Defence Web on 11th April reported that President Trump had lifted a US travel ban on Chad citizens after a 6-month US government review found improvements in the African country’s security standards.  It had added Chad to a revamped travel ban list in September 2017 after it said the Chadian government failed to provide proof it had taken adequate security measures to prevent terrorists from travelling to the US.  7 countries — Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, North Korea and Venezuela — are still subject to travel restrictions.


12th April 2018


Sat News on 11th April reported that the Secure World Foundation (SWF) has launched a new report that provides an in-depth assessment of counterspace capabilities being developing around the world.  The report is a compilation of publicly-available information for various countries developing counterspace capabilities across several categories: direct ascent, co-orbital, directed energy, electronic warfare, and cyber.  It says that over the past several years, there has been growing concern from multiple governments over the reliance on vulnerable space capabilities for national security, and the corresponding proliferation of offensive counterspace capabilities that could be used to disrupt, deny, degrade, or destroy space systems.

The report itself is at –


The Guardian in Australia on 11th April reported that leaked documents show the Australian government permitted greyhounds to travel to a country where they would be ‘literally raced to death’ by permitting the export of 590 greyhounds to Macau in the 2 years, 2013-15, after the country was blacklisted by the racing industry over high death rates and poor welfare standards.  The document was released as animal rights protesters met at New South Wales parliament to mark the 1-year anniversary of a reversal of the original ban.  In 2013, Greyhounds Australasia blacklisted Macau and refused to issue passports for export, after inspections revealed significant welfare concerns.


The Wire on 11th April reported that India was admitted to the Wassenaar Arrangement for the control of exports of dual-use items in December 2017, being able to do so following the significant revamp of the ‘Special Chemicals, Organisms, Materials, Equipment and Technologies’ (SCOMET) list that itemises goods, services and technologies used for civilian and military applications, under the Indian Trade Classification for Export and Import Items.  The article says that perhaps the most critical addition to the SCOMET list, however, is ‘category 8’ – ‘Special Materials and Related Equipment, Material, Processing, Electronics, Computers, Telecommunications, Information Security, Sensors and Lasers, Navigation and Avionics, Marine, Aerospace and Propulsion’.  It was this category that harmonised India’s export control list with the Wassenaar Arrangement and made the entry possible.  There is and will be, it says, a considerable amount of confusion in the software and information technology industry (particularly with companies that export intrusion software and certain surveillance systems) on the impact that the new SCOMET list and it sells and licenses everything from mobile phone monitoring, internet monitoring, telecom operator interception systems, intrusion detection systems, data mining, data analytics software etc.  It cautions that, with the amendment of ‘category 8’, a transfer or assignment from an Indian entity to its own US or UK subsidiary can qualify as export, and that therefore it becomes crucial for such companies to not only assess the new SCOMET list but also understand the standard of protection afforded in the recipient country.


On 11th April, the Jerusalem Post reported that a Syrian photographer found parts made by German company the Krempel Group in the remains of Iranian-produced chemical rockets that gassed Syrian civilians in January and February.  However, the company has rejected new US warnings about the dangers of conducting business with Iran.  When asked whether it had ignored US warnings, Krempel told The Jerusalem Post that it has continued business deals with Iran, but “Krempel GmbH complies strictly with legal guidelines. In unclear situations, we seek legal advice and apply corresponding measures in order to remain in compliance” and that it now “delivers a different pressspan (also not a dual-use good) exclusively to a manufacturer (OEM) [Original Equipment Manufacturer] in Iran because we can know the end usage”.  The Krempel Group describes itself on its website as “an independent manufacturer of high quality semi-finished products and a leading global system supplier of modern materials.  Our electrical insulations, composites, solar and electronic materials, as well as special laminates, enjoy an excellent reputation worldwide and we are global market leaders in many of these sectors”.  German exports to Iran increased in 2017 by 19%, with a total value of just under €2.4 billion. The newspaper reported in 2017 that numerous German intelligence agencies reported that Iran sought chemical and biological weapon technology in the Germany.


On 12th April the Hindu carried an article saying that the smuggling of gold using a unique technique of mixing it with wax and soil, with women as carriers, are on the rise.  13 such cases were found by the Mumbai airport Custom’s air intelligence unit (AIU) last month.



On 11th April, Egypt Today reported that the 3 items from Luxor’s Valley of the Kings, which were smuggled out of the country in 1927, were seized by US authorities after being offered for sale in a New York City auction house.


The Siver Times on 11th April reported EU concerns about the Ukrainian market of illegal alcohol, which is already recognised as the largest in Europe, reaching 60% and takes a budget of about €360 million.  European partners are afraid that in the current year, counterfeiting will spill over the border of Ukraine and flood the European countries.  The EU Commission, it says, plans to formally publish the list of producers and sellers of counterfeit goods this year, and keep it updated.  First and foremost, to monitor the work of regulatory bodies, their performance and reduce the level of corruption in the field.


On 12th April, DNA reported that the Indian Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had busted an antique smuggling racket and recovered 81 artefacts dating back to several hundred years, from a residence in east Delhi.  34 were found to be unregistered and 47 of them are suspected to have fake documentation.

The Scottish Sun reported on 12th April that Tommy Ransley, 31, faces jail in Australia after attempting to smuggle millions of pounds worth of cocaine and ecstasy into Australia.


CNN on 11th April reported that US sanctions aimed at punishing Russian oligarchs close to President Vladimir Putin could make your soda habit or luxury car more expensive.  The price of aluminium has surged 10% since the US slapped tough new sanctions on Rusal, a leading metal producer controlled by Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.  It produces 7% of the world’s supply of aluminium.  Americans are generally prohibited from doing business with Rusal, and people of other nationalities could face sanctions themselves if they facilitate transactions for the company.


