EYES ON THE PRIZE: INDIA’S PURSUIT OF MEMBERSHIP IN THE NUCLEAR SUPPLIERS GROUP
On 13th February, the Carnegie Center published an article asking what does India expect to attain by joining the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the world’s most important multilateral nuclear export control arrangement? It argues that, unlike all the NSG participants, India is not a party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT); and for the greater part of the NSG’s history, India deplored proliferation trade controls as a neo-colonialist, even racist, tool of humiliation and discrimination used by other, mostly Western states, to hinder India’s technological development. Indeed, the article goes on to say, 4 decades ago the nuclear technology-holding countries formed the NSG in direct response to India having detonated a nuclear explosive device. It was only in 2008 that the NSG lifted its embargo on nuclear trade with India (under pressure from the US). The article mentions concerns about nuclear-armed Pakistan and China, both regional rivals, as well as India’s aspirations for its civilian nuclear power programme and the desire for a heightened international status.
INDIA’S NUCLEAR PROGRAMME AND NON-PROLIFERATION REGIME
Meanwhile, an opinion piece in Eurasia Review begins by saying that the Indian nuclear programme is taking full advantage of the 2008 NSG decision under the US initiative to exempt India from the restrictions on the supply of nuclear fuel and equipment to non-NPT countries; and that the Indo-US civil nuclear agreement is an active exemplar in this regard that undermines the global non-proliferation regime. The article repeats allegations that that India’s first nuclear test was actually a device derived from Canadian and US exports, designated purely for peaceful purposes. As the Carnegie article had said, that test had prompted the creation of the NSG and to more severely restrict global nuclear trade. India’s nuclear programme is largely plutonium based, the article says, its uranium reserves are apparently shown to be low for civil nuclear usage, and are actually low for military usage. The article argues that India does ot meet the criteria for full NSG membership, not being party to the NPT, nor having satisfactory separation between its civil and military nuclear programmes.
THE NIGERIAN FIU CONTROVERSY
This Day Live in Nigeria on 15th February reported that the suspension in July 2017 of Nigeria from the Egmont group of FIU, following failure to grant operational autonomy to the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) was bad news for the financial sector. Nigeria had been fully admitted into Egmont in 2007, and membership paved the path for the removal of Nigerian banks from the blacklist of international finance. The article refers to the risk of other agencies like FATF blacklisting and categorising Nigeria as a non-cooperative territory which will further put the country under intense financial pressure. The authorities, it says, must intervene quickly to resolve whatever the problems are so that Nigeria is not suspended. Expulsion from Egmont could happen at the next meeting of the group in March, and the news that the Senate and House Committees on Anti-Corruption are unable to harmonise their different versions of the NFIU Bill that would grant NFIU independence is a concern.
UKRAINE INTRODUCES E-LICENSING IN STATE EXPORT CONTROL SYSTEM
112 in Ukraine reports on 15th February on the Stratlink electronic licensing system for Ukraine’s state export control, introduced thanks to the support provided by the US government, under the Export Control and Related Border Security (EXBS) Programme.
NEW US REQUIREMENTS FOR PROTECTING SENSITIVE GOVERNMENT DATA ADOPTED FOR GOVERNMENT CONTRACTORS
On 15th February, Troutman Sanders published an article that reports that, with effect from 31st December, the US government has implemented new DFARS regulations requiring that its contractors take enhanced measures to protect sensitive government information stored on non-governmental systems and networks, including information stored, accessed, or sent outside the US, and that government contractors handling sensitive federal government information must comply with cybersecurity requirements in this regard. Under DFARS contractors must provide adequate security to safeguard covered defence information that resides in or transmits through their internal, unclassified systems from any unauthorised access and disclosure; and must rapidly report cyber incidents and cooperate with the Department of Defense to respond to these security incidents. Specific requirements have also been imposed in respect of 14 areas of security and control. Contractors should take these steps even when supplying DoD or the intelligence community with non-classified commercial off the self (COTS) products.
THE CHINESE STUDENT THREAT?
Inside Higher Ed in the US on 15th February posed this question in an article that begins by saying that the FBI director has told Senate panel that US academe is naïve about the intelligence risks posed by Chinese students and scholars. Some worry his testimony risks tarring a big group of students as a security threat.
