2nd March 2018
ESTONIA BECOME E-STONIA
The March 2018 edition of the IMF magazine, “Finance and Development”, carries an interview with Toomas Hendrik Ilves, the former president of Estonia and the man behind rebranding the country once best known for logging to the place where Skype was born. In it he explains how digitalisation can make people’s lives a whole lot easier.
TECHNOLOGY OFFERS WEAPONS FOR THE BATTLE AGAINST CORRUPTION
The March 2018 edition of the IMF magazine, “Finance and Development”, carries an article that says that worldwide, bribery alone is estimated to cost as much as $2 trillion a year, about equal to the GDP of Italy and many times the $142 billion in global development aid; and why international financial institutions, such as the IMF and World Bank, are helping governments fight corruption through improved transparency, accountability, and institution building. The article details how blockchain, big data etc may be utilised to help combat the threats.
3rd March 2018
SON OF FORMER KYRGYZ ENVOY UNDER HOUSE ARREST IN US FOR ARMS SMUGGLING
On 2nd March Rferl reported on the fact that one of 2 people arrested in the US for allegedly smuggling weapons to Chechnya is the son of a former Kyrgyz ambassador to Washington. Tengiz Sydykov, 28, is the son of Zamira Sydykova, a well-known journalist who was Kyrgyzstan’s ambassador to Washington 2005-10.
RUSSIA AND ARGENTINA SPLIT OVER MYSTERIOUS DRUG SMUGGLING CASE
On 3rd March, the Guardian reported on the fallout from the discovery of a lrage amount of cocaine from the Russian embassy in Argentina. It reports that Andrey Kovalchuk, accused of stashing cocaine in an embassy school, has claimed to be a cigar salesman, an intelligence officer, and an embassy worker. He has been detained in Germany where is reported to live. He was apparently known as “Senor K” in Argentina. Argentinian law enforcement quickly replaced the cocaine with flour and fitted the pieces of luggage with tracking devices, to be sent back to Moscow as part of a sting operation. But Argentina and Russia disagree over whether the flour was eventually carried back to Russia as diplomatic cargo and whether it was taken aboard a Russian government jet.
AT UN, CHINA DELAYS US BID TO BLACKLIST SHIPS, COMPANIES OVER NORTH KOREA
Reuters reported on 3rd March that China delayed a US request for a UN Security Council committee to blacklist a further 33 ships, 27 shipping companies, and a Taiwan man for violating international sanctions on North Korea.
FORMER RIO GOVERNOR SENTENCED TO 13 MORE YEARS IN PRISON OVER MONEY LAUNDERING
Xinhua on 3rd March reported that Sergio Cabral, a former governor of Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro state, has been found guilty of money laundering and sentenced to 13 more years in prison. It is the fifth time Cabral has been found guilty of crimes of corruption and money laundering. Together, his jail term amounts to over 100 years.
TUNISIA: MONEY LAUNDERING THROUGH CARS
African Manager on 2nd March reported that the car market in Tunisia is in the hands of a well-organised mafia, saying that perhaps that is why the successive governments of the revolution have let it go and have never touched it. Smuggling is said to involve more than 130,000 foreign cars sold on the Tunisian market between 2012 and 2016 related to car theft networks abroad. The article claims that there is even a website that offers you to “sell your FCR quickly” [the FCR is the mechanism for changes of registration] and social media pages. And this facility that the state gives to Tunisians living abroad to import tax-free cars, one for each spouse, has become a source of income for some and a source of trafficking for others.
‘SCAM’ LAWYER GREGORY KING IN RECORD £120 MILLION DEBT
The Times on 3rd March reported that Gregory King, 49, a lawyer who was at the centre of a fraud investigation into his collapsed global finance company, Heather Capital, has become Scotland’s biggest bankrupt with personal debts of about £120 million. He was declared bankrupt by a Gibraltar court last summer with debts of £7.5 million after an alleged multi-million-pound property scam; but the court-appointed trustee has revealed that creditors — including pension funds, investment funds and family trusts — are owed between £115 million and £120 million.
