20th February 2018
AS SAUDI GOES NUCLEAR, US SEEKS EDGE
Bloomberg carried an article on 20th February about plans for Saudi Arabia’s nuclear power ambitions. It comments that the Saudis have rejected a “123 Agreement” that would mean it committing to no enrichment of spent fuel, and says that the country has access to its own uranium and wants to be wholly self-sufficient in nuclear fuel preparation in the long term. Saudis also note that the agreement between the US and others and Iran permits that country to enrich for peaceful purposes. A complication is that the US contender to build a reactor, Westinghouse, is bankrupt and is the process of being sold by its Japanese owner to a Canadian business. Israel also is concerned that the plan opens up at least the prospect of “slow-motion proliferation”.
TRUMP ADMINISTRATION MOVES TO BLOCK BOEING DEAL WITH IRAN
The Jerusalem Post on 20th February reported that the Trump administration appears to be executing a plan to thwart a $16.6 billion deal between Boeing and the Iranian government – a move that would critically impact a 2015 JCPOA nuclear agreement between Iran and international powers. Officials have begun offering evidence that would provide a rational basis for denying the aircraft sale, and, on 5th February, highlighted the use of Mahan Air to supply weapons to the Assad regime in Syria.
30 POSSIBLE CASES OF MONEY LAUNDERING REFERRED TO COURTS BY ATTORNEY GENERAL IN MALTA SINCE 2010
The Times of Malta on 20th February reported that 30 cases of suspected money laundering had been reported by the FIAU to the Attorney General. However, there was only 1 in 2017 and 4 in 2016. The list of cases, with no names, was also released in response to a question in parliament.
OIL AND GAS COMPANY LAUNCHES FRAUD CLAIM AGAINST FORMER DIRECTOR
Energy Voice on 20th February reported that the oil and gas company Petroceltic International has launched a civil action against an Aberdeenshire man over claims of millions of pounds being defrauded from the business. It alleges that David Archer, who was managing director for its Bulgarian operations, syphoned off money through a series of fraudulent transactions, and made the claims and said that it was taking legal action in an official stock market announcement. Petroceltic said it had been been granted a freezing order by the High Court of England and Wales in support of the Scottish proceedings against Mr Archer, preventing the dissipation of his global assets, while criminal investigations are understood to have been launched in Bulgaria.
UK EXPORT FINANCE EYES INDONESIA AS A PRIORITY MARKET
On 20th February a news release from the FCO said that Indonesia has become the first country in the world to have a UK Export Finance (UKEF) Country Head to be based in-country.
BEIJING E-COMMERCE DECLARATION
On 20th February, BIFA reported that the First Global Cross-Border E-Commerce Conference, co-hosted by the World Customs Organisation (WCO) and the General Administration of China Customs (GACC), concluded in Beijing on 10th February. The Conference emphasised the need for an international standard and supported the expeditious development of the WCO Framework of Standards on Cross-Border E-Commerce. At the end of the Conference, a Beijing e-Commerce Declaration, summarising the discussions of the conference and outlining the future way forward, was adopted. It should set out a vision for boosting sound, secure, balanced and sustainable development of cross-border e-commerce.
TAILOR-MADE CO-OPERATION? ARMENIA’S NEW PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT WITH THE EU
On 15th February, the European Policy Centre published an article about the fact that Armenia and the EU signed a new Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA). This represents a second chance for Armenia to deepen ties with the EU, after the 4-year relationship limbo that followed Armenia’s surprise rejection of an Association Agreement in 2013. The article says that the new agreement is the first example of the EU’s new differentiated approach towards the EaP countries, and for Armenia, an opportunity to revive its preferred multi-vector foreign policy. While the new agreement excludes free trade provisions, which would contradict Armenia’s commitment to the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), it creates opportunities to improve the investment climate, strengthen sectoral cooperation and help diversify Armenia’s economy.
RUSSIA CEMENTING MILITARY TIES WITH THE CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
On 19th February, Defence Web reports that Russia is deepening its military co-operation with the Central African Republic (CAR), donating small arms to the country’s military and holding diplomatic talks with its leader as it seeks to strengthen its influence on the continent. CAR has been struggling with serious turmoil, civil war and brutal regime shifts in the past decade. Following conflict between government forces and the Seleka rebel coalition in 2012-2013, an arms embargo was implemented by the UN in December 2013.