UK CUSTOMS AND EXCISE NEWSLETTER, FEBRUARY 2018
On 13th February, RPC published the latest edition of its Customs and Excise Newsletter. In this it mentioned –
- on 14th December, HMRC published its single departmental plan setting out its objectives and how they will be achieved, including making greater use of criminal prosecutions to tackle tax evasion. HMRC plans to increase the number of criminal investigations into serious and complex tax crime, focusing particularly on wealthy individuals and corporates, with the aim of increasing prosecutions in this area;
- In November 2017, HMRC announced that it intends to update its Import Fraud Strategy, which was first released in 2015. HMRC is working with members of the Joint Customs Consultative Committee to gain input from trade into its strategy. It intends to finalise its strategy by March 2018; and
- Smart Price Midlands and Hare Wines – HMRC must disclose documents relating to its decisions that certain companies were not “fit and proper” for registration as wholesalers of alcohol.
SRI LANKA HOPES TO GET OFF FATF GREY LIST BY OCTOBER 2018
Economy Next on 16th February reports that the Sri Lanka Central Bank governor has said that it is hoped that the country’s action plan will remove the threat of FATF blacklisting, being currently under monitoring (or “grey list”). It is said to be working on a time bound action plan to bring laws and supervision of non-bank firms like casinos and the gem industries, and has until March 2019 to puts its house in order. The IMF warned in October 2017 that Sri Lanka was falling behind in complying with the FATF requirements. The EU recently added Sri Lanka to its blacklist, and it is thought that the US may be anticipating doing the same.
BANK OF LITHUANIA ISSUES INSPECTION FINDINGS ON SWEDBANK
On 15th February, the Chicago Evening Post reported that, during autumn 2017, the Bank of Lithuania carried out an inspection related to Swedbank’s activities in the area of AML/CTF for the period January 2016 until March 2017. The findings include deficiencies in internal control systems for money laundering prevention, processes and documentation. Based on the results, Bank of Lithuania issued a warning to Swedbank and obliged to remedy identified deficiencies. It is reported that Swedbank has already initiated actions to implement a series of measures aiming to improve its internal control systems, to ensure relevant CDD data and to enhance processes and routines.
CANADA’S LAX LAWS LEAVE DOOR OPEN FOR MONEY LAUNDERING BY LATIN AMERICAN GROUPS
Insight Crime on 15th February carries an article that says that recent reports highlight a loophole in Canada’s laws on corporate registrations that could facilitate money laundering by Latin American crime groups, particularly if the US and other countries take action to close similar gaps in their own financial regulations. As in many other countries, private corporations and trusts are not required to disclose the “beneficial owner”. The article warns that Canada’s clean image on the international stage and its lax laws surrounding anonymous shell companies may be making the country an increasingly appealing haven for financial crime.
ISLE OF MAN £4.3 MILLION VAT FRAUD CASE
On 16th February, Isle of Man Today reported that a local man had been charged with evasion of £4.3 million in VAT 2010-15.
SLOVENIA: NEW REPORT ON COMBATTING HUMAN TRAFFICKING
A report from GRETA, the Council of Europe’s anti-trafficking expert group notes improvements in legislation and practices to combat human trafficking in Slovenia since the publication of the first report in January 2014, and said that more should be done to help victims. GRETA calls on the authorities to ensure that access to assistance for victims is not made conditional on their co-operation in the investigation, to pay increased attention to detecting victims of trafficking among asylum seekers and foreign workers, and to adopt measures to facilitate and guarantee access to compensation for victims of trafficking.
EU AMENDS ZIMBABWE SANCTIONS ENTRY FOR ROBERT MUGABE
EU Regulation 2018/223/EU from 16th February has updated the entry relating to Robert Mugabe to reflect his resignation. See also Council Decision 2018/227/CFSP.
USTR REPORT BLASTS MAINLAND CHINA’S COMPLIANCE WITH WTO OBLIGATIONS
HKTDC on 15th February reports that Mainland China and Russia have failed to embrace the market-oriented economic policies championed by the WTO and are not living up to key commitments they made when they joined the WTO, according to the Office of the US Trade Representative’s annual reports on each economy’s compliance with WTO rules.
