4th February 2018
CHEMICAL WEAPONS RESURFACE IN SYRIA
Reliefweb on 2nd February carried an article from Human Rights Watch saying that reports had been received from residents in Eastern Ghouta in Syria of chlorine being used in a ground attack on Douma. It was not the first time the besieged town suffered a chemical weapons attack. Almost 5 years ago, on August 21st 2013, a chemical attack had killed hundreds of civilians, many of them children. It was the first wide-scale use of chemical weapons in decades. The likely culprit was the Syrian government. Only a day after the January 22nd attack, France launched a political initiative to combat the proliferation of chemical weapons and ensure that using them has consequences for those who do so. Aptly called ‘No Impunity’, the initiators also imposed sanctions against individuals and businesses with links to Syria’s chemical weapons program. The author says that the UN Security Council and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons should renew the investigative mechanism, or find an alternative. There is, the author say, no substitute for UN Security Council action.
HOW DID AN IRISH TECH BOSS WIND UP BEING HELD IN SWITZERLAND ON SUSPICION OF WITHHOLDING €3.8 MILLION OF CHARITY DONATIONS?
On 4th February the Sunday times carried an article about Irish businessman Peter Conlon, who had relocated to Switzerland from Dublin about 6 years ago. His latest venture, Ammado, developed technology to process online charity donations, and the Swiss base put him close to the headquarters of many global charities, including the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC). The Irish Independent reports that Ireland’s corporate watchdog ODCE is poised to investigate the online donations platform said to owe €3.8million to charities. Ammado’s website was shut down and visitors to the site are now referred to the liquidator. It was reported that 2 major international charities are reportedly owed more than €500,000 – the refugee agency, the UNHCR, is owed just over €400,000 and Save the Children UK is owed €118,000. Peter Conlon is now in custody in Switzerland where he was arrested on suspicion of embezzling money from the company, which developed technology to facilitate online donations. He was arrested after the International Federation of the Red Cross filed a criminal complaint against Ammado and Conlon, claiming it is owed €1.55 million in donations.
QADDAFI’S LONG GONE, BUT LIBYA’S OIL STILL STRUGGLES
On 4th February Bloomberg reported that theft, corruption and injustice are getting dangerously close to strangling the newly reborn Libyan oil industry. It says that, on the face of it, the National Oil Company had a good year in 2017, building on its successes of late 2016. The country’s production tripled between the third quarter of 2016 and the last 3 months of 2017 – a feat few thought possible. But it still has a long way to go to get back to where it was before Qaddafi was toppled in 2011. And the recovery is at risk.
RECORD YEAR IN THE FIGHT AGAINST FRAUD FOR THE SPECIAL TAX INSPECTION TEAM IN BELGIUM
The Brussels Times says that the Belgian Special Tax Inspection Team recuperated a record €2.1 billion last year, reports L’Echo and De Tijd. The Special Tax Inspection Team (ISI) has severely cracked down on tax fraud and issued fines and tax increases worth a record €2.1 billion. That’s around €400 million more than in 2016 and double the figure for 2015.
CONCERN OVER INCREASING NUMBER OF OFFICIALS FACING CRIMINAL OFFENCES IN SOUTH AFRICA
IOL in South Africa reports that the acting national head of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) has expressed concern about the alarming rate at which public officials are continually being found to be in conflict with the law. From November 1st to date, about 92 officials from different government entities across all the provinces had been arrested by the Hawks’ serious corruption crime units for various offences, including corruption, armed robbery, and theft, she said in a statement. “The breakdown of the perpetrators comprises, among others, 28 police officers, 45 traffic officers, 6 home affairs and other government officials, including municipalities. A staggering 34 traffic officers out of 45 are from Limpopo alone”, he said.
INDIA: BRIBERY RACKET, CBI ARRESTS GST COMMISSIONER, 8 OTHERS FOR AIDING TAX EVASION
Business Standard in India reports that the CBI has arrested a Goods and Services Tax commissioner from Kanpur and 8 others, including 3 officials, as part of an alleged bribery racket in the department. The officials used to collect regular bribes from businessmen and industrialists of Kanpur for providing them tax-related relief and shielding them from notices of the department, the sources said. The bribes were collected either in the form of cash or costly items like refrigerators, TV sets, and mobile phones which were delivered to the Commissioner’s residence in New Delhi, they said.
4 SUSPECTS, INCLUDING TEL AVIV DEPUTY MAYOR, DETAINED IN GRAFT PROBE
The Times of Israel on 4th February reported that 4 suspects were detained and taken in for questioning under caution for their suspected involvement in a corruption affair encompassing officials from the Rishon Lezion and Tel Aviv municipalities as well as former coalition whip. Among whom are a deputy mayor of Tel Aviv, Arnon Giladi, and an activist for the ruling Likud party, suspected of involvement in bribery, money laundering and tax offences in the probe, known as Case 1803. The suspects are connected to 3 housing projects in Tel Aviv in which corruption is alleged. In December, some 20 employees of the Rishon Lezion municipality were arrested as part of the probe, including mayor, Dov Zur. Among those detained by police after a long investigation were also 2 parliamentary aides, contractors and businesspeople.