AFIS AUTOMATED FINGERPRINT SYSTEM FOR SIS II TO BE DEPLOYED THIS MONTH
On 2nd March, an EU news release announced that AFIS (Automated Fingerprint Identification System) is to become an active part of SIS II from 5th March. The Schengen Information System (SIS II) is a highly efficient large-scale information system that supports law enforcement co-operation and external border control throughout the Member States of the EU (and Schengen Associated Countries). It enables competent authorities, for example police officers and border guards, to enter and consult alerts on specific categories of wanted or missing persons and objects. Although the legal basis of SIS II permits the storage of fingerprints, they have only been used so far to confirm the identity of a person who has been identified and the real added value of fingerprints is to be able to identify a person from his/her fingerprints alone. In order for this to occur, AFIS is necessary.
IS GADDAFI STILL DISPENSING LARGESSE IN SOUTH AFRICA FROM THE GRAVE?
Defence Web on 2nd March carried an article saying that news that Bashir Saleh Bashir, former chief of staff and reputed ‘banker’ to the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, was shot in Johannesburg has again raised questions about what he is doing in South Africa. Bashir fled Tripoli as Gaddafi’s government fell in 2011, going first to Niger and then to France, then coming to South Africa. It says that it is not clear why he’s never been arrested despite Interpol having issued a Red Notice in about 2012 for all countries to apprehend him on charges of fraud and embezzlement in Libya. Rumours are that Gaddafi stashed loot in South Africa, among other countries, just before the rebels took Tripoli. Bashir, apart from being Gaddafi’s chief of staff, he was also chairperson of the Libya Africa Investment Portfolio (LAIP) which was owned by the Libyan Investment Authority, a government-owned sovereign wealth fund and holding company. LAIP’s function was to invest Libyan state money in projects primarily in Africa. It mentions that in 2013 there were reports of an attempt for South African state arms company Denel to supply the ‘Libyan Air Force’ and ‘Air Territory Defence Forces’ with a huge quantity of weapons. The article poses the question, if Gaddafi was indeed funding the ANC in life, is he still funding it beyond the grave?
CONVICTED JAMAICAN DRUG RUNNER ORDERED TO PAY $17.5 MILLION
The Gleaner in Jamaica on 2nd March reported that convicted drug runner Ralph Gregg has been ordered by the court to pay more than $17 million to the state as a penalty for his drug activity. This was after the Home Circuit Court upheld an application for a pecuniary penalty order under the Proceeds of Crime Act by the Financial Investigations Division (FID). In April 2013 Gregg was convicted of possession of cocaine and dealing in cocaine. Gregg argued that his assets and expenditures came from his legitimate employment as a carpenter in Canada.
‘LARGE SCALE’ INTERNATIONAL ECSTASY OPERATION IN CALIFORNIA
ABC 15 in California on 1st March reported that arrests have been made in Mesa, Glendale and at Sky Harbor Airport involving an international ecstasy operation capable of producing 15,000 pills per hour. Investigators say they would import about 50 kg of pure ketamine from Europe and have it sent to various mailboxes at UPS stores. Allegedly a baggage handler for Piedmont Airlines smuggled the drugs onto planes, for distribution around the US. When premises were raided officers located containers, shipping labels, and over $400,000 in drug proceeds.
REFUELING ZARIF: A SAD SAGA OF SECONDARY SANCTIONS AVERTED BY GERMAN MILITARY
On 2nd March, the Export Law Blog provided a US view of the decision of the German government to have the Luftwaffe refuel the Iranian finance minister’s aircraft so he could return from the Munich security conference after oil companies refused due to fears over US sanctions although the Blog points out there is an exemption that they might have taken advantage of.
600 COMPUTERS USED FOR BITCOIN MINING STOLEN IN ICELAND
Gambling 911 on 3rd March reported that about 600 computers used to “mine” bitcoin and other virtual currencies have been stolen from data centres in Iceland. It rep[orts that 11 people were arrested, including a security guard, in what Icelandic media have dubbed the “Big Bitcoin Heist”. The powerful computers have not yet been found, and are worth almost $2 million. But if the stolen equipment is used for its original purpose — to create new bitcoins — the gain for the thieves could be far more, the article claims.
HOW TO BUY A GUN IN 15 COUNTRIES
The New York Times on 2nd March carried an interesting article which begins by saying that many Americans can buy a gun in less than an hour. In some countries, the process takes months. The article then goes on to explain the basic steps for how most people buy a gun in 15 of them, saying that many countries have exceptions for specialised professions, and local laws vary.