MAINLAND CHINESE COMPANY CONVICTED OF TRADE SECRET THEFT
HKTDC on 15th February reports on the recent case where a manufacturer and exporter of wind turbines based in mainland China has been convicted in the US of conspiracy to commit trade secret theft, theft of trade secrets and wire fraud. Sentencing is scheduled for 4th June. It conspired with others to obtain the U.S. company’s proprietary wind turbine technology to produce its own turbines (and retrofit existing turbines) powered by the stolen technology.
US IMPORTS OF ALL REMAINING FENTANYL-RELATED SUBSTANCES RESTRICTED, CONTROLS ON SYNTHETIC CANNABINOID EXTENDED
On 15th February, HKTDC reported that the DEA has issued an order covering all fentanyl-related substances that are not currently listed, including those that have not yet been introduced into the US market, along with their isomers, esters, ethers, salts and salts of isomers, esters and ethers. It covers import, export, manufacture, distribution, reverse distribution and possession. Separately, the DEA has issued a final rule relating to synthetic cannabinoid N-(1-amino-3-methyl-1-oxobutan-2-yl)-1-(cyclohexylmethyl)-1H-indazole-3-carboxamide (MAB-CHMINACA), including its optical, positional and geometric isomers, salts and salts of isomers.
UKRAINIAN “MERCENARIES” USING SCOTTISH “TAX HAVEN” FIRM AS FRONT
The Herald reported on 16th February that “mercenaries” from the former Soviet Union are using an Edinburgh shell firm as a front, The Herald can reveal. Unidentified individuals who appear to be based in Ukraine have set up a Scottish limited partnership or SLP to hire armed guards for merchant ships in the world’s most dangerous waters. The firm, Sea Force Group, late last year advertised in Russian for former soldiers and police officers willing to take to the high seas to fight pirates for just £650 a month. Its owners have failed to comply with AML beneficial ownership rules under which they had until August to identify themselves or face daily fines of up to £500. It reports that Sea Force Group LP was set up in 2016. Its website, registered in Ukraine in that same year, says the business has been trading since 2011. The site claims Sea Force Group is a maritime security company based in the UK with ‘hubs’ in the Middle East and Africa.
MANY UK BUSINESSES ARE STILL AT RISK FROM TAX CORPORATE CRIMINAL OFFENCE
Out-Law on 15th February reports that 4 months after it became a criminal offence for a business to have an employee or other ‘associated person’ who facilitates tax evasion, many businesses have still not got the policies and procedures in place that could protect them.
SEC CYBER UNIT TARGETS PLEXCOIN
On 15th February, Proskauer published an article about how the SEC’s new Cyber Unit announced it obtained an emergency asset freeze to halt the initial coin offering (ICO) of PlexCoin. According to the SEC, the Plexcoin ICO had raised up to $15 million to date through the fraudulent sale of unregistered securities.
SEC BLOCKS SALE OF CHICAGO EXCHANGE TO CHINESE INVESTORS
Law 360 on 15th February reported that the SEC rejected the politically sensitive sale of the Chicago Stock Exchange to a group of Chinese investors, citing “unresolved questions” over the proposed ownership structure and concerns for the regulatory agency’s ability to maintain oversight of the exchange after the sale.
HEDGE FUND OWNER CONVICTED OF $4 MILLION FRAUD
On 15th February, Law 360 reported that Nicholas Lattanzio, a hedge fund owner and manager of Black Diamond Capital Appreciation Fund LP, has been found guilty in New Jersey federal court of defrauding 2 investors out of about $4 million and spending most of those funds on what prosecutors said was a lavish lifestyle that included a $1 million home and a roughly $100,000 diamond ring.
CONVOY FREEZES FORMER DIRECTORS’ BVI ASSETS
International Adviser on 16th February reported that the former director of troubled Convoy Global has had his assets on the BVI frozen, with the firm also filing a writ against him and 12 others, demanding they pay £16 million in compensation. The writ claims compensation is owed by former director Cho Kwai-chee and 12 others, and follows 2 others that were filed in late December against Cho, former chairman Quincy Wong-Lee Man and 26 others for transferring assets from Convoy to their related parties and companies.