Blue Sky on 11th April carried an article that discusses the threats posed by unauthorised commercial drone flights near airports and highlights the aviation sector as a prime target for militant groups.  It says that analysis of multiple areas of armed conflict coupled with an in-depth examination of global terrorism trends indicates that drone use by militants for reconnaissance, propaganda development and weaponisation for terror attacks is steadily expanding, and it evaluates efforts by the extremist Islamic State group and the al-Qaida-linked terror network to develop and hone the use of small commercial drones for use in armed attacks.


On 12th April, GMA News Online reported that the Philippines will undergo a 3rd round of mutual evaluations regarding compliance with international AML standards among its peers in the Asia-Pacific region.  The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) said that the Philippines — one of the 41 members of the Asia Pacific Group (APG) on Money Laundering — will commit to a mutual peer review system.  In 2017, the AMLC led the second National Risk Assessment (NRA) Report covering the years 2015 and 2016, which included stakeholders from government and law enforcement agencies, and private sector institutions.  In 2013, the country was removed from the grey list of the FATF’s International Co-operation Review Group (ICRG), which analyses high-risk jurisdictions and recommends specific actions to deal with the money laundering and terrorist financing risks, as most of the deficiencies identified in the second mutual evaluations have been addressed.


The Panam Post on 11th April reported that Jesus Santrich has been charged with orchestrating large scale cocaine shipments to the US.  The Colombian peace process with the FARC is facing a serious challenge in the wake of the charges. who Prosecutors allege that Seauxis Hernandez, aka Jesus Santrich, is a top FARC negotiator, and is slated to take a seat in the Congress in the next session.  It is alleged that he masterminded a scheme to ship 10,000 kg of cocaine to the US, in conjunction with Mexico’s feared Sinaloa Cartel.


On 12th April, the UK Department for International Trade published Notice to Exporters 2018/09 which reports that a UK exporter has recently been fined more than £100,000 for exporting military goods without a licence.  This was a compound penalty (i.e. a penalty paid in lieu of prosecution) imposed by HMRC.


On 11th April, Allen & Overy published an article saying that although the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) has been evaluating foreign investment for implications to U.S. national security interests since 1975, its authority has expanded only incrementally over the years.  Recent and potentially imminent developments suggest that the scope and import of CFIUS will continue to expand.  CFIUS’s recent blocking of Broadcom’s acquisition of Qualcomm clearly demonstrates – if there was ever any doubt – that CFIUS increasingly considers indirect threats to national security when assessing potential transactions.  The article considers that case and potential developments and says that it is more critical than ever that entities contemplating cross-border transactions with a US nexus consider whether their transactions would fall within CFIUS’s jurisdiction and the ramifications of the increasing expansion of CFIUS’s reach.


On 11th April, Tech UK published a report on a recent event techUK held with Dechert and ADS on the impact of Brexit on export controls, sanctions and customs in the UK.  There were 3 sessions – Brexit and customs; Brexit and sanctions; and Brexit and export controls.


The March edition of the ENACT Africa newsletter features the following –


This report published on 8th March says that responses are needed to curb the illicit trade in rhino horn.  It argues that the majority of responses to the growing illegal trade in rhino horn aim to curb supply through frontline enforcement and security in parks and reserves in Southern Africa, particularly South Africa.  They include recent advances in legalising the trade.  Far less effort has been made to involve local communities in anti-poaching efforts or reduce the appetite for rhino horn in East Asia.  This policy brief reviews available information on supply and demand in rhino horn markets, analysing the main responses and their impacts.  It advocates greater policy coherence in supply-side measures and more regional and international co-operation in demand-side campaigns.


This article from 27th March notes that 2018 is “African Anti-Corruption Year”.  It focuses on a particularly harmful form of corruption, that involving law enforcement agencies, notably police officers and some individuals within anti-corruption commissions themselves, who use their positions to perpetuate and entrench corruption instead of combatting it.  It reports that a study conducted across 34 African countries in 2012/2013 found that the police are commonly viewed as the most corrupt institution in Africa.  When surveyed with other state officials such as tax officials, members of parliament, judicial officials, cabinet members and other government officials, the majority of the respondents (42%) perceived police officers as the most corrupt institution.


This article from 23rd March says that journalists are often unable to tell the full story of drug trafficking in East Africa.  A number of challenges limit the quantity and quality of media coverage of the topic.  This, in turn, limits the pressure that the public can exert on governments to better respond.  According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Europe is the main market for the heroin and cocaine that travel from Central and East Asia, and Latin America, respectively, across the continent through West and East Africa, but the trade of heroin through Nairobi, Mombasa, Entebbe and Dar es Salaam has brought about a spike in local use.  Another grave impact of the lucrative trade is the corruption it brings among government officials across all levels; from law enforcement agents at ports and border crossings, right up to senior politicians. Political figures are frequently implicated in drug trafficking across Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.  The article looks at the constraints on journalists trying to report the situation and report on specific cases.


This article from 22nd March asks this question about a coastal region covering over 6,000 km2 of territories rich in oil, minerals and natural resources in West, Central and Southern Africa.  Initial signatories to the Commission were Angola, the Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, and São Tomé and Príncipe. They were later joined by Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 2008.  The articles says that plans are afoot to revitalise the organisation, particularly in tackling maritime concerns over the threat posed by piracy, armed robbery and illicit activities at sea.  It mentions other regional maritime initiatives were already taking shape in the region involving ECOWAS, the African Union and others.  The so-called “Strategy for the Revitalisation of the Gulf of Guinea Commission” details how the Commission might improve its role in the region’s maritime peace, security and development framework.  Among the measures it proposes is a recommendation for the establishment of specialised committees.  These would be grouped into 5 thematic areas, namely peace and security; movement of goods and persons; natural resources, oil, environment; fisheries; and finances.  The article says that countries in the region are increasingly calling for maritime concerns to be prioritised, including the sustainable exploitation of marine resources, the building of a blue economy, and an end to piracy and unregulated and unreported fishing (IUU).  It remains to be seen whether the regional institution charged with ensuring the security and regulation to enable this, is able to engage meaningfully with this role.