PROPERTIES OF FORMER ALBANIAN MP MARK FRROKU TO BE CONFISCATED
Top Channel Albania reported on 3rd March that, 2 years after blocking some of the assets owned by former MP Mark Frroku, the former head of Christian Democratic Party in the ruling coalition, a court is about to confiscate these assets. Frroku has been sentenced in Albania for 3 crimes: hiding assets, money laundering and illegal construction. He has also been sentenced by the Dutch judiciary system for drug trafficking, and in the Netherlands, he was identified with his other name, Piro Sofrani.
NIGERIAN PRESIDENT CONTACTS UK SFO ASKING IT FOR PROBE INTO SUSPECT FUNDS AND ASSETS
The Sahara Reporters website on 3rd March reported that it understood the SFO may look to request Unexplained Wealth Orders after receipt of a request from President Buhari to investigate expensive properties in the UK. It claims that Bukola Saraki and Ike Ekweremadu, President and Deputy President of the Senate respectively, acquired expensive real estate in the UK. One property is said to have been acquired using the Ikeoha Foundation, which is registered with Nigeria’s Corporate Affairs Commission as a charity, and other properties were acquired using BVI or Jersey companies, it says.
TAIWAN INVESTIGATORS ISSUE WARNING ABOUT ETHVINEX TRADING WEBSITE
Focus Taiwan on 3rd March reported that the Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) has issued a statement, warning the public against the use of a trading site called Ethvinex, which it said has come under the spotlight for fraud-related complaints. It says that since late February, Taiwan authorities have been receiving at least 50 complaints per day about fraudulent activities on the Ethvinex site, according to the CIB. Complainants said that they had not received any responses after carrying out transactions on the trading platform, the bureau said.
FORMER RAIFFEISEN BOSS HELD IN CUSTODY IN SWITZERLAND
Swissinfo on 3rd March reported that Zurich authorities have placed Pierin Vincenz, the former CEO of Swiss banking group Raiffeisen (and also former chairman of the board of directors of credit card company Aduno) who is suspected of corporate fraud, in custody to prevent him communicating with other accused individuals. He was detained along with a former Aduno board member.
ANGOLA PROBES ISABEL DOS SANTOS’ TIME AS SONANGOL CHIEF
News 24 on 3rd March reported that Angolan prosecutors opened an investigation into possible corruption at the country’s state oil giant when it was run by former president Jose Eduardo dos Santos’ daughter Isabel. This follows Sonangol’s new CEO, Carlos Saturnino, angrily criticising the financial management of his predecessor during a results briefing. Her appointment to Sonangol was also seen as a symbol of the nepotism that characterised Dos Santos’ 38-year rule. Oil provides 70% of Angola’s revenues and almost all of its hard currency.
CRIMINALS IN JAPAN ARE PROFITING FROM THE PUBLIC’S FEAR OF PROSECUTORS
The Japan Times on 3rd March reported that a new type of transfer fraud in which perpetrators take advantage of their victims’ fear of prosecution has sparked concern among law enforcement officials. The Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Metropolitan Police Department have issued a statement warning people about a “wire me the money” fraud that makes use of a fake webpage modelled on that of the Public Prosecutor’s Office. Criminals call the victim and pretend to be a prosecutor or someone representing the police, and are told that their bank account has been used for fraud, and that those who have lost money have filed criminal charges. Victims are then directed to a phony web page to confirm the situation for themselves. Victims are then advised to co-operate with the investigation and temporarily transfer their savings to another account if they do not want their deposits to be frozen.
ART HEIR WILDENSTEIN IN FRENCH COURT FOR ALLEGED TAX FRAUD
Customs Today on 3rd March reported the start of the trial of Guy Wildenstein, 72. It reports that, in January 2017, a court found evidence of a “clear attempt” by Wildenstein and 7 co-defendants to hide art treasures and properties worth hundreds of millions of euros from tax authorities. “For at least 3 generations, members of the Wildenstein family have carefully concealed a considerable estate behind legal vehicles outside of French law, thereby escaping taxation,” the court said at the time. Prosecutors argue that most of the dynasty’s billions of euros are held by a web of trusts and holding companies stretching from Guernsey to the Bahamas.
GREEK PARLIAMENT PASSES BILL TO REGULATE MEDICAL CANNABIS PRODUCTION
Customs Today on 3rd March reported that legislators in Greece have approved a Bill to regulate medical cannabis cultivation and distribution, it will allow licensed businesses to cultivate and process cannabis for medical purposes. The planned involvement of foreign companies has provoked controversy among some policymakers in Greece.