FINCEN PENALISES US BANK FOR VIOLATIONS OF AML LAWS
On 15th February, FinCEN announced a $185 million civil money penalty against US Bank for wilful violations of several provisions of the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA). Allegedly, US Bank capped the number of alerts its automated transaction monitoring system would generate to identify only a predetermined number of transactions for further investigation, without regard for the legitimate alerts that would be lost due to the cap, systemically and continually devoted an inadequate amount of resources to its AML programme, and also had an inadequate process to handle high-risk customers.
SINGAPORE: REGULATOR TO LAUNCH REVIEW INTO BANKING CULTURE AND CONDUCT
KYC 360 on 15th February reported that the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) is to launch a review into the behaviour of financial intuitions and fund managers, as part of efforts ‘to try to better understand how workers embed culture into their everyday lives.’
EU COUNTER-TERRORISM CO-OPERATION WITH TUNISIA AND MOROCCO
The European Council on Foreign Relations on 15th February published a briefing on how European countries have worked closely with Morocco and Tunisia on security, providing training and equipment for counter-terrorism and conducting some joint operations with Morocco. It argues that both countries face problems in handling radicalised individuals – and they have failed to develop systematic approaches to curbing radicalisation and addressing conditions that facilitate it, and that European states should devote more effort to joint programmes to fight radicalisation.
There is also a Youtube video about the report –
US SENATE HEARING ENTITLED “EXAMINING DE-RISKING AND ITS EFFECT ON ACCESS TO FINANCIAL SERVICES”
On 15th February the Senate Financial Services Committee held a hearing and this is available as a video on the website
YOU TUBE AND INSTAGRAM THREATENED IN RUSSIA
On 16th February, Medium published an article on how a scandal involving an oligarch, a politician, and an escort provider caused a social media censorship call linked to a requirement to delete photos and videos of Russian businessman Oleg Deripaska on a yacht cruise with Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko and escort provider Nastya Rybka (Anastasia Vashukevich). In an unprecedented move, he Russian government’s media and telecommunications watchdog agency Roskomnadzor threatened to shut down the platforms in Russia all together if 14 posts and 7 videos were not deleted.
TIMELINE: HOW LIBYA’S REVOLUTION CAME UNDONE
On 15th February, the Atlantic Council published an article providing a chronological listing of events since 2011.
AN ABUNDANCE OF SANCTIONS BILLS MAY BE CONSTRAINING FOREIGN POLICY
On 14th February, an article from the Center for New American Security starts by pointing out the growth in sanctions lists in the US – the list of government-imposed sanctions against people, businesses and countries had grown by over 2,250 to 4,600 by the time George W Bush left office. In 8 years, Obama saw the number grow by more than 1,000 and Trump — in just his first year — has already added about 500 to the list. However, it warns that US Treasury staff dedicated to maintaining and updating this blacklist, as well as co-ordinating sanctions policy with other US agencies and foreign governments, have not been able to keep up. The article warns that sanctions that are rushed through Congress without proper legal grounding could be overturned in US courts, and those that are so tightly imposed by Congress run the risk of stripping US foreign policy of the nuance, nimbleness, and flexibility it needs to be successful.
OBSCURE DEALS AND DEAD-ENDS: THE DARK SIDE OF HUNGARIAN PUBLIC PROCUREMENT
On 16th February Transparency International in Hungary carries a short piece saying that Hungary has been all over the international press in the last few days for allegations of cronyism amongst the ruling elite. Millions of euro in public funds have allegedly ended up in the pockets of friends and family of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
HEAD OF OAS ANTI-CORRUPTION MISSION IN HONDURAS RESIGNS
Reuters on 16th February reported that the head of the Organization of American States’ anti-corruption mission in Honduras said on 15th February that he would resign over a lack of support from authorities in the Central American country and clashes with OAS leadership. The Mission to Support the Fight Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH) was created by the OAS in 2016 at the request of the Honduran government. The request followed months of popular marches demanding investigation of corruption.
NORWEGIAN $1 TRILLION SOVEREIGN WEALTH FUND CRACKS DOWN ON CORRUPTION IN ITS PORTFOLIO
On 13th February, Bloomberg reported that the world’s biggest sovereign wealth fund has signalled it will get tougher in weeding out companies from its portfolio that don’t live up to a set of anti-corruption standards it has set. Norway’s $1 trillion fund owns 1.4% of all listed companies and actively pushes for higher environmental, social and governance standards for its vast portfolio. The fund said it expects companies to establish clear policies on anti-corruption, integrate measures into their operations and report and engage on anti-corruption programmes.
