12th March 2018
ASIA AND THE MIDDLE EAST LEAD RISING TREND IN ARMS IMPORTS
On 12th March, a report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute detailed arms exports 2013-17. It shows that the flow of arms increased to Asia and Oceania and the Middle East between 2008–12 and 2013–17, while there was a decrease in the flow to Africa, the Americas and Europe. The 5 biggest exporters — the US, Russia, France, Germany and China — together accounted for 74% of all arms exports in 2013–17.
EU Observer on 12th March reported that French arms exports increased 27% in the 2008 to 2017 period making it the world’s third-largest exporter. Germany’s overall sales fell by 14% in the same period, but its exports to the Middle East more than doubled.
Customs Today on 12th March reported that Saudi Arabia increased arms imports by 225% in 5 years. The Saudis have taken delivery of 78 combat aircraft, 72 combat helicopters, 328 tanks and 4,000 vehicles.
ARREST FOR ALLEGEDLY SELLING ENCRYPTED PHONES TO GANGS, DRUG CARTELS
The FBI has arrested the owner of Phantom Secure, one of a number of phone companies that it claims sells customised BlackBerry and Android devices for use in international criminal organisations. It says that the FBI, along with Canadian and Australian police, targeted Phantom Secure for deliberately selling drug cartels phones designed for criminal activity. According to the report, the FBI says that the company and CEO Vincent Ramos knew full well that their devices were being used in violent crime.
VANCOUVER MAN “LAUNDERED TENS OF MILLIONS OF CRIME CASH”
On 12th March, Baker McKenzie reported that a Vancouver businessman alleged to have sold encrypted BlackBerries to international drug-trafficking organizations laundered “tens of millions” of dollars of his illicit profits. Vincent Ramos, who owns Phantom Security Communications, was arrested in Washington State and is facing trial in San Diego. It is alleged that he sold 20,000 of his specialised devices, as well as access to his encrypted communication network, to organised crime groups around the world.
SWITZERLAND: FAREWELL TO BEARER SHARES AND INTRODUCTION OF CRIMINAL SANCTIONS FOR VIOLATIONS OF TRANSPARENCY OBLIGATIONS?
CMS von Erlach Poncet on 7th March published a briefing saying that, on 17th January, the Swiss Federal Council launched the consultation on the implementation of the recommendations of the OECD Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes regarding the transparency of legal entities and the exchange of information. This is the beginning of the legislative process and it is expected that the proposed legislation will be deliberated in the Swiss Parliament in winter 2018/2019. The proposed legislation includes provision for the automatic conversion of bearer shares into registered shares as well as a tightening of the transparency obligations under Swiss corporate law by introducing criminal sanctions for breaches of the transparency obligations, and further proposals concerning administrative assistance in tax matters. The briefing provides background and detail of the proposed changes as they affect corporate taxation.
Q&A ON THE EU RAPID ALERT SYSTEM FOR DANGEROUS PRODUCTS
On 12th March, the EU published a Q&A on the day that the European Commission presented its latest report on the Rapid Alert System for dangerous products. Operational from 2004, the European Rapid Alert System for non-food dangerous products ensures that information about unsafe products withdrawn from the market and/or recalled from consumers anywhere in Europe is quickly circulated between Member States and the European Commission, so that appropriate action can be taken everywhere in the EU. 31 countries (EU Member States together with Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) participate in the system.
TOYS AND CARS TOP THE LIST OF DANGEROUS PRODUCTS DETECTED
NEW ZEALAND’S FMA WARNS 5 BUSINESSES OVER LACK OF AML/CFT AUDITING
Finance Magnates on 12th March reports that the Financial Markets Authority (FMA) has issued formal warnings to 5 separate business entities, as a result of their lack of compliance with the Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Act.
BELGIUM ROTTEN MEAT SCANDAL DISCOVERED IN KOSOVO
The Gazette Express on 12th March reported that Belgium food authorities have closed down a meat processing plant and meat products have been removed from supermarket shelves after a worker of the Belgian company exporting meat Veviba admitted that they have exported rotten meat in Kosovo.
THE NEXT STEPS OF NORTH AFRICA´S FOREIGN FIGHTERS
On 12th March, ETH Zurich published a paper which looks at how North African foreign fighters who flocked to Syria and Iraq, as well as the so-called Islamic State’s (IS) regional provinces, are now returning to their home countries, the effects they are or might have, and what the EU can do to support the state affected.
UK BAN ON BANGLADESH AIR FREIGHT ENDS: BUT NOTHING CHANGES
Loadstar on 12th March reports that it turns out that the UK’s recent decision to lift the ban on cargo carried on direct flights out of Bangladesh has had no practical effect. According to Bangladesh’s Daily Star, the only airline with direct flights between Dhaka and London is Biman Bangladesh – except that it doesn’t have direct flights, because it is currently banned from operating in the EU due to security issues.
VIETNAM’S DRAFT TAX ON UNEXPLAINED INCOMES “COULD LEAD TO MONEY LAUNDERING”
Baker McKenzie on 12th March reports a proposal to slap a heavy tax on officials with unexplained incomes or assets.