AUSTRALIA: TOUGHER PENALTIES IN FIGHT AGAINST ILLEGAL TOBACCO PRODUCTS
The Tobacco Journal International on 2nd March reported that legislation passed by the Australian House of Representatives will seek to apply tougher penalties to those found to be involved in the manufacture and trade of illicit tobacco – in the hope of combatting an illegal market the Australian Taxation Office has linked to organised crime groups.
15th ANNIVERSARY OF THE US DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY
In the US, the Department, which includes the former US Customs, celebrated its 15th anniversary. A timeline of notable developments since 2003 is provided on the US Customs and Border Protection website –
NORTH KOREA-EGYPT MISSILE CO-OPERATION
The New York Times on 3rd March carried an article detailing links between the two countries. It says that US and UN experts allege that Egypt has purchased North Korean weapons and allowed North Korean diplomats to use their Cairo embassy as a base for military sales across the region for years. Those transactions earned vital hard cash for North Korea. A report on the seizure of a shipload of arms in 2016, due to be released this month, identifies the customer for the weapons as an arm of the Arab Organisation for Industrialisation (AOI), Egypt’s main state weapons conglomerate. Egypt has previously denied being the intended recipient of the weapons, or breaching international sanctions. There are claims that the Cairo embassy has become a bustling arms bazaar for covert sales of North Korean missiles and cut-price Soviet-era military hardware across a band of North Africa and the Middle East – shielded by diplomatic cover and front companies. The article reports that, starting in the 1970s, the countries collaborated to extend the range and accuracy of Soviet Scud surface-to-surface missiles [as used by Sadam Hussein against Israel during the first Gulf War].
Incidentally, Jeffrey Lewis of the excellent Arms Control Wonk blog and podcast comments that the article is good but it only starts to scratch the surface of Egypt-DPRK missile co-operation.
ALBANIA’S LARGEST COCAINE SEIZURE POINTS TO NEW EUROPEAN ROUTES
Insight Crime on 2nd March reported that the seizure of more than half a tonne of cocaine at an Albanian port – the largest in Albania’s history – suggests Colombian crime groups seeking to cash in on booming production are diversifying trafficking routes into the lucrative European market.
US SEEKS TO DOUBLE AK-47 SUPPLY TO SYRIAN PARTNERS
Al-Monitor on 16th February reported that the Trump Administration is seeking to more than double the number of assault rifles it provides to Syrian Kurds and other US-backed fighters despite rising anger from Turkey. US budgeting data reveals that the Pentagon plans to supply its Syrian partners — including the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) — more than 25,000 AK-47, the gas-powered Soviet-era gun that has become a fixture in Syria’s 7-year civil war. The article details other supplies proposed to supply, including mortars, anti-tank weapons and sniper rifles, all being Soviet/Russian-origin weaponry.
US STATE DEPARTMENT SAYS NORTH KOREA HAS USED CHEMICAL WEAPONS
NK News on 2nd March reported that the US has said that the North Korean government had used chemical weapons (on its own people) in violation of international laws in a notice posted on the US Government’s Federal Register –
The notice was posted by the State Department’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, though it did not give further details on how Washington had arrived at the conclusion. The notice also outlined 5 sanctions which would typically accompany such an announcement, including cutting foreign and financial aid, ending military support and export restrictions on sensitive goods – although severe sanctions are already in place
4th March 2018
SMUGGLING IN THE STRAITS OF GIBRALTAR
On 3rd March, the Olive Press carried an interesting piece where its reporter spent time with the Gibraltar authorities attempting to stem the flow of smuggled drugs crossing from Morocco.
ILLEGAL GAMBLING SEES RUSSIAN PUNTERS POURING OVER $1 BILLION PER YEAR INTO OFFSHORE SHELL ACCOUNTS
The Japan times on 4th March reported that the government tried to impose order by shutting down illegal casinos that boomed after the original collapse of the Soviet Union and allowing bookmakers to open sport betting shops that instantly gravitated toward soccer. Improved internet access pushed most of these punters online and produced a legal vacuum filled by scores of anonymous websites with no licenses but burgeoning business. Russia’s Bookmakers Rating gambling analysis centre estimates the entire industry’s annual turnover at $11.8 billion in May 2017, 65% in illegal online bets, and this is expected to triple in the next 5 years thanks to high-profile events such as the World Cup. The official authority has 15 licensees, though popular Irish and British businesses do not take Russian bets and the licensed bookmakers are local start-ups, except for one. Most of the rest are small offshore companies registered in the Netherlands Antilles, Costa Rica or European jurisdictions such as Malta and Gibraltar, says the authority’s director.
