8th April 2018
FORMER CRIME BOSS REVEALS THE TRUTHS BEHIND MURDERS AND ARMS SMUGGLING
The Independent on 8th April carried an article on Paul Le Roux, who has been helping the US government round up his associates since 2012 in the hope of avoiding a life sentence. He told a jury in New York that he had once sold missile technology to Iran, shipped guns from Indonesia, and trafficked methamphetamine out of North Korea, taken part in at least 5 murders, and admitted not only to arming a 200-man militia in Somalia but also to hatching plans to use mercenaries to overthrow the government of the Seychelles. Le Roux said that for 2 years his chief mercenary was a man named David Smith who in 2008 formed a company called Echelon Associates to recruit mercenaries.
PHILLIPINES: 21 CUSTOMS BROKERS AND IMPORTERS AMONG 23 CHARGED OVER 105 CONTAINERS’ RELEASE
On 8th April, Inquirer.net reported a case involving the illegal release of 105 shipping containers that had been covered by an alert order by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) on suspicion of being smuggled. Among those named in the complaint were the assistant vice president for Manila South Harbor operations of Asian Terminal Inc. (ATI), and a ATI shift manager.
CROCODILES, STURGEON EGGS, DIAMONDS: GREEK CUSTOMS STAFF HAVE SEEN IT ALL IN 2017
Tornos News on 7th April carried a feature reporting the performance of Greek customs in 2007, including confiscating 154 million contraband cigarettes, 400 kg of European eels at the storage facilities of a European company and another 160 kg at Athens airport, 5 caimans from the Netherlands in a wooden container, 25 kg of sturgeon eggs on their way to Turkey, 580 diamonds and 58 items of precious jewellery that a passenger had smuggled out of Turkey, a handwritten 18th or 19th Century Quran that violated the law on antiquities protection in the luggage of an Albanian citizen, 119,520 pieces of cutlery and 109,200 items of smuggled underwear in Piraeus, and 573,820 toys in Thessaloniki. The rise in special consumption taxes has led to coffee smuggling too, with 2.31 tonnes confiscated. Customs authorities confiscated €8.2 million in cash and imposed fines of €2.1 million.
GUYANA REMAINS MAJOR MONEY LAUNDERING COUNTRY, SAYS US
Stabroek News on 8th April reported that Guyana is among several Caribbean countries that have once again been listed as “Major Money Laundering” jurisdictions for 2017, according to the recently released US State Department’s International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR). Also among the almost 100 countries that are listed in this category are the US, Canada, UK and Italy. Apart from Guyana, other Caribbean countries listed under the category are: Antigua and Barbuda; the Bahamas; Barbados; BVI; Dominica, the Dominican Republic; Haiti Jamaica; Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Suriname; and Trinidad and Tobago.
LATVIAN BANK TO CULL ‘PROHIBITED RISK’ CLIENTS
The Irish Independent reported on 7th April that Latvia’s Rietumu Banka, in which Irish billionaire financier Dermot Desmond owns a one-third stake, has said it is terminating its relationships with more than 4,000 corporate customers it has classified as being in a ‘prohibited risk’ category. The move comes after the US accused Latvia’s third-largest bank, ABLV, of “institutionalised money laundering” earlier this year.
HOME OFFICE ANNOUNCES PLANS FOR OFFENSIVE WEAPONS BILL TO TACKLE SERIOUS VIOLENCE
In the UK, following a spate of murders in London, the Home Office on 8th April a ban on the sale of the most dangerous corrosive products to under-18s and tough restrictions on online sales of knives were announced. The Bill would also make it illegal to possess certain offensive weapons like zombie knives and knuckle-dusters in private, and will also make it a criminal offence to possess corrosive substances in a public place and publicly consult on extending stop and search powers to enable the police to search for and seize acid from people carrying it in public without good reason. Other measures which the Home Office intends to bring forward within weeks include stopping knives being sent to residential addresses after they are bought online; changing the legal definition for threatening with an offensive weapon to make prosecutions easier; banning the possession of a knife on a further education premises; banning rapid firing rifles, and certain powerful firearms and bump stocks, which increase a rifles’ rate of fire; and updating the definition of a flick knife to reflect changing weapon designs.
CAN YOU WIN A TRADE WAR?
Another timely BBC Radio broadcast. The introduction says that, according to US President Donald Trump “trade wars aren’t so bad”. Recently his government surprised the world by announcing unexpected big increases in import taxes – or tariffs – on steel and aluminium. Mr Trump believes that this is one way to do something about America’s huge trade deficit, which he says stems from the nation being “taken advantage of” by other countries for decades. The US also threatened tariff increases on a huge range of other products, including many from China. The Chinese government responded in kind, raising tariffs on American imports of everything from cars to ginseng. The row has deeply worried many politicians and business leaders across the world: could this be the start of a new trade war? But what exactly is a trade war – and is it possible to win one? And what are the implications for the UK if the dispute between the US and China escalates?
SHARJAH FOOD INSPECTOR TAKES BRIBE TO RELEASE CONTAMINATED MEAT
The Khaleej Times on 8th April reported that an unnamed man – who was working as food inspector at the Sharjah Municipality – has been charged by the Sharjah Criminal Court with receiving a bribe from 2 Asians to release veal meat contaminated with salmonella.