This article from 19th March argues that a lack of co-operation means that financial crime will continue to pose a growing threat in Africa, with it being more affected by financial crime than any other part of the world.  It argues that financial crime undermines gains in economic growth and has far-reaching repercussions on development and economic stability.  Indeed, these crimes drive a fast-growing criminal economy, made up of some of the world’s most dangerous criminal groups and transnational syndicates.  It argues that to reverse the current trends, it would need to harmonise the normative framework among states through a continental convention or protocol; prioritise a rule of law-based approach; and step up international co-operation.  States should invest more in preventing, detecting and disrupting financial crimes. This will require capacity-building, sensitisation and effective monitoring and compliance regimes – and above all, the political will to drive it.


On 12th April, the EU published a news release saying that the EU is bolstering e-commerce by making it easier for consumers and businesses to compare different delivery prices across the EU.  Regulators will also have increased powers to monitor this complex market.


On 12th April, the Court of Justice of the EU issued a news release saying that an Advocate General’s opinion for the Court is that the UK ban on placing snus (oral snuff) on the market, prohibited in accordance with the EU Tobacco Directive of 2014, is valid.  This follows a challenge to the ban by Swedish Match (Sweden is the one Member State exempt from the prohibition in the Directive on account of the traditional use which is made of snus in that country).  The Opinion says that tobacco for oral use is addictive and harmful to health in so far as it increases the risks of certain harmful effects and may increase the risks of other harmful effects.  The fact that some of the data, on the basis of which the legislature concluded that tobacco for oral use is harmful, are challenged by studies indicating the contrary is not sufficient to call that conclusion into question.


Reuters on 12th April reported that Hisham Genena, Egypt’s former anti-corruption chief, has been referred to a military court for trial on charges of spreading false news harmful to the military establishment over comments he had allegedly made in an interview with the HuffPost Arabi news website.  He ran alongside former military chief-of-staff Sami Anan as a member of his short-lived presidential campaign before the latter was detained in January and accused by the army of running for office without permission, bringing his bid to a halt.


The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe reported on 12th April that its Mission, in partnership with the National Security Council of the Government of Montenegro, had organised a workshop dedicated to the preparation of the Draft National Strategy for the prevention and combating of terrorism, money laundering and terrorist financing 2019-2022 and Action Plan 2019-2020 on 11th/12th April.  It focused on the legal framework against terrorism; prevention, protection from and criminal prosecution of terrorism; countering violent extremism and radicalization that lead to terrorism; response to terrorist attack and suppressing terrorism financing.  The Strategy and the Action Plan are due to be adopted by the Government in April 2018, to be subsequently enforced as of January 2019. The activity is part of the Mission’s efforts to address transnational threats to security, and is a continuation of support provided in preparation of the key documents.


The Malta Independent on 12th April reported that Pilatus Bank whistleblower, Maria Efimova, has been released from Greek custody and will not be extradited to Malta after the Greek court decided against such action.


News AM on 12th April reported that the government of Armenia has approved the technical description and procedure for the establishment of a platform for single anti-corruption e-notifications.  People will be able to report a corruption crime in Armenia, by way of this system, but still maintain their anonymity.


OCCRP on 12th April reported that Slovak crime boss Robert Okolicany fled the country hours after the Supreme Court sentenced him and 2 of his associates (Robert Nigut and Jaroslac Potucko – Nigut has been on the run since 2012) to life for several crimes including murder.


On 12th April, Insight Crime reported on top government officials from around the region who are to assemble in Peru for the Organization of American States’ (OAS) 8th Summit of the Americas.  It says it may involve nervous politicians — and perhaps a heavy dose of hypocrisy — thanks to the summit’s theme: “democratic governance against corruption”, as it says corruption scandals in Latin America are developing at a frantic pace.


Insight Crime on 12th April reported that in Comuna 13 tourists traverse the winding path of bright orange escalators up the mountainside and past vivid graffiti murals spray-painted across nearly every home and business in sight.  Hip hop music blares from a boombox somewhere off in the distance, and local residents look on as the foreigners snap photos of their neighbourhood.  The visitors sip beers, eat street food and follow a local guide narrating the various sites.


Chatham House on 12th April published an article saying that, as Libya’s war economy persists, prospects for the restoration of functioning central governance become more distant.  It says that, relative to earlier problems, there were signs of progress on several fronts in 2017: a reduction in human smuggling, a tripling in oil revenues, and increased local action against fuel smuggling, yet the dynamics that have supported the war economy’s rise remain.  Amongst the article’s recommendations, it says that the international community can do more to support Libyan efforts in countering the war economy.  Co-operation over the targeting of criminal groups’ overseas assets, support for increased transparency over the dispensation of state funds, and measures to reduce the viability of illicit activities can all help to strengthen the position of state authorities.


On 12th April, the European Sanctions Blog reported that France would be identifying a number of people for UN sanctions (travel ban and/or asset freeze) who have violated or obstructed Mali’s 2015 peace agreement (specifically those that have colluded with terrorist groups and trafficking networks). To date, no individuals have been designated under the UN sanctions regime, which was established in September 2017.

For UN briefing on position in Mali, see –




The UN Panel of Experts report on findings and recommendations in respect of UN sanctions imposed on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)[1] highlighted several means by which ships and shipping were used to evade the prohibitions and restrictions imposed by the UN Security Council Resolutions.

Whilst law enforcement and regulators have a role in ensuring shipping is not used to circumvent not only UN (and other) sanctions, but also other export and trade controls, smuggling, human trafficking and other illicit activities, and (at least in some jurisdictions) corporate service providers, banks and insurers have some responsibilities as “gatekeepers” – if only to avoid themselves becoming liable – what about the role of the shipping registers?

Recent years have provided extensive evidence of the role of shipping in illicit activities, not just “traditional” smuggling and migrant trafficking, but anything from the role playing in evading UN sanctions on the DPRK and restrictions formerly placed upon Iranian shipping to the involvement of vessels in illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing[2].