TOP ISRAELI COP RIPS INTO ‘CRIMINALS’ WHO ‘DAMAGE PUBLIC TRUST IN POLICE’
On 20th February, the Times of Israel reported that, in thinly veiled criticism of Netanyahu, Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich complains of aspersions on officers’ professionalism, social media ‘manipulations’ of facts.
FLYING TAX FRAUDSTER GROUNDED
CCH Daily on 20th February reported that a serial fraudster, Keiran Farrer, from Carlisle, who set up a sham company called Move Leasing North East, carried out a £280,000 VAT and benefits fraud to pay for flying lessons, has been jailed for 4½ years following an investigation by HMRC and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
UK NATIONAL FRAUD INITIATIVE
On 19th February, the Cabinet Office issued an updated collection of reports, guidance and case studies for the National Fraud Initiative (NFI), a data-matching exercise that helps prevent and detect fraud involving information within and between public and private sector bodies.
CARGO ON DIRECT FLIGHTS FROM BANGLADESH TO THE UK
On 19th February, the Department for Transport reported that cargo handling restrictions lifted on direct flights from Dhaka International Airport to the UK, following ongoing co-operation with the government of Bangladesh on the standards of aviation security the airport.
TURKISH DEFENCE GIANT EYES ASIAN COUNTRIES FOR AVIATION EXPORTS
Customs Today on 19th February reports that Turkish Aerospace Industries Inc. (TAI) is in intensive contact with Asian countries for the export of air platforms that it has developed, including the T129 ATAK attack helicopter (based on the Italian A.129 Mangusta) for Pakistan and others.
$1.2 MILLION PENALTY FOR DISTRIBUTING IMPORTS OF UNLICENSED PESTICIDES
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg on 20th February reported that the US Environmental Protection Agency reports that a US company will pay a $1.2 million administrative penalty as part of a consent agreement to settle charges that it sold and distributed imported pesticide products not licensed for sale in the US. The company will also develop an online training course on pesticide regulations and policies that will be available in English, Spanish and Chinese and must be successfully completed by all entities planning to sell pesticides through the company.
ILLEGAL CORAL SHIPMENT SEIZED AT RIGA PORT
LSM in Latvia reported on 15th February that Latvian customs officials have made an unusual seizure – not drugs, moonshine or cigarettes but tropical coral, 14,350 kg of coral rock cargo transported through Latvia from China to Belarus without the necessary CITES permission, following a declaration filed at the Freeport of Riga Customs Control point.
TRIAL OF THE FATHER OF BOY SMUGGLED INTO SPAIN IN SUITCASE
On 20th February, The Peninsular in Qatar reported that the start of the case involving the 8 year old boy smuggled from the Ivory Coast crammed into a suitcase. His father goes on trial Tuesday in Ceuta, the Spanish enclave on North Africa.
CAN ANYONE STOP BRAZIL’S PCC GANG?
On 20th February, Insight Crime published an article on the First Capital Command (Primeiro Comando da Capital – PCC) which has grown in the last 25 years from a union of inmates seeking better treatment in Brazilian prisons into a multinational mafia with a global reach. Their criminal empire includes cocaine trafficking, kidnapping for ransom, ATM robberies and large-scale assaults on businesses and banks. It says that CC has alternated between moments of extreme violence and years of quiet dominance in which the group expanded its control of Brazilian prisons and made inroads into the prisons of Paraguay and Bolivia as well. In 2017 alone, the PCC was involved in deadly prison riots in Brazil that left more than 150 dead, massive cocaine shipments from Paraguay into Brazil, and an epidemic of cargo robberies that have cost Brazilian companies more than $2 billion since the start of the decade. PCC recruiters are now looking to recruit former guerrillas of the demobilised FARC into PCC protégés, and the PCC has cultivated a network of sympathetic politicians within Brazil and reportedly used banks in China and the US to shelter its profits. The article maintains that PCC has become the most powerful player in Brazil’s multibillion-dollar cocaine market, which is now second in size globally to the US. But the group’s ambitions are clearly bigger than Brazil alone.
