an array of equipment (including no perhaps bodycams), spare a thought for the poor infantryman. Since there were first soldiers the weight they have carried has been subject to cyclical variation. The upward trend that saw its zenith during operations in Afghanistan is now subject to realisation that it is both unsustainable and undesirable.
SOLICITOR PLUNDERED £1 MILLION FROM CLIENTS TO KEEP FIRM AFLOAT – WITH COST TO BE BORNE BY PROFESSION
Legal Futures on 25th January reports on the case of Ian James Douglas of Surrey firm, Cook & Partners (closed in 2016) – a solicitor who took £1 million from his client account to keep his firm afloat and who has been struck off by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT).
DEFAULT SENTENCE AFTER PART PAYMENT OF CONFISCATION ORDER
On 25th January, Bartfields Forensic Accountants Ltd (which has an excellent website always worth keeping a eye on) reports that, on 24th January the UK Supreme Court handed down its judgment in R (Gibson) v Secretary of State for Justice  UKSC. As a result of this judgment there will be slightly more generous reductions in default sentences to be served where part of the amount due under a confiscation order has been paid. It may be that in its determination of what the statute law actually says the Supreme Court has found that the law in this area is more generous to convicted defendants than parliament had intended it to be. Gibson had been made subject to a confiscation order of over £5.4 million in March 2000. He was ordered to pay this within 12 months, with a 6-year prison term in default, but only £90,370 in total had been paid, though interest had actually the increased the total due to £8.1 million. He was originally granted a 24-day reduction in the sentence, this being increased by a further 11 days following the Supreme Court decision.
“WAR DOG MILLIONAIRE”
OCCRP carries a series of articles about Jaroslav Strnad, the chief financial backer of the Czech president, who it says has been secretly snapping up arms stockpiles and factories throughout the Balkans with the help of a cast of notorious local characters. The buy-up is said to include tens of millions of rounds of old ammunition of a type so unreliable that a previous attempt to sell it inspired a Hollywood movie. The articles mention Czech companies Real Trade Praha and STV Group, controlled by arms tycoons Jaroslav Strnad and Martin Drda. The deals include Chinese-made ammunition stored in Albania – of dubious quality, and the purchase of at least 2 bankrupt, formerly state-owned factories in the former Yugoslavia, both of which are linked to the arms industry – the Suvenir ammunition factory in the Macedonian village of Samokov, and the 14 Oktobar factory in the Serbian city of Kruševac.
HORIZON SCANNER: UK FINANCIAL CRIME UPDATE
On 24th January, law firm Eversheds published its “Horizon Scanner: Financial Crime Update” for December 2017. This identified major issues and risks involving the UK during 2018, for example –
- the FATF evaluation of the UK AML/CFT regime, with the on-site visit anticipated to take place in February/March 2018 and a plenary discussion at FATF anticipated in October 2018;
- transposition of the EU cybersecurity Directive by May 2018;
- FCA consultation on proposed text for a specialist sourcebook for professional body supervisors, that sets out expectations in relation to AML supervision under the new OPBAS;
- publication of an asset recovery plan will set out how the UK is responding to the challenges involved in improving the recovery of the proceeds of crime;
- the new National Economic Crime Centre (NECC);
- the Sanctions and AML Bill currently before Parliament;
- the EU Proposal for a Directive on countering money laundering by criminal law;
- implementation of the remaining provisions of the Criminal Finances Act 2017;
- the proposed, so-called 5th ML Directive;
- the GDPR and Data Protection Bill; and
- the EU proposal for new EU wide cyber-security measures.
THE WORLD BANK’S ENFORCEMENT ARM AND ITS IMPACT ON MULTINATIONAL COMPANIES
On 25th January, Baker McKenzie published a post that provides a concise overview of the measures taken by the World Bank against corruption and how these measures affect multinational corporations. The World Bank’s anti-corruption arm, the lntegrity Vice Presidency (IND), has been a prominent figure in international anti-corruption efforts for 20 years. During that time, the INT has not only grown in size and strength, but also honed its ability to identify and develop cases of improper conduct. Between 2007 and 2015, the World Bank had debarred more than 700 companies and individuals. The World Bank exercises its fiduciary duties to ensure that the more than $64 billion in loans, grants, investments and guarantees are adequately safeguarded from corruption, fraud and collusion through its sanctions regime. Recently, the World Bank’s enforcement efforts have been most active in Europe and Central Asia, followed by Africa. Fraud remains the most common form of improper conduct sanctioned by the World Bank, chiefly as it presents a more readily-provable offence than bribery. The article closes with practical guidance for companies operating under World Bank-financed programmes.