In the past, the role of shipping registers[3] has been to confine themselves to ensuring that the vessels on their registers comply with the relevant statutory requirements – typically so that the legal ownership of the vessel can be established (especially where mortgaged), and that certain safety requirements (for the vessel, its crew and in respect of the threat of pollution) are met[4].  They have not normally been required to undertake any form of “know your customer” (KYC) or customer due diligence (CDD) checks that other bodies might be required to undertake for the purposes of anti-money laundering and countering terrorist financing (AML/CFT)[5].  Some of the checks they might have taken to verify the information provided in an application may have been similar in some aspects to those required for AML/CFT purposes and, in at least some jurisdictions, the registry might be required to report any suspicions relating to money laundering or terrorist financing[6] to the relevant local authorities.  In general, however, neither the local authorities (financial intelligence unit, customs, police) nor international or supranational bodies (such as the UN and EU) have appeared to have focussed attention on registries.

Another factor can be said to be the increasing importance in many countries  of anti-bribery and corruption laws with extra-territorial effect.  Ships and shipping can become involved in a variety of ways – including bribes to accept or clear cargo, movement of stolen or misappropriated cargo, payments to facilitate access or passage.

However, the increasingly holistic approach now being taken by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), and regional bodies carrying out similar work using FATF standards and recommendations[7], and the stress on not only technical compliance with requirements but even more on proving the effectiveness of the compliance, is likely to see increasing attention paid to areas such as shipping and aircraft registries that, in the past, were seen as outside the scope of compliance control, or at least somewhat peripheral.

Increased attention is also being paid to the involvement of shipping and the shipping sector in evasion of sanctions by the UN, EU and US authorities.  In March 2017, VERTIC[8] announced that it was implementing a project on ‘Improving Global Implementation of Maritime Sanctions on North Korea’, in a consortium with the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) and King’s College London (KCL).  The project, funded by the US State Department, aims to counter North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes by preventing North Korea from obtaining revenue via prohibited maritime trade that directly funds North Korea’s nuclear and missile efforts.  One of the ways this is to be done is by providing guidance and assistance to registries on how to carry out the sort of KYC and CDD controls required.


In addition to the obvious question of how the DPRK continued to export goods in defiance of the sanctions[9], some of which at least must involve maritime transportation, the UN Panel of Experts identified several specific ways in which shipping was implicated –

  • The Panel investigated illicit ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum comprising a multi-million-dollar business that is driving an international network of brokers and ship charterers as well as unwitting global commodity trading companies and oil suppliers. It found that the network behind the vessels was primarily based in Taiwan, while there were affiliated companies were registered in the Marshall Islands and the British Virgin Islands (BVI), with ships flagged in Dominica, Hong Kong, China, Panama and Sierra Leone.  The Panel also said it was investigating several multinational oil companies for their roles in the supply chain of petroleum products transferred to the DPRK.
  • DPRK was said to be continuing its illicit coal exports, with the country combining deceptive navigation patterns, signals manipulation, trans-shipment and fraudulent documentation to obscure the origin of the coal.  The Panel investigated more than 30 cases of exports of coal from the DPRK to at least 4 States in South-East Asia, including several cases that involved the trans-shipment of coal via Russian Far Eastern ports.

A sizeable number of vessels, as well as companies and individuals have been designated as being subject to sanctions measures, by the UN, the US authorities and the EU, for involvement in breaches or evasion of sanctions measures.

Methods employed by the DPRK and those assisting it included a combination of multiple evasion techniques, deceptive routes and deceptive shipping tactics.  Techniques identified included manipulation of the Automatic Identification System (AIS)[10], loitering, voyage deviations and fraudulent documentation.  In respect of the movements of coal, the report said that the Panel found extensive use of a combination of multiple evasion tactics, including indirect routes, detours, loitering, false documentation, trans-shipment through third countries and manipulation of AIS signals and destinations/estimated times of arrival, as well as changes to the class, length and draft of the vessels.  These are used to obfuscate actual routes, conceal port calls and give the impression that the coal was loaded in ports other than in the DPRK.  The consistency and similarity of the tactics suggest that they are part of a centralized strategy on the part of the DPRK to evade the commodities ban.

There was also said to be extensive evidence of false cargo documentation.  Although authentic verification documents and stamps accompanied numerous contracts, bills of lading, certificates and warranties of origin, many vessels never visited the ports in mentioned in the documentation[11].

The UN Panel noted problems in enforcement caused by the offshore nature of much of the affected oil, maritime and finance sectors involved, or potentially involved.


In addition to falling foul of sanctions legislation, shipping registries might want to take account of other reasons for introducing some adequate form of KYC/CDD.  These are more intangible, but could have equally severe effects, and might include the following.

The attitude and use of a country’s shipping registry, and the degree of oversight and control involved can be a factor during reviews by FATF and FSRB.  Even if the registries themselves are not seen as falling within the scope of the AML/CFT, sanctions and proliferation review process, what they do, and any evidence of past bad publicity and/or inadequate regard to AML/CFT etc in their practices can and will be something taken into account by the reviewing team in its overall risk assessment (particularly in the pre-visit preparation).

Increasingly, major organisations, including banks, are becoming more risk averse and (as illustrated in the case of IRISL and the Isle of Man below) can threaten or take preventive action to minimise risks to them.  If a registry or the arrangements it oversees are seen as not doing enough to prevent abuses by a reviewing body, or is criticised for such by another government (such as in the International Narcotics Control Strategy Report published annually by the US State Department) or a non-governmental organisation, or is the subject of an exposé such as Panama Papers or the Paradise Papers, it might find itself not considered as suitable and not be considered for use by reputable businesses.

The fallout from any scandal or exposé also risks reputational risk, sometimes considerable, and not only to the registry and any vessels and companies involved, but to the jurisdiction as a whole.  This can lead to an accumulation of perception that the registry, and the jurisdiction and its shipping sector, are poorly managed and that registry, sector and the jurisdiction itself similarly suffer from poor governance.  This then may lead to it and they being regarded as higher risk, and a less suitable partner or place to undertake business.