INDIAN MOD DISCLOSES SCOPE OF COMPANY BANS
Janes.com on 20th February reports that the Indian Ministry of Defence has revealed that 24 companies are currently banned, suspended, or restricted from doing defence business in the country – 6 “debarred” companies, 14 companies that have been imposed with suspension orders, and another 4 that the MoD said are imposed with “restricted procurement” orders. Debarred companies include Israel Military Industries (IMI), Singapore Technologies Kinetics (ST Kinetics), and Switzerland’s Rheinmetall Air Defence. Suspensions have been imposed on companies including Leonardo and its affiliates, Denel, Infotech Design Systems from Mauritius, Kelvin Engineering, and local firms Aeromatrix, Inter Spiro, and Offset India Solutions (OIS).
MILITARY BUILD-UP HEIGHTENS WAR-RISK AND INCREASES LIKELIHOOD OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST TAIWAN AND US COMPANIES IN CHINA
Janes.com on 20th February reported in an article that Taiwan’s relations with China have deteriorated significantly since President Tsai Ing-wen assumed office, as indicated by an increase in hostile rhetoric and Chinese military activities near Taiwan’s airspace, including increased frequency and scale of Chinese military exercises near Taiwan.
WHERE WILL ISIS SEEK TO ESTABLISH ITS NEXT SAFE HAVEN?
The RAND Corporation has reissued this article from the Jerusalem Post which says that now that ISIS has lost its “caliphate” in the heart of the Middle East. Some scholars believe the group will seek to re-emerge right back where the group started, in Iraq and Syria, while others suggest that ISIS (or a similar group) will reappear elsewhere – there are several potential candidates for the next ISIS headquarters, including Libya, the Sinai Peninsula, Afghanistan, Yemen, the Philippines and several regions across Africa. Libya and Egypt are identified as likely candidates. However, it also cautions that the ISIS Sinai affiliate declared war on Hamas, sparking fears that ISIS could attempt to move into Gaza, bringing its fighters even closer to the Israeli border; and that ISIS has doubled its size in Yemen over the past year, with militants taking advantage of a power vacuum due to that country’s ongoing civil war.
WESTERN COUNTRIES’ DILEMMA: WHAT TO DO WITH CAPTURED IS FOREIGN FIGHTERS?
VoA on 17th February carried an article saying that the US and its European allies are divided over the question of what to do with hundreds of Islamic State (IS) foreign fighters who were captured on the battlefields in Syria and Iraq. It says that while an agreement on how to handle the issue has yet to be made, experts warn of unprecedented challenges as some countries refuse to accept these fighters back into their home countries or are unprepared to deal with them in their criminal justice systems. An estimated 40,000 fighters from more than 120 countries are believed to have travelled to join the fighting in Iraq and Syria over the years. While thousands died on the battlefield, Western officials say many more thousands have escaped or were captured. However, returning fighters to home countries in the Middle East may be influenced by the mass execution last December of 38 prisoners in Iraq on terrorism-related charges and the UN called for an immediate halt to executions, citing flaws in the country’s criminal justice system.
THE KARABAKH CONFLICT
On 20th February, the Carnegie Moscow Center published an article on the forgotten (in the West) conflict, reminding one that February 2018 marks the sad 30th anniversary of the crisis in a remote corner of the Soviet Caucasus named the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region, which precipitated the conflict that persists to this day; and which began when the Armenian-majority Regional Soviet (Oblsoviet) of Nagorny Karabakh mad its resolution in 1988. It says that the conflict is now an international confrontation between Armenia and Azerbaijan in which 2 well-equipped armies face each other against the line of trenches known as the Line of Contact. It has mutated from being a dispute about the status of one small region in one country to an interstate contestation between 2 independent states, fought in world capitals and social media. The articles says that Russia’s strategy and the article says that Russia is not “pulling the strings” in the situation) — manage the conflict, keep up good relations with both Baku and Yerevan, strive to maintain the ceasefire — sets the tone for overall international engagement with a conflict universally perceived as being intractable. It can be described as “Project Minimum”. The article says that the hope for the Karabakh conflict as it enters its 4th ruinous decade is that it will come to be resolved because the actors in it rethink their strategic priority.
