24th February 2018
WHY COMPANIES ARE SCRAMBLING FOR THE ONCE LITTLE-KNOWN ELEMENT COBALT
On 23rd February, CNBC reported that cobalt prices more than doubled in 2017, fuelled in part by demand and investor interest, and rising demand for electrified vehicles could lead to cobalt shortages. The proliferation of lithium-ion batteries, of which cobalt is a key ingredient, in electronics and electrified vehicles is the chief factor fuelling this rise in price and concerns among companies over the security of their supplies. Prices for the metal more than doubled in 2017 over the previous year, according to the US Geological Survey.
AMERICA’S STARMEN ARE SELLING SPACE, BUT WHO’S BUYING?
In the US, Popular Mechanics on 23rd February reported that the emerging US commercial manned spaceflight market may depend on foreign customers — which is a problem, given the way US laws are written. At issue are the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). Space rockets and military missiles have a lot in common, and for that reason, access to manufacturing facilities and launchpads is limited to citizens and US-based companies. This makes sense for national security reasons, but it also could limit the marketing of space services. A company exporting rockets to another nation clearly would be subject to ITAR. Former NASA official and Space Council executive secretary Scott Pace is to conduct an export control policy review, which is supposed to be completed by January 1st 2019.
SHIPPING FIRM APL AND SHIP CAPTAIN FACE CHARGES IN SINGAPORE CASE
On 23rd February, Hellenic Shipping News reported that shipping line APL and a container ship captain have claimed trial to charges of importing 9 Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) armoured vehicles into Hong Kong without the required licence, Apple Daily HK reported. The ship was transporting the 9 Singapore-made Terrex infantry carriers back to Singapore after a military exercise in Taiwan in November 2016. The ship stopped in Hong Kong on Nov 23rd 2016, without an import licence and Customs officials to seize the Terrex vehicles. Generally, cargo in transit does not require an “import or export licence”. But such a licence is required for certain types of strategic commodities. The Terrex vehicles were kept in a Customs indoor storage facility during investigations. They were returned to Singapore 2 months later.
PUBLIC REPORTING ON CAMBODIA GARMENT FACTORIES
On 23rd February, Just Style reported that public reporting of critical issues at Cambodian garment factories is continuing to provide positive results, according to a recent report, with almost half of the factories now compliant on critical issues.
ABLV BANK CHIEF COMPLIANCE OFFICER QUITS AMID MONEY LAUNDERING PROBE
Compliance Week on 23rd February reported the resignation of its chief compliance officer, Aleksandrs Pāže, as the fallout following FinCEN’s statement about the bank on 13th February.
GUATEMALA EX-PRESIDENT FACES CHARGES OVER $35 MILLION GRAFT CASE
Telesur on 24th February reported that former Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom and 11 of his officials face charges of fraud and embezzlement for allegedly participating in a complex corruption scheme involving public transportation, the Prosecutor’s Office said.
IRELAND: CAB SEIZES LUXURY CARS, CASH AND WATCHES IN 39 RAIDS ON SENIOR CARTEL MEMBER
The Herald in Ireland on 24th February reported that a convicted armed robber, Ross Browining, 34, who has become one of the Kinahan cartel’s main Dublin operators was the primary target of the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) when it raided nearly 40 homes and businesses nationwide yesterday. The CAB, supported by national and local garda units, searched properties in 4 counties as part of a massive investigation.
UK NATIONAL DISCLOSURE IMPROVEMENT PLAN
US CRACKDOWN ON BUSINESS TRAVELERS FROM VISA WAIVER COUNTRIES
On 23rd February, Foley Hoag published an article saying that the Trump administration has also started to crack down on visitors who overstay their 90-day period covered by the programme. It will evaluate the countries that have high rate of overstay (2% or higher), and launch a public awareness campaign on consequences of overstays. DHS reports that only 4 countries so far will be required to conduct this education campaign: Greece, Hungary, Portugal and San Marino. The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows citizens of 38 countries to travel to the US for business or pleasure without having to obtain a formal visa by obtaining a pre-clearance known as Electronic System of Travel Authorization (ESTA). The ESTA registration is valid for 2 years and allows stays of up to 90 days per visit.
LA DEVELOPER CHARGED WITH FUNNELLING CASH TO POLITICIANS
Law 360 on 23rd February reported that Samuel Leung, 68, the developer of a controversial $72 million Los Angeles apartment project was charged with illegally using straw donors to funnel nearly $200,000 to 8 local politicians while seeking a change to the zoning of his property in the Harbor Gateway neighbourhood and allegedly reimbursed acquaintances after he told them to donate to the campaign of Mayor Eric Garcetti as well as council members from the industrial district, according to California state court filings.
SAUDI CUSTOMS FOIL ATTEMPT TO SMUGGLE 42 SUICIDE BOMBER DOLLS
Customs Today on 24th February reported that a bid to smuggle in children’s dolls with fake explosive belts strapped to their waists has been foiled by the Saudi Customs Authority.
US SUPREME COURT TAKES ON MICROSOFT WARRANT ROW
Law 360 on 23rd February reminded one that the US Supreme Court is gearing up to hear arguments on 27th February in a high-stakes fight over the federal government’s ability to access data stored abroad by Microsoft, and that it is expected that the Court will focus on a range of thorny legal and public policy issues in their quest to decide the close question of whether privacy rights or law enforcement needs should prevail.