Inevitably perhaps, any pressure to introduce KYC/CDD controls is more likely to be felt in the smaller and offshore jurisdictions.  These are most open to persuasion or pressure from larger countries, and more susceptible to the effects that scandals, exposés and bad reports can have on their reputation and business.  Some jurisdictions already have a poor reputation, but there are others that have a good reputation for management of ships on their register and which they would want to protect.


These can be many and various, and include –

  • Violating UN or EU (or US or regional bodies’) sanctions that can impose such things as arms embargoes or more general trade embargoes. They can also restrict or prohibit the use of a country’s vessels in trade with a country or entity – the obvious current example involves the DPRK.
  • Smuggling of goods into or out of a territory – smuggling has a long history and still goes on and can include the illicit removal of goods as well as the illicit supply; such as the removal of oil from territory controlled by ISIS in Iraq during the conflict there. Almost anything may be smuggled, from the traditional alcohol and tobacco to arms and military equipment, endangered species, timber, currency, gold, oil, coal etc.  The Italian authorities used to regularly detain small coaster-type vessels involved in the contraband cigarette and tobacco trade around the Mediterranean.
  • Drugs trafficking – perhaps the most high-profile of smuggling activities. Sometimes the entire vessel may be used, particularly smaller pleasure craft or fishing vessels.
  • Human trafficking – of higher profile in recent years due to the migrants attempting to reach Europe from North Africa. It may be people smuggling of those who want, and pay, to make the journey, or the trafficking of those effectively enslaved to be used in providing sexual services or enforced labour.
  • Illegal Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing and illegal fishing – the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that perhaps 30% of all catches are composed of IUU fishing. It is neither a new phenomenon, nor confined only to the high seas[12].  The FAO also says that those involved need not be using flags of convenience but says that the root cause of IUU fishing is a lack of effective flag State control.  Since 2010, EU operators who fish illegally anywhere in the world, under any flag, risk substantial penalties proportionate to the economic value of their catch, which deprive them of any profit[13].  IIU fishing may also the use of enforced labour (see below).  Illegal fishing is defined by the UN Office for Drugs and Crime as encompassing all fishing activities conducted in contravention of national and international laws, as well as agreed regional fisheries management and conservation measures[14], such as fishing beyond allowable catch limits, taking of juvenile fish and prohibited fish species, and fishing during closed seasons or in closed areas.
  • Use of enforced labour – the exploitation of seafarers has a long and depressing history. The UN International Labour Organisation (ILO) defines enforced or forced labour as meaning where persons are coerced to work through the use of violence or intimidation, or by more subtle means such as manipulated debt, retention of identity papers or threats of denunciation to immigration authorities[15]. In the present day, the most oft cited example is connected to IUU fishing (see above)[16].  Under US law, the importation of anything produced using forced or indentured labour is prohibited and other countries will have similar laws.[17]  The UN and individual countries, notably Canada, are promoting “social responsibility” laws that impose on businesses in one country responsibility for human rights and other abuses carried out by them, or on their behalf, in other countries.  The so-called “Ruggie Principles” comprise the responsibility of the state and the company to ensure human rights are protected[18].
  • Environmental crime – this could involve the unauthorised disposal of oil[19], waste or other unwanted materials by a ship. It could overlap with smuggling (as well as bribery and corruption), where the unauthorised disposal involves dumping the material in a place where this was not allowed (such as in the infamous Ivory Coast incident in 2006)[20].  IUU fishing above could also be considered an environmental crime.
  • Bribery and corruption – may be connected to any of the above, and in the US, UK and increasingly elsewhere, involvement in bribery or corruption anywhere in the world can be an offence under your own domestic law. Not only that, as in the UK, failure to have adequate processes in place to prevent and detect bribery and corruption within your organisation can constitute an offence, with very recently the first conviction in the UK for such an offence[21].
  • Money laundering – this too may be connected to any of the above – the vessel may be bought with, or otherwise financed by, the proceeds of the illegal activities. The classic example may be the pleasure craft bought with the ill-gotten gains of its owner.  However, one should bear in mind that trade-based money laundering, and other trade-based financial crime, is thought to far exceed “normal” money laundering, and that the ship, its operations and cargo may be an intrinsic part of the crime itself[22].
  • Tax evasion (or avoidance), which may then be linked to money laundering, is also a factor to be considered. Even where the registry involved has done nothing wrong under maritime law, it can be tainted if it is then revealed that there was something amiss in the purchase, ownership, management or operation of the vessel.  A good example occurred in late 2017, then the Paradise Papers alleged that certain wealthy individuals had benefitted from an advantageous VAT arrangement on the acquisition of business jets in the Isle of Man[23].  Doubts were also expressed about arrangements involving yachts.  Though the ones mentioned in the report did not fly the flag of the Isle of Man, the Island nevertheless has a sizeable number of expensive pleasure craft on its register and doubts and suspicions do not always need evidence.
  • Terrorist financing – as with money laundering, this may be connected to any of the above, in that they were a means of raising funds for the terrorist body, or were (as was the case with the shipment of oil from Iraq by ISIS) an essential element of the body’s activities.
  • Proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and delivery systems – it would be a mistake to think that this heading only applied where UN sanctions applied, such as in respect of DPRK. In fact, prevention of proliferation of WMD and their delivery systems (such as missile systems), can not only fall under the heading of sanctions, but also that of smuggling in general, or be linked to potential use by terrorists.  It also links with export and trade controls below, and involve dual-use items and technology as well as actual components or the finished objects themselves.
  • Export and trade controls – like with several other of these headings, this overlaps with several of the foregoing. Export (and import) controls, including licensing requirements and outright prohibitions, with the avoidance, evasion or ignoring of them are obviously closely linked to what might be considered to be smuggling.  Trade controls exists in several countries, including the UK, and extra-territorial effect, requiring a licence from the home state of the owner and/or shipper for movements between two other countries[24].  An example of the effect of this requirement is the need for those providing armed anti-piracy security on British ships to obtain a licence from UK authorities (which covers the movement of the weapons and related equipment required)[25].
  • Piracy and armed robbery at sea – this seems self-explanatory and is more generally seen as a risk of being a victim of the sort of maritime piracy such as that seen off Somalia or in the Gulf of Guinea. On the other hand, the pirates must get their vessels from somewhere.