UN EXPERTS: NORTH KOREA IS SKIRTING SANCTIONS
On 3rd February, CTV News in Canada carried a further article on the recent UN Panel of Experts report on North Korean sanctions implementation. This article highlighted the fact that the experts also cited “critical deficiencies” in implementing financial sanctions, saying that North Korean financial institutions, including banks which have been sanctions by the council, “maintain more than 30 overseas representatives who live and move freely across borders in the Middle East and Asia, where they control bank accounts, facilitate transactions and deal in bulk cash,” the report said. The experts said North Korea is also exploiting “a key vulnerability” which has enabled the country “to easily create front companies offshore in Asian financial centres where they leverage assistance” from other nationals and use the firms to open accounts and move money worldwide. The panel said its investigations highlight the activity of intelligence agents and other individuals acting on behalf of sanctioned North Korean entities who operate bank accounts in Europe and the Asia-Pacific “and use diplomatic passports and diplomatic-plated cars to cross land and air borders with less scrutiny.”
IRISH COMPLIANCE AGENDA NEWSLETTER: FEBRUARY 2018
Irish law firm LK Shields has issued its latest quarterly newsletter Compliance Agenda. It contains a round-up of all the latest legal updates of interest to Company Secretaries, Company Directors and Compliance Officers. This edition includes – the launch of the Central Register of Beneficial Ownership; the recent action against hundreds of directors of struck-off companies; the Companies (Statutory Audits) Bill which transposes discretionary elements of the EU Audit Directive 2014/56/EU; and the GDPR.
ENGLISH COUNCIL CLAIMS LEGAL FIRST IN USE OF POCA FOR SAFETY AND AMENITY REGULATION OFFENCES
The Local Government Lawyer website reports that the London Borough of Brent said that it has become the first council in the country to use the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA) against landlords for criminal offences linked to safety and amenity regulations. POCA could be used to recover criminal assets that the Shah family “obtained from cramming 31 tenants into filthy and dangerous living conditions”. Harsha Shah, daughter Chandni Shah and brother-in-law Sanjay Shah faced paying a confiscation order for financial benefit gained or saved as result of contraventions of the Management of HMO Regulations 2006 and breaches of licensing conditions. The sums could amount to hundreds of thousands of pounds.
SAUDI NUCLEAR TALKS: RISKS AND LIMITATIONS
On 31st January, the Washington Institute published a reports saying that allowing Riyadh to produce its own nuclear fuel could have bad proliferation consequences in the Middle East and Asia, but Washington may not have the leverage to enforce a permanent ban. Like Tehran, Riyadh wants the right to produce nuclear fuel on its soil by enriching uranium and reprocessing plutonium from spent reactor fuel. Some officials involved in Riyadh’s emerging nuclear plans believe Washington might soften its position on Saudi uranium enrichment in order to bolster President Trump’s pledge about rejuvenating the US nuclear industry. Yet doing so risks setting a precedent that other regional states could follow, including Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, and UAE — all of which have announced their intentions to develop nuclear power in recent years. In December, Saudi Arabia invited 5 companies to prepare bids for its first wave of reactor projects, according to participants in the process, including Westinghouse Electric, JSC Rusatom (a subsidiary of Russia’s state-owned nuclear giant Rosatom), France’s EDF Group, the China Nuclear Engineering Corporation, and the Korea Electric Power Corporation. The article argues that US nuclear policies toward Iran and Saudi Arabia are now inextricably linked and coming to a head.
CRYPTOCURRENCY SCAMS ON TWITTER ARE SO COMMON, THIS GUY BUILT A TOOL TO HELP DETECT FRAUDSTERS
Business Insider UK carried an article saying that Harry Denley’s script, EtherSecurityLookup, runs as a browser extension on Google Chrome. The extension catches Twitter accounts that impersonate established users or companies. In the crypto community, this is usually done to plug fraudulent projects, or just straight up ask strangers to send them money.
TORY DONOR ACCUSED OF STASHING CASH IN TAX HAVENS POSTS GLOATING PHOTO OF HIM READING “PANAMA PAPERS”
On 4th February, the Mirror reports that Lord Michael Ashcroft, the millionaire Tory donor accused of stashing cash in tax havens while he sat in the House of Lords, has posted a gloating picture of himself reading the ‘Panama papers’. The Tory peer tweeted a picture of himself, in Panama, with the country’s former Foreign Minister, Samuel Lewis, holding up a local newspaper – literally a ‘Panama Paper.’
HEDGE FUNDER “LIED ABOUT CREDENTIALS, CRIMINAL PAST”
Law 360 reports that Nicholas J. Genovese, 52, a New York hedge fund manager illegally raised at least $4 million from investors by lying about his professional background, allegedly saying he once worked in top positions at both Goldman Sachs and Bear Stearns, and by concealing an extensive criminal history, federal prosecutors said. He is charged with securities and wire fraud for soliciting investments in the hedge fund he founded, Willow Creek Investments, from 2015.
IRAN UN CONSULTANT GETS 3 MONTHS FOR TAX, SANCTIONS CRIMES
A researcher for Iran’s mission to the UN, Ahmad Sheikhzadeh, 61, a US citizen who pleaded guilty to tax evasion and sanctions violations was sentenced by a Brooklyn federal judge to 3 months in prison after he testified at length to rebut prosecutors’ insinuations that he worked for Iranian intelligence. He had faced a sentence in the 4- to 5-year range under sentencing guidelines.