EU STATES STAY MUTE ON IMPLEMENTATION OF MERCURY CONTROLS
EU Observer on 16th February reported that 25 of the EU’s 28 Member States have neglected to inform the European Commission how they would punish breaches of a new EU Regulation, which aims to limit the use of mercury, despite legal deadlines having passed. Only Denmark, Germany, and the UK have sent the Commission documents outlining the penalties related to the mercury Regulation.
GAMBLING-ADDICTED TRADER CHARGED WITH STEALING $2 MILLION IN BITCOIN FROM EMPLOYER
Gambling 911 on 16th February reported that a Chicago-based trader, Joseph Kim, 24, claims he intended to return approximately $2 million worth of Bitcoin after covering his own trading losses. He was found out before that could happen. The trader at Consolidated Trading LLC, was charged by the US federal authorities with wire fraud for the theft of $2.06 million in Bitcoin and Litecoin from his employer in a 2-month period in 2017.
FORMER ALBANIA PROSECUTOR DENIES CORRUPTION ALLEGATIONS
On 16th February, Top Channel TV reported that the former Albanian Prosecutor General, Adriatik Llalla, recently banned from entering the US, has denied the accusations of corruption saying that he has never been investigated by Albanian authorities. According to Llalla, the decision for banning him and his family from the USA comes after a conflict with the US Ambassador to Tirana, Donald Lu.
US DOJ CHARGES 13 RUSSIANS, 3 GROUPS WITH INTERFERING IN 2016 ELECTION
UPI on 16th February announced that the DoJ had issued indictments against 13 Russian nationals and 3 Russian groups that charges them with criminally interfering in the 2016 US presidential election. The charges, announced by Deputy US Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, include conspiracy to defraud the US, conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud and aggravated identity theft.
For the text of the 13 indictments see –
CALIFORNIA WEED ENTREPRENEURS WILL MAKE $5.2 BILLION IN 2018 WITH ALMOST NO BANKS TO PUT IT IN
On 26th November, Forbes had published this article (by Julie Weed – no, really) saying that California cannabis entrepreneurs will earn $5.2 billion in revenue in 2018 as recreational use becomes legal. However, she writes that financial institutions need to go on record with FinCen when they establish a relationship with a known Marijuana Related Business, and Karnes estimates that just 5% of all banks have done that.
UK AMENDS ZIMBABWE SANCTIONS TO REFLECT RESIGNATION OF MUGABE
On 16th February, HM Treasury issued a news release announcing that the details of Robert Mugabe had been changed in line with EU Regulation 2018/223/EU.
The Isle of Man followed suit the same day –
LEEDS BUSINESSMAN DODGED £65,000 TAX DUTY ON HALF A TON OF SHISHA TOBACCO
The Yorkshire Post on 16th February reported that a Leeds businessman avoided paying more than £65,000 of duty on half a ton of flavoured shisha tobacco. Officers from HMRC in 2016 found a container full of the product when they went to a storage warehouse in Leeds that belonged to Mehdi Jahani. Officers discovered a further 83 kg of shisha tobacco at his home.
CROATIAN SOJOURN TAX
On 16th February, Superyacht News published an article explaining this tax that every yacht that enters Croatia and berths in a marina will have to pay before they are free to cruise in Croatian waters. It explains that there are 2 criteria that determine the amount that is owed by private vessel. Firstly, the rate is dependent on the size of the vessel. Secondly, the rate will vary depending on the length of stay of the persons on board the vessel.