Any or all of the above could or would involve organised crime or terrorist organisations, and some may also involve state actors in the form of unscrupulous states, officials or official bodies.


A good indication of the risks that a registry (and any agents and others involved) can face is illustrated by the experience of the Isle of Man, its registry and companies and individuals in the Island, following the imposition of first US, and then EU, sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line (IRISL) and associated ship-owning companies and vessels.  A number of vessels operated by IRISL had been registered in the Isle of Man, but then flagged out to Iran via the Demise Register.  They were owned by individual companies set up to acquire and own them[26].  When this was done this was long before any sanctions measures were imposed by the US or others against IRISL or Iranian shipping as a whole.  Indeed, it was seen as good business and supported by the government at the time.  The arrangement was put in place, it was said, at the request of the German banks funding the construction and supply of the ships.  It was argued that this enabled the banks to be satisfied that they had sufficient ability to have the ships detained etc in the case of any default, on the strength of their registration on the Isle of Man register.  Matters in the Island were handled by a specialist firm, and a local flag state representative with long experience in shipping and maritime affairs, and using companies incorporated in the Island.  The firm involved would have undertaken all necessary AML/CFT due diligence on the transactions, being regulated by then Financial Supervision Commission (now FSA).

Problems arose several years later, from 2008, when initially the US Treasury Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) listed the ship-owning companies because of the alleged involvement of IRISL in the movement and supply of materials in support of Iran’s nuclear and WMD programmes.  It is important to note that OFAC sanctions do not, legally and technically, have any effect in the Isle of Man or other non-US territories.  However, no major bank or financial institution would want to do business with any listed person or entity, nor indeed anyone associated with them, for fear of themselves falling foul of the US authorities.  Any listing by OFAC, the US Department of Commerce or other reputable body would (or should) obviously be taken into account in assessing or reassessing risk, regardless of whether there is the danger of any direct effect on the business concerned.  In this case, this meant that not only the companies owning the ships faced difficulties, but the Island firm, its officials and the local flag state representative all faced having their business and even personal accounts closed – despite their having done nothing wrong in the eyes of the law, or the authorities, where they were located.

Despite there being no legal obligation on them to do so[27], and at the cost of losing valuable business and the undermining of a longstanding good relationship with the IRISL organisation and its officers, the firm responsible for the vessels in the Isle of Man moved to sever links with IRISL and its affiliates, and with the vessels concerned.  They co-operated fully with the local authorities.  The authorities in the Island also liaised closely with the US Treasury[28], and invited OFAC officials to the Island, where they met all the various bodies involved – including the Ship Registry and the local business, as well as with the local Customs and Excise[29], FIU and regulators.  With the greater understanding of the background and context, and following the co-operation of all involved, further action by OFAC against those in the Island was averted.  Nevertheless, it might easily have turned out otherwise, and there remained some degree of damage to the reputation of the Island, its business community and institutions[30], and several months of worry and uncertainty for those involved.

Would a KYC/CDD process having been in place at the Ship Registry have averted the situation that arose?  Perhaps not.  However, it might have provided earlier warning, allowing it and those others involved to have acted sooner.  With the emphasis now on risk assessment, and ongoing risk assessment, for KYC/CDD the threat may have been flagged up and steps taken before the US took action[31].

One interesting point to note was that the OFAC officials said that a suspicious factor was the renaming of the ships involved.  Whilst in this specific case this may have had some truth, renaming of vessels is a common practice in the shipping industry – and may be triggered by such events as a change of owner, refit, change of charter, change of use etc. As such, it might not have been the obvious “red flag” that those outside the industry might have thought.


As already mentioned, the UN Panel of Experts report on the DPRK in 2017 highlighted concerns caused by the offshore nature of the oil, maritime and finance sectors involved.  This need not be because of particular concerns about the integrity of a particular register, but may be about the way in which offshore companies and special purpose vehicles (typically individual companies formed for the acquisition, ownership, management or operation of one or more individual vessels) are routinely used, and the fact that, of necessity, much or all of the business conducted in carried out in a non-face to face manner and/or through local agents or representatives.

An open registry is one which does not have a nationality or residency requirement attached to the ship or its owners.  Panama[32], for example, offers the advantages of easier registration (which can be undertaken online) and the ability to employ cheaper foreign labour than might be required under other registries.  It also has the bonus that the foreign owners pay no income taxes[33].

On the other hand, national or closed registries typically require that a ship be owned and constructed by national interests, and at least partially crewed by its citizens.

Some registries are not themselves operated by the host country’s government, but rather the services have been outsourced or sold off to be performed by private sector businesses.  For example, the Marshall Islands register is administered by International Registries Inc and is actually a US concern based in Virginia[34].  As a US company, one would expect it to be cognisant of the effects of the often wide ranging US sanctions regimes, and to protect itself in this regard by undertaking adequate precautions.

Panama is a register that offers “dual registry”, which it introduced in 1973, and which allows a foreign vessel bare boat chartered for a period of 2 years can be registered in Panama for the same period without losing its previous registration (and vice versa).  It may be termed “bareboat charter”, which temporarily permits a vessel to fly the flag of another country while ownership continues to be registered in the owner’s State.  The Demise Register operated by the Isle of Man offers a similar way to divide responsibility for a vessel.  For example, the Registry website says, mortgaging facilities might be more attractive in one jurisdiction because of its laws relating to recovery of liens, whereas the manning requirements might be attractive in another state.  However, the use of any of these methods can further reduce oversight and control that the original registry can have (and, as the process works in both directions, registries can take on ships originally registered elsewhere), and there can always be the risk that one or both registries involved assume that the other is exercising more or appropriate control.  It was the use of the Demise Register that lay at the heart of the difficulties experienced by the Isle of Man over Iranian vessels[35] (see above).

