City AM on 12th February reported that Rob Wainwright, head of Europol, had told Panorama on the BBC that an estimated £4 billion was being laundered through unregulated digital currency. The BBC TV programme, “Who wants to be a Bitcoin millionaire” was aired on 12th February.
Part of the blurb for the programme says that: Panorama investigates what Bitcoin is and what it means, going inside a Bitcoin mine in Iceland – where currency is made – and spending time with the Bitcoin millionaires of Silicon Valley. The programme also hears from others who have been scammed out of their life savings and investors who think the cryptocurrency is an enormous scam and that the writing is on the wall.
Haartz in Israel on 12th February reported that (as mentioned in the post about reports by Kenneth Rijock in his blog) a Turkish law professor, Kamil Tekeli, has been deported and an Israeli Arab, Dergham Jabareen, is facing indictment over involvement in a Hamas effort to funnel money for terrorism to the West Bank and Gaza via Turkey, the Shin Bet security service announced. The Shin Bet statement also accused Turkey of aiding Hamas’ military build-up via a company called SADAT, established by an adviser to members of the current government in Turkey. It is reported that Jabareen managed to transfer some €200,000 to Hamas operatives in the West Bank, leaving the money at pick-up points agreed in advance. Another €91,000 that he received from Turkey was found in his possession. A senior defence official told Haaretz that the Turkish government has turned a blind eye to and even encouraged Hamas’ wide-ranging operations in Turkey.
On 13th February, the US Treasury published the speech given by Treasury Under-Secretary Sigal Mandelker at the Securities Industry & Financial Markets Association AML and Financial Crimes Conference. In this speech, in the context of North Korean sanctions, she commended efforts for institutions to delve deeper, to seek to identify shell and front companies used in sanctions violations, money laundering etc. The sort of information that might be sought, and passed to authorities included –
If you find transactions involving entities listed on UN, OFAC, or other public lists, who are the counterparties to those transactions?
Who are the beneficial owners of these entities? And what other accounts have they set up?
Where do these entities bank?
What are some common physical or email addresses associated with these entities?
What other characteristics do they share? And can you identify other entities that share those same characteristics or engage in similar activities or typologies?
When you exit a customer because of these or other risks, where do those customers go? Do you see them try to access the financial system in some other way, such as indirectly through other financial institutions?
She also recommend a review of the FinCEN advisory of November, which describes how North Korea uses complicated trade-based payment schemes to launder funds, and ensure that the institution is working to identify these schemes, typologies, and the actors behind them.
Being proactive, answering these types of questions, and then conducting additional analysis is, she said, where compliance programmes can add additional value to our efforts to disrupt North Korea’s illicit financial networks.
On 13th February, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute published an article saying that the legal framework prohibiting chemical weapons (CW) is considered the gold standard for multilateral disarmament. It features both comprehensive provisions and intrusive verification measures. Yet, in the case of Syria, this framework (which extends to the UN Security Council) has proven insufficient, and that failing to deal with the allegations involving Syria risks undermining the credibility of the framework. It refers to the fact that, on 23rd January, the French Foreign Ministry hosted the launch of the ‘International Partnership Against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons’, and the 6 measures those countries involved have agreed to. As well as attempting to re-establish credibility of, and faith in, the CW control framework, it says that there is a political dimension to the partnership which is intended to sustain the public discussion of CW use in Syria. In addition, it says, the participants will aid each other to use their domestic laws, including criminal law, to hold individuals and groups in (and supporting) the Syrian Government legally accountable for the use of CW. It is hoped that the use of domestic criminal law will deter the possible further use of such weapons.
On 13th February, Estate Agent Today reported that almost a third of all SAR concerning possible AML infringements and reported to the NCA have involved property deals. 32% of all SAR ‘red flag alerts’ for the years 2014/15, 2015/16 and 2016/17 have involved residential conveyancing. This is far larger than any other industry; by comparison, just 4% of the red flag alerts in the same period involved commercial conveyancing.