UP TO 40% OF VAT EVASION MAY BE FROM UK SELLERS NOT CHINESE SELLERS SAYS HMRC
Tamebay on 8th April reported that marketplaces including Amazon and eBay are about to sign a deal with HMRC to notify VAT evaders. However, the apparently surprising news, the article says, is that HMRC and the government have revised their estimates of how much VAT evasion is down to Chinese and other overseas sellers. Having estimated that between £1 billion and £1.5 billion is lost to overseas sellers, they now reckon that as much as 40% of the total VAT evasion could be due from UK sellers.
TAIWAN SEEKS TO CLEAR NAME AS MAJOR SOURCE OF INTERNATIONAL FRAUD
Focus Taiwan on 8th April reported that, in response to accusations that the country is a major source of international fraud, Taiwan’s government has since 2014 amended related laws 3 times, paving the way for Taiwan nationals found guilty of telecoms fraud at home and overseas to receive heavier penalties. The most recent revision took place in April 2017 when amendments to the Organized Crime Prevention Act took effect, under which telecommunications fraud is now categorized as organised crime. The change is aimed at curbing widespread and rampant fraud involving the use of telecom technology and communication networks in recent years, with Taiwanese fraud rings operating around the world scamming billions of dollars from Chinese-speaking people, mainly Chinese nationals, through telephone scams over the years. Data shows that from 2009-2014, more than 2,105 Taiwanese telecommunication fraud suspects were arrested in Taiwan and China. Only 462, or 21% of the total, were later convicted of a crime by Taiwan’s courts, and those found guilty mostly received jail terms of less than 5 years, as opposed to 15 years or more in China.
AFRICAN EX-PAT ARRESTED ON FRAUD, WITCHCRAFT CHARGES IN OMAN
The Times of Oman on 8th April reported that an African con man has been arrested in Oman after he told people they were cursed and that he could save them.
ITALY IS BIGGEST SUNGLASS EXPORTER TO IRAN
On 8th April, Customs News reported that Italy, with more than $1.56 million, was the biggest exporter of sunglasses to Iran during the 11 months to February 2018 according to the latest data released by the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration.
IATA – SIGNIFICANT STEP FORWARD IN THE DIGITISATION OF DANGEROUS GOODS
FIATA, a trade body for the freight logistics industry, in an “e-flash” dated 9th April reported that IATA has taken a significant step forward in the digitalisation of the air cargo dangerous goods supply chain following the adoption of the e-Dangerous Goods Declaration (e-DGD) standards. The e-DGD is an electronic approach to manage the IATA Dangerous Goods Declaration (DGD), leveraging industry initiatives to digitalize data and embrace data sharing platform principles. This aligns with and supports industry initiatives to modernize air cargo processes efficiently and share critical data among stakeholders that need it. Implementing the e-DGD requires cooperation between all stakeholders, including shippers, forwarders, carriers, ground handling agents and third-party providers.
It also reported at the same time that IATA has launched an innovative new solution for the air cargo industry: Dangerous Goods AutoCheck (DG AutoCheck) that will enhance safety, improve efficiency in the transport of dangerous goods by air, and support the industry’s goal of a fully digitized supply chain. DG AutoCheck is a digital solution that allows the air cargo supply chain to check the compliance of the Shipper’s Declaration for Dangerous Goods (DGD) against all relevant rules and regulations contained in the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations.
US RAMPS UP COUNTER-WMD SPENDING AMID MIDDLE EAST PROLIFERATION THREATS
On 5th April, Al-Monitor reported that the Pentagon is putting $6 million into countering weapons of mass destruction in 5 Middle Eastern countries, as US special operations forces take control of the fight and forms a part of a $28 million package of train-and-equip funds used to help foreign militaries around the world stop the proliferation of WMD.
US GLOBAL ENTRY PROGRAMME REACHES 5 MILLION PERSON MILESTONE
Homeland Preparedness on 8th April reported that US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials said its flagship Trusted Traveler Program, Global Entry, has eclipsed the 5 million member milestone. CBP personnel said Global Entry provides expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travellers upon arrival in the US.
NORTH KOREA MAY BE TESTING NEW NUCLEAR REACTOR
Yonhap News on 8th April reported that a US think-tank has said that North Korea may have started testing a new reactor as it continues to expand the capability of its nuclear facilities. The Institute for Science and International Security said the Experimental Light Water Reactor at the Yongbyon nuclear complex shows signs of activity.
IS CHINA ILLEGALLY ABDUCTING PEOPLE FROM THE US?
The Diplomat in the US on 29th March carried an article claiming that China’s global kidnapping campaign has gone on for years, but it may now be reaching inside US borders. It cites earlier incidents – in October 2015, Chinese government operatives kidnapped Gui Minhai, a Hong Kong-based book publisher and bookstore owner, from his apartment in Thailand. Months later, the Swedish citizen resurfaced in China declaring on state TV that he had turned himself in to face decade-old drunk driving charges. Gui’s colleague, Lee Bo, a dual Chinese-British national, also appears to have been kidnapped in Hong Kong in December 2015 by Chinese security forces and taken to the Chinese mainland. The article claims that China’s policy of forcibly repatriating people it considers Chinese nationals — some of whom are in fact citizens of other countries — appears to be accelerating. US officials are said to fear that China will soon attempt a kidnapping on American soil, or in fact, it may have already done so.
DOZENS DEAD IN POSSIBLE GAS ATTACK IN SYRIA; REGIME DENIES ALLEGATION
On 8th April, CNN and others reported that several Syrian activist groups reported that a brutal attack on the remnants of the rebel-held city of Douma in Eastern Ghouta left dozens of civilians dead and scores wounded. The groups said toxic gas inside barrel bombs dropped by helicopters over Douma caused people to suffocate and choke.