FCA PENALTY FOR INADEQUATE AML CONTROLS
On 25th January, Mondo Visione reported that the FCA has imposed a financial penalty on Interactive Brokers (UK) (IBUK) in the amount of £1,049,412 for failings in its post-trade systems and controls for identifying and reporting suspicious transactions in the period February 2014 to February 2015. IBUK is an online broker based in London which arranges and executes transactions in certain financial instruments such as CFD (contracts for difference) directly for its UK clients, and executes other products on behalf of other entities in the wider Interactive Brokers Group. IBUK delegated its post-trade monitoring to a team based at another company within the Interactive Brokers Group in the US.
US MILITARY SALES NEARLY DOUBLED IN FY17, AND LIKELY TO GO ON RISING
In an article dated 19th January available on Mondaq, Dentons reported that proposed US sales of weapons and military equipment to foreign countries nearly doubled in FY17, to approximately $54.2 billion, as compared to $36.7 billion in FY16, and that in both years, the primary recipients were Middle Eastern counties. The article contends that, as global tensions escalate, spanning multiple countries and continents, US makers of weapons and military equipment are likely to discover new and growing markets for foreign military sales. This will be bolstered by President Trump’s desire to facilitate overseas arms sales to strengthen and protect US allies and create jobs for US workers.
JERSEY GOVERNMENT BREXIT SURVEY
On 22 December 2017, the government of Jersey published a report containing the results of the business Brexit survey. The report provides an insight into the challenges and opportunities of the Island business and the level at which Brexit has impacted their thinking.
IVORY COAST COCOA SECTOR HIT BY CERTIFICATION FRAUD
EurActiv on 25th January reported that in the Ivory Coast a large proportion of cocoa comes from its protected forests. This illegally grown cocoa is then marketed by major chocolate manufacturers, with certification procedures having little impact on this illicit trade. The cocoa is sold through the normal distribution channel, despite the government’s claims that it wants to stop illegal cultivation and the resulting deforestation. Consequently, around 40% of cocoa from the Ivory Coast – the world’s leading producer — comes from protected areas, as the head of the national state forest development agency SODEFOR himself admits.
SHOULD AFRICA WORRY ABOUT A GROWING FOREIGN MILITARY PRESENCE?
Defence Web on 25th January highlighted the increasing presence of foreign military and foreign bases throughout Africa. Not just US or French, where both countries have faced criticism. In Djibouti, for example, though it may be exceptional for geographical reasons, there are Japanese, Germans and Spanish alongside the French, and Chinese – India and Saudi Arabia are expected or due to follow, and Russia would have been there but failed to negotiate an agreement to share facilities with the Chinese.
UK REPORT OF THE REVIEWER OF THE USE OF TERRORISM LEGISLATION
On 25th January, the UK released the Annual report by the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation on the operation of the Terrorism Acts 2000 and 2006 in 2016. The report looks at how certain statutory powers relating to terrorism are used.
TAX EVASION “IS A GLOBAL ISSUE NOT A PANAMA ISSUE”, SAYS FINANCE MINISTER
CNBC reports that, at the World Economic Forum in Davos and in the wake of a high-profile tax evasion scandal, Panama’s economy and finance minister said that the country was working with the international community to combat financial crime and tax evasion. Dulcidio De La Guardia, Panama’s minister of economy and finance, said the problem of tax evasion was not limited to his country.
VENEZUELA SAID TO WANT INTERPOL RED ALERT FOR FORMER OIL CZAR
Reuters on 25th January reported that Venezuela is seeking an Interpol red alert for former oil czar Rafael Ramirez, who has been accused of corruption.