BELGIUM: REGISTERED MAIL CAN NOW BE SENT ONLINE THROUGH A QUALIFIED TRUST SERVICE PROVIDER
CMS Law on 12th March reported that, although there has been electronic registered mail available in Belgium since 2016, there have not been any recognised qualified trust service providers. Now the company IT Connect Solutions has been recognised by the Belgian authorities as a qualified trust service provider. Communications that must by law be sent by registered mail (such as an employee’s dismissal with a notice to perform) can now be sent through this qualified trust service provider. Electronic registered mail has the same status as conventional registered mail but is much cheaper.
PHILIPPINE’S FORMER VICE-PRESIDENT AND SON INDICTED ON GRAFT CHARGES
On 12th March, Baker McKenzie reported that former Philippine vice-president, Jejomar Binay, has been indicted before a special court for graft and falsification of public documents arising linked to a $26 million construction deal. Also indicted was his son and namesake, Jejomar Junior, who was earlier dismissed as a mayor.
EUROPE CRACKS DOWN ON LUXURY YACHT TAX DODGE IN 3 MEMBER STATES, CITING PARADISE PAPERS
On 12th March, ICIJ reported on the European Commission initiating action against 3 Member States – Greece, Cyprus and Malta – for failure to collect sufficient VAT on yachts.
ENGLISH COURT REJECTS CLAIM TO LITIGATION PRIVILEGE BY NON-PARTY
LK Shields on 12th March reported that the Commercial Court in England and Wales recently determined that any right to litigation privilege can only apply to a person that is a party to the actual proceedings or litigation, and not to any other person that may be controlling the litigation (Minera Las Bambas SA and another v Glencore Queensland Ltd. and others)
STANDARD & POOR ACCUSED OF WEAKENING RATINGS MODEL TO WIN BUSINESS
Ratings agency Standard and Poor’s weakened its risk assessment criteria to win business and turn out high ratings on opaque debt products that started to unwind during the global financial crisis, an Australian court heard, where it is being sued for at least A$190 million by 2 local governments and 2 pension funds in Australia.
Seabed Warfare Week Kicks Off on CIMSEC
On 12th March, the Center for International Maritime Security in the US began a week of of articles focusing on the seabed as a domain of maritime conflict and competition. This topic week is launched in partnership with the US Naval War College’s Institute for Future Warfare Studies. To illustrate, one of the articles focuses on the rivalry in the South China Sea.
FINAL FLIGHT OF A USAF MQ-1 PREDATOR DRONE
TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL CAMPAIGN: UNMASK THE CORRUPT
Pressure group NGO Transparency International has this year launched a new campaign designed to help prevent corruption. The goal of the campaign is to stop people who amass wealth from corruption enjoying that wealth. This campaign has 3 demands –
- to outlaw shell or anonymous companies that allow corrupt people to hide their wealth;
- to introduce visa bans for people who are known to be corrupt so they can’t travel; and
- to make sure companies that sell luxury goods like property, yachts and jewels, find out where the money to buy them comes from and report suspicious buyers.
EU LAUNCHES KNOWLEDGE CENTRE TO BOOST FOOD QUALITY AND STEP UP THE FIGHT AGAINST FOOD FRAUD
On 12th March, the European Commission announced that on 13th March it would launch a Knowledge Centre for Food Fraud and Quality – a network made up of experts in and outside the Commission, will support EU policymakers and national authorities by providing access to, and sharing up-to-date scientific knowledge on food fraud and food quality issues, operated by the Joint Research Centre.
For information on the Joint Research Centre that exists to support EU policy-making, see –
ITALIAN POLICE SUSPECT PEOPLE CLOSE TO ‘NDRANGETA OF MONEY LAUNDERING IN PRAGUE
On 12th March, Radio Praha named the 2 suspects are former UniCredit manager Massimilian Fossati and real estate businessman Claude Personnettaz, who heads an agency that deals with real estate in the city centre.
TROUBLED DAM PROJECT NOW SUBJECT OF BRAZIL GRAFT PROBE
On 12th March, OCCRP reported that Brazilian police issued several search warrants in a new phase of the “Car Wash” (Lava Jato) corruption investigation, now looking into the world’s third biggest hydroelectric company, Norte Energia, which is suspected of having bribed government officials in order to win a contract to build a dam.
MORE THAN 600 SMUGGLED REPTILES FOUND IN SPAIN: 9 ARRESTS
On 12th March, a news release from Europol reported that a Spanish criminal network trafficking in rare animals has been dismantled by the Spanish Guardia Civil after more than 600 reptiles from the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania were found. Members of the criminal group bought the animals from Australia, the Fiji Islands, Mexico, New Zealand, Oman and South Africa, then illegally transported them to Spain.
KENYA STOPS IMPORTS OF READY-TO-EAT MEATS FROM SOUTH AFRICA OVER LISTERIA FEARS
On 12th March, Reuters reports on the fallout of what it describes as the world’s worst listeria outbreak that has affected South Africa. The outbreak has killed 180 people in the past year and other African nations such as Zambia have also banned South African meat imports due to worries over its potential spread.
“COCAINE KING OF MILAN” FACING EXTRADITION FROM URUGUAY
KYC 360 on 12th March reported that Uruguay has agreed to extradite a notorious drug trader known as the “cocaine king of Milan” back to Italy. Rocco Morabito was arrested last year after living under a false identity for about a decade. The suspected head of the ‘Ndrangheta crime gang has been one of Italy’s most wanted fugitives since 1995.