NEW TERRORIST GROUPS WILL LOSE OUT IN EGYPT’S MARKET OF VIOLENCE
Chatham House on 23rd February published an article saying that the UK and US authorities have recently listed 2 Egyptian groups, Hassm and Lewaa al-Thawra, as terrorist organisations. Hassm, an abbreviation for ‘The Arms of Egypt Movement’ (established in July 2016), and Lewaa al-Thawra, which translates as ‘The Banner of the Revolution’ (formed in August 2016), have claimed responsibility for several operations targeting Egyptian security and religious figures. Although some of the members of these 2 groups were previously associated with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, the groups reject any organizational ties to the Brotherhood. The article concludes that their distinct approach will struggle to gain followers, in part because there is currently fierce competition between the 2 main jihadi groups active in Egypt, ISIS and Al-Qaeda, to attract Muslim Brotherhood youth to their ranks.
GUNS IN HONDURAS/EL SALVADOR TRACED BACK TO US
On 24th February, Sarah Kinosian, an independent journalist covering Mexico and Central America, tweeted that in Honduras and El Salvador, nearly 50% of guns found and traced in 2016 came from the US, according to ATF (the “traced” is extremely low compared to firearms in circulation, so it is likely higher.)
SENTINELS, SAEQEHS AND SIMORGHS: AN OPEN SOURCE SURVEY OF IRAN’S NEW DRONE IN SYRIA
On 13th February, Bellingcat published an analysis of the drones used, or said to have been used, in Syria and/or originating in (or copied by) Iran.
FORMER TOP UZBEK PROSECUTOR DETAINED ON GRAFT CHARGES
On 24th February, Rferl reported that Uzbek authorities say the country’s former prosecutor-general, Rashidjon Qodirov, is being investigated for alleged extortion, bribery, and abuse of office. Qodirov is the latest in a series of top government officials who have been caught up in an apparent purge by the administration of President Shavkat Mirziyoev. 2 other former prosecution officials, who worked under Qodirov, were also arrested.
LATVIAN BANK LINKED TO NORTH KOREA MONEY LAUNDERING ORDERED CLOSED
On 24th February, UPI reported that the European Central Bank announced it plans to close ABLV Bank, linked to claims of money laundering involving North Korea. It said Latvia’s third-largest lender was failing or likely to fail and its assets will be wound up, meaning they will liquidated, and they will be taken over by the laws of Latvia and Luxembourg, where one branch is located.
WHAT HAPPENED AFTER THE US MOVED TO CHIP-EMBEDDED PAYMENT CARDS?
On 24th February, ARS Technica published an article that says that, much later than European states, the US began its transition to chip-based credit cards in earnest in October 2015. It reports that, according to Visa, although only 59% of US storefronts have terminals that accept chip cards, fraud has dropped 70% from September 2015 to December 2017 for those retailers that have completed the chip upgrade. It says that, obviously, chip cards cannot prevent against Card-Not-Present (or CNP) fraud, which takes place when card information is stolen online, by mail, or over the phone. If retailers upgrade to terminals that accept chip-embedded cards but leave their online marketplaces insecure, they can still leave customers open to fraud and leave themselves open to processing fraudulent payments.
SWISS WHISTLEBLOWER ALERTS INCREASE BY A THIRD
Swissinfo reports on 24th February that a total of 122 alerts were received by the federal authorities in 2017, 44 more than the previous year. The increase has been attributed to the introduction of an online platform for reporting irregularities and corruption. The article tells us that, since June 2017, whistleblowers – federal employees or private individuals – can report suspected irregularities on a dedicated online platform anonymously, securely and without furnishing proof. The only condition is not to breach the trust or obligation of diligence towards an employer, for example by communicating with the press.
SMUGGLED SHISHA TOBACCO WAS WORTH £290,000 IN DUTY
This is Local London on 24th February reported on the case of a man from Hayes, Company director Harmit Singh, 43, who evaded nearly £300,000 in tax on a shipping container loaded with shisha tobacco from India through Felixstowe and have it delivered to an address in Southall, was given a suspended jail sentence. Investigators searched his house and found paperwork which showed his company, SS Importers (UK) Limited, had been selling and distributing shisha tobacco in the UK.
IRISH GAELIC ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION BANS ALL GAMBLING SPONSORSHIP
On 24th February, Calvin Ayre reported that Ireland’s top amateur sporting organisation, the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), has overwhelmingly voted to prohibit all sponsorship by betting companies. At its annual congress delegates voted to ban “sponsorship by a betting company of any competition, team, playing gear or facility”. It also voted to prohibit the brand of any sponsor – gambling or otherwise – from being “allowed on clothing and gear of match officials.”
OVER 40 SHOULD FACE TRIAL FOR SOUTH SUDAN ATROCITIES, UN TEAM SAYS
On 23rd February, the New York Times carried an article saying that more than 40 senior military officers and officials in South Sudan should be prosecuted on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, a UN commission reported, citing harrowing witness testimony and thousands of documents tying them to mass atrocities in the country’s 4-year civil war