ARGENTINE EX-PRESIDENT KIRCHNER TO FACE CORRUPTION TRIAL
On 3rd March, Aretz Sheva 7 reports that Cirstina Kirchner, ex-minister Julio de Vido, and construction magnate Lazaro Baez to stand trial in a corruption case related to the awarding of public contracts in Kirchner’s southern political stronghold of Patagonia.
ALBANIA: FIGHTING THE CANNABIS MAFIA
Deutsche Welle offers a 42-minute video about the growing and smuggling cannabis business in Albania, an industry worth billions for the Albanian mafia. Albania is one of the world’s main producers of cannabis, and a dangerous war on drugs is being waged by the authorities against the drug cartels.
NEW HOPE IN SOUTH AFRICA’S FIGHT AGAINST ORGANISED CRIME
On 16th February, ENACT Africa reported that the Organised Crime Threat Assessment system signals a new phase of intelligence-led responses. In its ongoing effort to address the complex threat of transnational organised crime in South Africa, the government has looked to programmes and experiences that have achieved successes elsewhere. This has seen the recent introduction by the South African Police Service (SAPS) of the Organised Crime Threat Assessment (OCTA) mechanism, which has been used successfully to combat organised crime in Europe, Australia and North America. OCTA is based on a report, issued periodically, which provides analysis on the threat of organised crime. This offers a robust framework for the extensive and proactive use of intelligence as a basis for developing policies, strategies, action plans and anti-organised crime operations. It further allows for the routine analysis and assessment of changing threats, policy gaps and operational flaws. As a result, law enforcement agencies are able to undertake interventions that are more timely and effective.
North Korean statue tribute to the AK 47 in Egypt…
FAKE UN AND DIFC LOGOS BEING USED IN MONEY CLEARANCE SCAM IN DUBAI
The National in Dubai on 4th March reported that Dubai’s finance authority have issued an alert that scammers are targeting residents with false documents and fake international money laundering clearance certificates bearing logos of the UN and the Dubai International Finance Centre (DIFC), and use of a company called First Security Service that is claimed as being registered with the Dubai Financial Services Authority.
COINBASE FIGHTING ON 2 FRONTS – ONE LAWSUIT ACCUSES THE EXCHANGE OF INSIDER TRADING, THE SECOND OF ILLEGALLY CLAIMING UNREDEEMED FUNDS
Finance Magnate on 4th March reported that cryptocurrency trader, Coinbase, is facing 2 class-action law suits, both filed in the US on the 2nd March.
CANCER FUND SCAMMER LINKED TO FAILED £30 MILLION PROPERTY SCHEME FOUND GUILTY OF DRUNKEN ATTACK ON HIS WIFE
The Daily Record from Scotland reported on 4th March that Tony Freement, 51, who was involved in a proposed luxury project from a concern called Pinnacle Alliance called Angelgate in the centre of Manchester, where investors paid up to £350,000 to secure their plot in the proposed scheme to build 344 apartments. In September 2017, the newspaper reports, Angelgate was put into administration following a court action by a buyers’ group set up to try to recover their money. Pinnacle, who are still trading, have been the subject of separate police and HMRC investigations. Freeman is described as a former professional fundraiser whose Paisley-based company Solutions RMC raked in millions from breast cancer charities by charging huge commissions – only £1.5 million of £13 million raised ended up with the 2 charities involved, whilst he received £170,000 a year and £8 million in commission. He was jailed for 18 months in 2006 for defrauding his fundraising firm of £450,000 days before it went bust.
(SOME) EUROPEANS CUT SAUDI ARMS SALES
Arms Control Today reports on 1st March that a number of European countries cut or confirmed prior cessation of arms sales to Saudi Arabia and others fighting in the controversial Yemen war. Germany, Norway, and the Walloon district of Belgium have all announced measures. The European Parliament has also adopted resolutions in 2016 and 2017 calling for an arms embargo on the Saudis. The article points out that Belgium, Germany, and Norway are states-parties to the UN Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which includes provisions against selling weapons where they can be expected to be used to commit abuses. France and the UK are also ATT members but have continued to sell arms into the region.