In modern terms, a “flag of convenience” is one less willing (or unwilling) to enforce international minimum social safety and environmental standards on its vessels.  Shipowners can avoid or evade some or all of such standards, and mask or hide true ownership and liabilities, by use of such flags.  The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) maintains a list of flag states that it considers to have flags of convenience, a list that includes Panama, Malta, Gibraltar, the Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Jamaica, Liberia, the Cayman Islands and Cyprus[36].  The ITF says that cheap registration fees, low or no taxes and freedom to employ cheap labour are the motivating factors behind a shipowner’s decision to use such flags.  Its primary concern, naturally, is for the seafarers employed on vessels using such flags.


Taking the Isle of Man Shipping Registry as an example, it offers registration for ships, including on its demise register (for more information on this register see the comments about IRISL vessels above), and for commercial and pleasure yachts (which would include so-called “superyachts”), “small ships” (locally-owned vessels of less than 24 metres in length, such as small yachts), and fishing vessels (only available to locally-owned and -operated fishing vessels).   The documents that may be required include such things as a bill of sale, builder’s certificate (if new-build), certificate of incorporation (of the company owning the vessel), certificate of survey, tonnage certificate, deletion certification (if previously registered), a CLC Blue Card (if an oil tanker), a bunker oil Blue Card (if over 1,000 gross tonnage) and a Nairobi Wreck Removal Certificate (if over 300 gross tonnage).  Any documents must be notarised if executed outside the UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Man or British Dependencies, and vessels over 24 metres in length if owned by a non-Isle of Man entity require the appointment of a local representative person[37].

The Isle of Man Registry is not, strictly speaking, an “open registry” in the sense that term is now used[38].  Whilst allowing foreign-owned vessels[39], each must have a local representative that acts for it and/or the company involved (this is by means of a corporate service provider or CSP, which are themselves licensed by the Financial Supervision Authority or FSA – therefore these can, or should, be seen as a “gatekeeper” who should undertake KYC and CDD on the underlying ownership), and the Registry is run by the Isle of Man Government, and is not outsourced to business to run as a straightforward commercial operation[40].

One of the largest registries, with over 3,000 vessels, is that of Liberia[41].  On its website it provides a flowchart showing how its registration process works.  It is noticeable that nowhere on the flowchart is there any mention of the registry (or others) carrying out any due diligence checks for AML/CFT, sanctions, proliferation or other potential criminal use.  This is quite normal, and you would likely find a similar situation in the application processes in the UK and elsewhere.

When criminal activity is mentioned on a registry’s website, this is usually in the context of countering maritime piracy and providing armed security aboard vessels[42].


Registries may already carry out some checks that would or could form part of any KYC/CDD controls.  They would or could be checking sanctions lists and using tools such as World-Check.  In some jurisdictions, such as the Isle of Man, there would be some implicit reliance on the “gatekeepers” in local, regulated businesses with which much or all of the work of registry is routed[43].

One thing that has become apparent from the current round of evaluations carried out by FATF and FRSB is the need to evidence what controls an organisation undertakes and the results of those controls.  Therefore, the registry should have a protocol or code detailing how it undertook any necessary checks, as well as a record of results and any action taken (including referrals to law enforcement, regulators or in the form of suspicious activity reports to the local FIU).

The FATF guidance also makes clear that AML/CFT and related controls should be risk-based, and therefore the registry’s protocol or code would have to set out the structure and criteria used.

As a depositary and a register in a competitive environment, there will always be potential constraints on what it can do, and there will inevitably always be a reliance on others – the corporate service providers and other regulated businesses as gatekeepers, other parts of government, the FIU etc for help and checks on people and businesses.  There is likely also to be a need to be able to reach out to contacts within the shipping industry and, ultimately, engaging outside resources if or when “enhanced due diligence” is considered necessary.

Perhaps, in its simplest form, a three-level grading of applications (not forgetting that existing registrations would also have to be checked retrospectively, for completeness as well as providing some further reassurance) might be considered –

  • “routine” applications – being those adjudged to be of the lowest risk. This might involve vessels wholly owned and managed within the jurisdiction, for “local” trade and with known, reputable persons and businesses involved;
  • “standard” applications – where normal CDD would be applied; and
  • applications requiring enhanced due diligence – where something about the type of vessel, its intended use (including any reflagging out), or where it is intended to operate means that a higher level of diligence is required.

The grading would depend on an assessment of several factors – what is known or can be established about those involved, the vessel type, background of the company and persons involved, intended uses, previous history of the vessel or company involved (with the registry or elsewhere), whether intending to be reflagged in or out.  The current typologies and “red flags” from the like of FATF and local authorities would be taken into account.  In addition, verification of information provided (i.e. “trust but verify”) would be necessary – as registries should already be doing for mandatory requirements such as ship safety.

It may be that it is felt that amendments to the existing legislation would be necessary to ensure that the registry has the power to require any necessary information to carry out its risk assessment.  However, it is most likely that most of the information required would be available through normal channels available to the registry.  The checks proposed are akin to those undertaken by banks and financial institutions, with the ability to refuse any business with which you are not happy.

Two other factors that would have to be considered are the additional resources and effort required within the registry to undertake the risk assessment, and the effect on its competitive edge through any added costs that might be involved or any delay that undertaking additional checks might produce.  However, this need not be a reason for not introducing the risk assessment process – and not only because they are not good reasons for potentially letting potential criminals and others make use of the register – as having such a process in place can only enhance the reputation of the registry and help protect it and the jurisdiction from risk.


Ray Todd

12th April 2018


[2]  The EU Regulation to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing entered into force on 1st January 2010. The European Commission reports that it is working actively with all stakeholders to ensure coherent application of the IUU Regulation.  Greenpeace has issued lists said to contain the names of irresponsible fishing operators and the companies behind them –

[3]  In addition to their role in generating revenue for the jurisdiction involved – an important factor in many, especially offshore centres.