RUSSIAN DRONE ORLAN-10 CONSISTS OF PARTS PRODUCED IN THE USA AND OTHER COUNTRIES – PHOTO EVIDENCE
On 6th February InformNapalm carried an article which says that multirole UAV Orlan-10 is actively used by the Russian Army in combat operations against Ukraine in the Donbas, and the system was developed by the Russian company Special Technology Center based in St Petersburg. However, the article claims that Russians manufactured only the hull of the drone and the navigation receiver MNP-M7. Even the receiver is based on the ADSP-BF534 chip produced by the American company Analog Devices. Other components, i.e. GPS tracker, starter generator, engine, ignition module, flight controller, telemetry transmission module and GPS module were produced in the USA, Germany, Japan, China and other countries. These components are dual-use goods, which Russia purchases to apply for military purposes.
VENEZUELA LAUNCHES THE ‘PETRO,’ ITS CRYPTOCURRENCY
On 20th February, the Washington Post reported that crisis-ridden Venezuela is launching an oil-backed cryptocurrency on 20th February that it hopes will help circumvent US financial sanctions and resurrect the country’s moribund economy. The pre-sale of the “petro,” which will represent a barrel of crude from a specific division in the country’s Orinoco oil belt, started on 20th February. Investors were offered $60 “tokens” at discounted rates that they can exchange for petros during what is being dubbed an “initial coin offering,” or ICO, in March.
FCA’S INCOMING CHAIR CHARLES RANDELL GRILLED OVER TAX AVOIDANCE SCHEME
City AM reported on 20th February that the FCA’s incoming chair Charles Randell has been grilled over his involvement in a tax avoidance scheme, telling MPs it was “an error of judgement”. Randell was this afternoon quizzed by the Treasury Select Committee, with chair Nicky Morgan asking him to explain how he came to take part in Ingenious Film Partners 2.
MALTA CONSULTS ON ADDITIONAL CRYPTOCURRENCY AND BLOCKCHAIN LAW
Tax News on 20th February reported that Malta’s Government has released a consultation document proposing 3 new Bills to regulate the cryptocurrency and distributed ledger technology sect. Responses are required by 9th March.
UNPAID VAT CATCHES UP WITH BRIATORE
Superyacht News on 20th February reported that the Italian tycoon, Flavio Briatore, former boss of the Benetton and Renault F1 racing teams, receives a prison sentence for tax evasion 8 years after the seizure of ‘Force Blue‘. The case dates back to May 2010, when the expedition yacht was seized by the Italian authorities off the coast of La Spezia. Briatore, and four other defendants, were charged with using the yacht, commercially registered under the Cayman flag, for recreational proposes in Italian territorial waters from July 2006 to May 2010 without paying outstanding VAT worth €3.6 million. They also unlawfully declared the yacht’s fuel exempt from duty worth €800,000.
UK AND ISLE OF MAN RENEW TERRORISM SANCTIONS DESIGNATIONS
On 20th February both HM Treasury and the Isle of Man published news releases advising that the designations of Abdelkarim Hussein Mohamed Al-Nasser; Ibrahim Salih Mohammed Al-Yacoub; and Hasan Izz-Al-Din have been renewed.
APRIL 15 – AML CERTIFICATION COMPLIANCE DAY IN NEW YORK
K2 Intelligence Investigations in the US reminds New York businesses that on April 15th the New York Department of Financial Services’ (NYDFS’s ) new AML Part 504 regulations go into effect. And it’s also the deadline for bank-regulated institutions (BRI) and non-bank-regulated institutions (NRI) to submit to the NYDFS their first in a series of annually recurring determinations — akin to a “board resolution” or “compliance finding” — certifying compliance with the NYDFS AML regulation. They must state that the institution’s board of directors or designated senior officer(s) reviewed the documents, reports, certifications, and opinions necessary to make such a certification; that they took all necessary steps to confirm the regulated institution is in compliance with the NYDFS AML regulations; and that, to the best of their knowledge, their institution’s transaction monitoring and filtering program is in compliance with Section 504.3. And the requirement does not end there, as the article does on to elaborate.
AUSTRALIAN GAMBLING REGULATOR WARNS OPERATORS
Calvin Ayre on 20th February reported that Australia’s online gambling watchdog has uncovered 19 breaches of that country‘s new gambling law in its first investigation since the new rules took effect. It says that some of the affected companies almost certainly were offering online poker products to Australians, which remains popular despite the ban. A new ban on credit betting took effect on February 17th, although telephone betting services with annual turnover of less than A$30 million and an on-course Aussie racetrack presence were granted a carve-out.
