ETH Zurich on 6th November published an article that finds that malicious non-state actors have the potential to leverage lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS) against state actors and that the international community has not paid adequate attention to this threat. It says that terrorist groups, illicit organisations, and other non-state actors have a long fascination with advanced weapons technologies, such as chemical, nuclear and biological weapons. It looks at unsuccessful attempts by the UN to control LAWS, but says that academics, defence industry representatives and AI developers have all raised concerns about the possible acquisition of LAWS by malicious actors; and says that the risk of disastrous use of LAWS by non-state actors is far greater than potential misuse by state actors. The article reported that there are already weapons systems that operate with a degree of autonomy that might be considered characteristic of LAWS. Israel has developed 2 semi-autonomous drone systems, Harpy and Harop, which operate as “loitering munitions”. The author says that, by controlling exports, states can reduce the risk that developing LAWS will be diverted to prohibited actors. Like most international agreements, the negotiation of a new export control regime would likely be a long and exhaustive process. Recognising this, the Wassenaar Arrangement on dual-use items, provides a ready platform for the near-term creation of a new export control on LAWS and critical LAWS components. There is an argument that export controls would be ineffective for controlling the real vector for non-state acquisition: modification of commercial technology.
On 2nd November, Thompson Hine LLP published an article saying that on 1st November the US Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the creation of a “China Initiative” aimed at identifying priority Chinese trade theft cases for investigation and enforcement. A factsheet from the DoJ outlines the aims of the initiative, and in this it is said that, in addition to identifying and prosecuting those engaged in trade secret theft, hacking and economic espionage, the initiative will increase efforts to protect critical infrastructure against external threats including foreign direct investment, supply chain threats and the foreign agents seeking to influence the US public and policymakers without proper registration.
Frontier Myanmar on 5th November reported that the “poor results” in the mutual evaluation review mean Myanmar will automatically be reviewed by the International Co-operation Review Group (ICRG) of FATF, and may be placed on a black or grey list following that review. Myanmar was removed from the FATF’s list of high-risk and monitored jurisdictions in 2016 following some limited reforms. The Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering released the report on October 22nd, and it said that despite Myanmar being exposed to “a large number of very significant” money laundering threats, the authorities did not demonstrate a “credible understanding” of the risks. By Myanmar’s own estimate, proceeds of crime are likely to total around US$15 billion a year, or around 24% of GDP, and it was estimated that 63% of this figure was derived from tax and excise evasion, environmental crime, and corruption and bribery. Almost 50% of proceeds were generated by activities carried out by transnational crime groups and 35% by domestic organised crime.
Haaretz on 5th November reported that police want to question Lev Leviev after 2 of his relatives and 4 employees arrested for alleged diamond smuggling. The 6 people arrested were involved in his companies in Israel and Russia. The investigation began several months earlier when a man was caught at Tele Aviv airport with diamonds in the “nothing to declare” lane. Leviev was born in Uzbekistan and emigrated to Israel when he was 14, and he became famous in the 1980s when he successfully challenged the De Beers monopoly of the world diamond market. It is not clear why the diamonds would be smuggled, unless they were illegally mined or obtained, or were otherwise of dubious provenance.