UK GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO THE COMMISSION ON DORMANT ASSETS’ REPORT
On 16th February, the UK Government published its response to the March 2017 report of the Independent Commission on Dormant Assets that had been set up in 2016. The Commission had been asked to report to government on which additional dormant assets could be brought into an expanded dormant assets scheme. The Dormant Bank and Building Societies Accounts Act 2008 means that, at present, only assets from the banking sector can be transferred into the scheme. The 2017 report found that there were potentially significant values of dormant assets in a range of financial services sectors which could be included in an expanded dormant assets scheme. The Government response confirms its commitment to:
- support industry to expand the dormant assets scheme to include a wider range of financial assets, potentially including the insurance and pensions, investment and wealth management, and securities sectors;
- appoint senior industry champions to drive forward this industry-led initiative, and to report to Government on the details of implementation;
- retain the main principles of the scheme, including that customers should be able to reclaim dormant money at any time and that firms’ participation in the scheme should be voluntary;
- ensure that, where appropriate, certain assets remain outside the scope of the scheme; and
- engage with Co-Operative Banking Group about the appropriate future governance structure for Reclaim Fund Ltd https://www.reclaimfund.co.uk/ whose role is to distribute surplus monies for the benefit of good causes across the UK and always hold sufficient funds to meet reclaims in perpetuity.
CANADA IMPOSES SANCTIONS ON MYANMAR MILITARY CHIEF
On 16th February, the European Sanctions Blog reported that the Canadian Government has imposed targeted sanctions (asset freeze) against Burma’s former Major-General Maung Maung Soe under its Magnitsky law. OFAC had already added Maung Maung Soe to its Global Magnitsky sanctions list on 21st December
VENEZUELA OIL COMPANY REPLACES EXECUTIVE OVER FEAR OF US SANCTIONS
The European Sanctions Blog on 16th February also reported that Venezuela’s state-owned oil and natural gas company PDVSA has replaced its Vice President of Finance, Simon Zerpa Delgado, reportedly over concerns that US sanctions on him had led to certain oil exports to the US being blocked.
US ACCUSES RUSSIAN FREIGHT FORWARDER OF SHIPPING ARMS
Loadstar on 16th February reported that a Russian freight forwarder, Instar Logistics, has denied allegations by the US Department of Commerce that it broke sanctions by shipping Kalashnikov weapons, and that Kalashnikov said it currently had a major focus on exporting, which could see other forwarders caught up in US regulations. The latest OFAC designations, as well as the Bureau of Industry and Security entity list, named the forwarder and its customer service manager on its sanctions lists.
KENYA: ANTI-GRAFT COMMISSION ACTIVELY RECOVERING STOLEN CASH
OCCRP on 16th February reported that Kenya’s anti-corruption authorities say they will retrieve close to $3.7million that was taken illegally by former Kenya Power officials. The Chief Executive of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission made the announcement after the Commission received a framework for repatriating Kenyan corruption assets from Switzerland. Some $2.2 million were frozen this year in Switzerland from another corruption related case pending in Kenya. The identities and details of the accounts still remain secret.
INDIA: SCAM INVOLVING DIAMOND-DEALER LEAVES STATE BANK REELING
OCCRP on 16th February carried an article about Punjabi National Bank (PNB), India’s second largest state-run lender, losing $1.41 billion — almost a quarter of its current market value — after disclosing an investigation into a $1.8 billion scam involving a powerful jewel merchant, Nirav Modi (no relation to India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi).
PAKISTAN’S PROSECUTORS REQUEST TRAVEL BAN FOR THE SHARIFS
OCCRP reported on 16th February that Pakistan’s anti-corruption watchdog (NAB) has asked the interior ministry to make sure ousted premier Nawaz Sharif, his daughter and his son-in-law can’t leave the country since their trial is about to end and they could consider fleeing. In July last year the Supreme Court ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif after an investigation – prompted by the Panama Papers leaks – showed his daughter and 2 sons owned offshore companies registered in the BVI and used them to buy flats in London. Sharif also failed to declare a monthly salary, equivalent to around $2,700, from a company owned by his son. He denies receiving the salary.
AEROMEXICO BECOMES FIRST AIRLINE TO JOIN BLUE HEART CAMPAIGN ON HUMAN TRAFFICKING
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime announced on 16th February that Aeromexico has joined the Blue Heart Campaign: #AquiEstoy contra la trata de personas (#HereIAm against trafficking in persons), becoming the first airline to promote this new awareness raising initiative. #AQUIESTOY was launched by UNODC and the Government of Mexico as a national campaign in July 2017. It aims to inform the public on human trafficking, to give a voice to victims, and to promote the national hot line. The campaign shows people’s outrage against human trafficking and encourages the public to think about their responsibility as consumers of goods and services.