[4]  In this way they may be likened in some ways to company registries, which also were generally regarded as repositories and did not normally undertake detailed KYC/CDD checks for AML/CFT or similar purposes.  In 2008, it was reported that a detailed examination of the records at UK Companies House undertaken by World-Check had revealed that the names of almost 4,000 directors of British companies appeared on international watchlists of alleged fraudsters, money launderers, terror financiers and corrupt officials.  It is interesting to speculate what a similar exercise on some shipping registries might reveal.

[5]  However, in March 2018 Panama issued its “Restricted Vessels” list which included vessels that have been deleted from the Panama Ship Registry, as a result of investigations that have shown links to the DPRK, or vessels that have been reported as vessels having link to DPKR

[6]  For example, that the vessels might have been purchased with the proceeds of crime (perhaps the best example would be in those jurisdictions whose registries host “superyachts”).

[7]  The 9 so-called FATF-Style Regional Bodies (FSRB), such as the Council of Europe’s MONEYVAL, the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG) and the Latin America Anti-Money Laundering Group (GAFILAT).

[8] Based in London in 1986, VERTIC (the Verification Research, Training and Information Centre) is an independent, non-profit making charitable organization. VERTIC supports the development, implementation and verification of international agreements as well as initiatives in related areas.

[9]  For example, the report said that the DPRK exported a total of $62,184,815 in iron and steel between January and September 2017 to Barbados, Bolivia, Chile, China, Costa Rica, El Salvador, India, Ireland, Mexico, Pakistan, the Philippines and the Russian Federation.  All of these exports were, or could be, in violation of existing sanctions.

[10]  Used to track a vessel’s progress using Internet websites:  It was actually developed as a collision avoidance system that gives information all the ships in your area, their speed and courses and how to contact them (name, callsign, MMSI). This information is publicly broadcast on VHF radio which can be picked up either by other ships or by shore-based receivers.  It may be, see

[11]  Given the stated involvement of offshore companies and jurisdictions, where even a reputable business (or law enforcement or a regulator) were involved, there would be an obvious reliance on such apparently bona fide documentation.





[16]  In May 2018, the Indonesian authorities detained a Tog-flagged vessel described as a “slave ship”

[17]  It prohibits the importation of merchandise mined, produced or manufactured, wholly or in part, in any foreign country by forced or indentured child labour – including forced child labour. Such merchandise is subject to exclusion and/or seizure, and may lead to criminal investigation of the importer(s).


[19]  In 2011 it was claimed that up to 810,000 tons of oily waste is intentionally and illegally dumped into the world’s oceans by commercial vessels.

[20]  In 2006, a ship registered in Panama, chartered by the Singaporean-based oil and commodity shipping company, offloaded toxic waste to an Ivory Coast waste handling company which disposed of it at the port of Abidjan, giving rise to a health crisis in the country.

[21]  On 21st February 2018, Skansen Interior Limited was found guilty of failing to prevent bribery under section 7 of the Bribery Act after the jury were unconvinced that the company had adequate procedures in place to prevent bribery.

[22]  For more information on trade-based money laundering see


[24]  The classic example, would be a licence required from the UK for a UK company to ship arms from South Africa to India.

[25]  For more information see and

[26]  For example, Cobham Limited, incorporated in 2003 to own the Sewak (aka the Iran Fars).  The New York Times published a list of 66 companies owning vessels and linked to IRISL, including those in the Isle of Man

[27]  UN and EU sanctions, which would apply in the Isle of Man, did not follow until 2010, although from 2008 a UN Security Council resolution provided for states to be able to inspect vessels it owns or operates should be inspected, provided there are reasonable grounds to believe that such vessels are transporting prohibited goods.

[28]  Perhaps fortunately, having excellent working relations with the US due to previous joint operations and continuing co-operation.

[29]  Responsible for sanctions matters.

[30]  For example, see the BBC report of July 2010

[31]  Bearing in mind that the US authorities provided no direct forewarning of its intentions in respect of the Isle of Man-registered vessels.

[32]  For a review of the Panama Ship Registry 1917-2017, see

[33]  As a result, the Panama Registry claims to be in charge of managing the world´s largest ship registry, with over 8,000 registered vessels which accounts 18% of the world fleet.




[37]  For a merchant ship, , the representative person must be a body corporate incorporated in and having its principal place of business in the Isle of Man.  For a pleasure craft, the representative person can either be an individual or a body corporate resident in the Isle of Man.

[38]  It describes itself as being “semi-open”.

[39]  From certain countries other than the UK, Isle of Man and Channel Islands.  See –

[40]  Such as is the case with the Marshall Islands (see above).


[42]  For example, see on the Marshall Islands registry website

[43]  In the Isle of Man, for example, such gatekeepers are the CSP, which are themselves regulated for AML/CFT purposes etc by the Island’s Financial Services Authority.


On 12th April, the always relevant European Sanctions Blog reported on the Opinion of an Advocate General to the Court of Justice of the EU in the matter of the appeal by the Iranian shipping company, NITC.  The views expressed in the Opinion do not bind the Court.  NITC had argued that its right to an effective remedy (and other principles of EU law) was breached because it had been re-listed on the EU’s Iran sanctions having had its original listing annulled.  The relisting was merely because of a mistake in the original listing, where it had been said to be supplying financial support to the Iranian government rather than “logistical” support.   The Advocate general rejected the appeal.


The Mail Online on 12th April reported that the smugglers were caught after one of them was busted passing drugs under a table in a Burger King in Kings Cross.  There was a 12-strong gang based in UK involved in baggage switching plot, with drug-laden suitcases were flown into Heathrow Terminal 5 from Brazil


On 12th April, the EU announced that it was extending until 13th April 2019 the sanctions imposed on persons and an entity in Iran because of serious human rights abuses.  These sanctions had been unaffected by the changes following the JCPOA agreement and currently affect 82 individuals and 1 entity.


An article in ENACT Africa on 22nd March posed this question in the light of a recently passed law which, it said, could make it easier for companies to dodge tax in Kenya.