EU COURT BACKS EUROPEAN COMMISSION 2014 GAMBLING GUIDELINES
On 20th February, Calvin Ayre reported that the European Court of Justice (CJEU) has thrown out a petition from the government of Belgium seeking to annul online gambling guidelines set by the European Commission. The Belgian government had earlier asked the CJEU to strike down the guidelines that aim to develop a high degree of consumer protection, claiming that the Commission has overstepped its Treaty-based competences by issuing the guidelines. The European Gaming and Betting Association is reported to have called upon the Commission to evaluate the implementation of its guidelines by Member States and identify any gaps and corrective action needed to encourage Member States to achieve a high level of consumer protection.
PAKISTAN REJECTS PROSECUTOR’S REQUEST FOR TRAVEL BAN FOR SHARIF
OCCRP reports on 20th February that Pakistan’s Interior Ministry rejected a request by anti-corruption authorities to impose a travel ban on former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members.
NO SINGLE MEANS OF REGULATING ICO, SAYS FINMA IN SWITZERLAND
On 20th February, law news site Out-Law reported that ‘initial coin offerings’ (ICO) will not be regulated in a uniform way in Switzerland, the country’s financial regulator has confirmed. The Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) said that the way in which ICO are regulated will be determined on a case-by-case basis and will depend on what function the tokens being offered perform and their “transferability”.
PHILIPPINE FORCES ARREST ALLEGED EX-ISLAMIC STATE COMMANDER
The Herald Courier on 19th February reported that Philippine police and army troops have arrested an Arab man, Fehmi Lassoued, who is reportedly from Egypt (together with his Filipina companion, Anabel Moncera Salipada), they believe was a former commander of the Islamic State group along the Syria and Turkey border in a raid on a Manila apartment, where they found bomb-making materials and an IS-style flag, the national police chief said. Investigators were looking into possible links between the 2 suspects and local and foreign militant groups, and whether they were involved in any terrorist activity.
THE KIDNAP AND SECURITY THREAT IN SYRIA
On 20th February, Control Risks published this podcast which looks at whether IS losses of territory translate into a decrease in the kidnap-for-ransom threat? What does the kidnap-for-ransom threat mean for organisations and companies seeking to operate in Syria? Beyond kidnap-for-ransom, what is the general security situation? Outside the security issues, what else should organisations be considering if they want to operate in Syria?
ARMS SHIPMENT TO BOSNIAN SERBS STOKES EU FEARS OF RUSSIAN INFLUENCE AND SEPARATISTS
On 13th February, the Guardian reported that the purchase of thousands of new guns by the Bosnian Serb police has raised concerns over the intentions of the separatist-led regional government and deepening Russian influence in a divided and economically depressed nation. A shipment of 2,500 automatic rifles from Serbia is due to arrive in the Serb-run half of Bosnia in March, weeks before the scheduled opening of a new training centre where Russian advisers have been expected to play a role under an agreement signed more than 2 years ago.
US DESIGNATES BURKINA FASO-BASED TERRORIST GROUP
On 20th February, the US Department of State has designated Ansarul Islam as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT). It says that Ansarul Islam is a terrorist group based in Burkina Faso. The group has launched numerous attacks in northern Burkina Faso near the border with Mali, including a December 2016 attack against an army squad that killed a dozen soldiers, one of the deadliest ever attacks against Burkina Faso’s military. Ansarul Islam also carried out a February 2017 strike on 2 police stations in the country and is believed to be responsible for the March 2017 murder of a school director and another man in Kourfayel, Burkina Faso.
ANSARUL ISLAM (a.k.a. ANSAR AL-ISLAM; a.k.a. ANSAR UL ISLAM OF MALAM BOUREIMA DICKO; a.k.a. ANSAROUR ISLAM; a.k.a. ANSAR-UL-ISLAM LIL-ICHAD WAL JIHAD; a.k.a. DEFENDERS OF ISLAM; a.k.a. “IRSAD”), Douna, Mali; Soum Province, Burkina Faso; Burkina Faso; Selba, Mali [SDGT].