US CUSTOMS INTERCEPTS ANCIENT ARTEFACTS AT MIAMI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
On 16th February, US Customs and Border Protection published a news release that said that officers and agriculture specialists at Miami International Airport recently intercepted 2 separate shipments containing ancient artefacts from Europe and Central America. One of the shipments sent from the UK. An expert appraiser was consulted and determined the item to be an authentic “Corinthian Helmet” dating back to 100-500 BC. The second shipment was sent from El Salvador found to contain 13 individual pieces of pottery and figurines. The shipment manifest listed the contents as “Handicrafts”. The items appeared to be pre-Columbian and CBP detained the shipment for appraisal and authentication. An expert appraiser recently concluded the items are of Mayan origin. Some of the items date back to 300 AD while others date back to 1200 AD.
AUSTRALIA: HUNDREDS OF IMITATION FIREARMS SEIZED AT THE BORDER
On 16th February, a news release from Australian Border Force warns online shoppers and firearms enthusiasts to be very clear about Australian laws after an increase of gel ball blasters seized at the border. In the last 4 weeks alone, almost 200 gel ball blasters have been detected in air cargo consignments without import permission and seized by ABF officers. Despite often being marketed online as toys, the devices are incredibly realistic, are able to fire projectiles and can be very dangerous. They are controlled as Imitation Firearms under customs laws. Importers must obtain permission from their state or territory police before importing them into Australia.
PALM OIL: ECONOMIC AND ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS
The EU Parliament Research Service has issued a briefing that starts by saying that, economical and versatile, palm oil has become the world’s most widely used vegetable oil. However, its production comes at a heavy environmental cost, especially in Indonesia and Malaysia, the 2 main producers. Efforts to make its production more sustainable still have a long way to go.
BARCLAYS DOES NOT HAVE TO REPAY APARTHEID-ERA MONEY BACK TO SOUTH AFRICAN GOVERNMENT
KYC 360 on 16th February reported that a South African court has ruled that Absa, a subsidiary of Barclays Africa, will not need to repay loans taken from the apartheid government in the 1980s and 1990s. South Africa’s anti-corruption watchdog, the Public Protector, had argued that the then government illegally issued bailouts to Bankorp, which was later acquired by Absa, and sought a repayment of around $83 million.
IN US, FINRA WARNS OF SCAMMERS POSING AS REGULATORS
On 16th February, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) in the US issued an Investor Alert warning investors to beware of financial scams in which con artists are posing as regulators to make fraudulent investment pitches. It reports that financial fraudsters used FINRA’s name and logo in correspondence – including a fake signature from FINRA President and Chief Executive Officer Robert W. Cook – to create the false impression that FINRA provided guarantees related to an investment opportunity that was, in fact, an advance-fee scam.
SEC ACTS AGAINST ISRAELI INDIVIDUALS, AND US-BASED ATTORNEY AND ACCOUNTING FIRM IN SHELL FACTORY SCHEME
On 16th February, Monde Visione reported that the SEC had announced charges against 3 Israeli residents, a Washington, DC attorney, and an Israeli auditor and his Maryland-based accounting firm for their roles in a fraudulent scheme in the creation of numerous public shell companies. The SEC alleged that they created at least 15 shell companies by filing false and misleading registration statements and periodic reports with the SEC, creating phony business plans, and appointing nominal officers and directors, who also acted as straw-man shareholders for the shell companies. The defendants also conducted putative initial public offerings (IPO) of certain shell companies, but in reality, the defendants continued to control the companies’ shares and the defendants subsequently sold certain shell companies at a profit of more than $1.8 million.
THE KURDISH CHALLENGE THAT IS BEDEVILING THE US-TURKISH RELATIONSHIP
On 16th February, the Atlantic Council published a background article saying that US support for a Kurdish militia in Syria has become a point of contention in the US-Turkey relationship, and asking who are the Kurds and why is US support so contentious? It explains a plethora of initials – explaining that the PKK used the US war on terrorism to branch out in the region and beyond. In Syria, it created the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing known as the People’s Protection Units (YPG). These organisations reside under the umbrella of the KCK — bringing it under direct command-and-control system of the PKK. They seek to establish an autonomous democratic confederation along Turkey’s border with Syria.