CHINESE ENERGY OFFICIAL’S DOWNFALL HINTS AT CORRUPTION IN ENERGY SECTOR
The Epoch Times on 25th January reports that the latest official to be taken down by the Chinese regime’s anti-corruption campaign sheds light on the widespread graft within China’s energy sector. Wang Xiaolin, the deputy chief of the National Energy Administration (NEA), was being investigated for “violating discipline”. The NEA was established in 2008 to oversee the country’s energy industries, including coal, electricity, petroleum, and natural gas.
THE DESPOT’S APPRENTICE: DONALD TRUMP’S ATTACK ON DEMOCRACY
If you want to be amazed, depressed, annoyed etc it is worth listening to, or watching, a presentation given at the LSE on 24th January. Brian Klaas (@brianklaas) is Fellow in Comparative Politics, Department of Government, LSE and author of “The Despot’s Apprentice: Donald Trump’s Attack on Democracy”. His talk, which pulls no punches, when he says that Donald Trump isn’t a despot, but he is increasingly acting like a despot’s apprentice.
FENTANYL IS LETHAL AND ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TO KEEP OUT OF THE US
An article in The Economist considers the problems with fentanyl in the US, and how it gets into the country and how difficult it is to stop it. The postal and courier services are often used, and notably the average purity of such consignments is 90% or more, compared to only 7% for that brought across the border from Mexico. The DEA is quoted as saying that a kilogram of heroin sells for $80,000 on the street, whereas a kilogram of fentanyl can command between $1.28 and $1.92 million.
LAW SOCIETY ISSUES JUDICIAL REVIEW PROCEEDINGS OVER LEGAL AID CUTS
The Law Society Gazette on 25th January reports that the Law Society has issued proceedings against the Ministry of Justice over its decision to impose further legal aid cuts that will ‘penalise’ defence practitioners working on terror, fraud and sex abuse cases.
MIAMI COUPLE FACE MONEY LAUNDERING CHARGES RELATED TO ‘SOPHISTICATED’ HUMAN SMUGGLING RING
Baker McKenzie reports that a Miami couple Eduardo Pereira, 49, and Marcia Tiago, 48, are accused of laundering millions of dollars for a “sophisticated” international human smuggling organization based in Brazil through several local businesses. They are accused of being the primary money launderers for Vantuir De Souza, the alleged kingpin of the organization who is under house arrest in Brazil pending human smuggling charges.
READING MEN WHO FRAUDULENTLY ADVERTISED TRACTORS, CARS AND HOLIDAYS ONLINE JAILED
The Metropolitan Police report that 2 men have been sentenced for their role in an organised crime group that defrauded victims out of at least £1.2 million between January 2016 and August 2017. Constantin Giba, 24 (24.01.94) of Reading had pleaded guilty to conspiring to convert criminal property and possession of false (Romanian and Slovakian) identity documents. Robert Popescu, 36 (09.12.81) of Reading had previously pleaded guilty to entering into a money laundering relationship. The court heard how both men used fraudulent internet classified advertisements to dupe people around the world into parting with large sums of money for non-existent goods or services. The fraudulent adverts – usually for cars, tractors, holidays and property rentals – were placed on genuine internet classified websites. A large number of UK bank accounts were set up to masquerade as escrow accounts to receive the proceeds of the fraud from multiple victims.
BULGARIAN EX-SPY CHIEF SENTENCED TO 15 YEARS FOR MISAPPROPRIATION OF FUNDS
KYC 360 on 25th January reported that Bulgaria’s former intelligence chief, Kircho Kirov was sentenced to 15 years in jail for what prosecutors described as the misappropriation of £2.28 million of public funds between 2007 and 2011. It was the second verdict against Kirov, who is already appealing a 10-year prison sentence handed down in 2015 in an earlier misappropriation case. In the latest case, prosecutors said Kirov had ordered a subordinate to draw up false documents to siphon funds from the intelligence service budget.
DOOMSDAY CLOCK AT CLOSEST TO MIDNIGHT SINCE 1953
Because of the “extraordinary danger of the current moment,” the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has moved the hand of the iconic Doomsday Clock to 2 minutes to midnight. The last time the Clock was this close to midnight was in 1953.