23rd December 2018
SYRIAN BREEDERS SUPPLYING UAE ILLEGAL EXOTIC PET TRADE
The National on 23rd December reported that Syrian breeding farms are at the centre of a suspected illegal wildlife trafficking route supplying the UAE and Ukraine with hundreds of black market animals. Many species, understood to include big cats and monkeys, are thought to have ended up in the UAE’s lucrative illegal exotic pet trade, sold via social media. Private zoos in the Gulf are suspected as a final destination as none of the animals have appeared in official CITES logbooks.
1.6 MILLION EUROPEAN EELS CONFISCATED BY AUTHORITIES IN THAILAND
News Channel 8 in the US reported on 22nd December that Thai authorities confiscated 6 large crates containing an estimated 1.6 million young European eels after they were smuggled into Thailand from Romania. Authorities said the total value of the haul was estimated at $1.2 million.
TANZANIAN BUSINESSMAN HAS ALL MONEY LAUNDERING CHARGES DISMISSED
The Citizen in Tanzania on 23rd December reported that all 75 charges, including economic sabotage and money laundering, against Akram Azizi had been dropped. He had been remanded in custody since 1st November.
BIZARRE COURT ‘PANTOMIME’: NEW ACCUSATION OVER ‘DOCTORED’ EMAIL IN £200 MILLION RBS COMPENSATION BATTLE
The Daily Mail on 22nd December reported that Gerard Walsh 61, has been accused of presenting a doctored email from The Mail on Sunday as evidence in court as he attempts to claim a share of millions of pounds owed to RBS investors. He is fighting for £3.75 million of a £200 million compensation settlement won by investors who signed up to an action group that he set up. The group sued RBS over allegations that its members were duped into buying the bank’s shares. The action group had been ousted as managers of the claim by Manx Capital, an investment vehicle of tycoon Trevor Hemmings. He was among investors who signed up to the group but became unhappy with the way the claim was managed. The case continues next month.
THIRD COUNTRIES ALIGN THEMSELVES WITH EU SANCTIONS ON VENEZUELA
A news release on 23rd December advised that Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Moldova and Georgia had aligned themselves with the continuation and amendment of EU sanctions on Venezuela.
GREEK POLICE BUST FUEL FRAUD RING
On 23rd December, an article from the Focus news agency reported that a ring that imported chemicals from Bulgaria for the purpose of adulterating fuel was dismantled by the financial fraud squad of the Greek Police (ELAS). 4 people were charged with possessing, storing and trafficking petroleum products without a licence, as well as violating customs regulations. It is said that the criminals used a truck transport company and meat processing business in south-west Attica as a front to smuggle the illicit chemicals from Bulgaria.
SLACK: SOME ACCOUNTS MISTAKENLY DEACTIVATED DURING UPDATE
The Seattle Times on 23rd December reported that the Slack communications service says it mistakenly deactivated accounts for some of the users of its work-focused messaging service as it implemented a system update to comply with US economic sanctions and trade embargoes.
BILLIONAIRE TEXAN TYCOON’S FIRM LOANED £18 MILLION OF SCOTTISH PUBLIC’S CASH TO TAX HAVENS
The Daily Record on 23rd December reported that a billionaire Texan tycoon is behind a private company making multimillion-pound loans with Scottish taxpayers’ cash. It says that deals were signed off by Amber Infrastructure – which is controlled by Woody Hunt – a descendant of legendary oil baron HL Hunt – believed to have been the world’s richest man before his death in 1975. Amber now controls a company appointed by the European Investment Bank (EIB) in 2011 to manage the Scottish Government’s Scottish Partnership for Regeneration in Urban Centres (SPRUCE) project. Despite the scheme being entirely funded by Scottish Government money, its ministers have no control over who gets the funding. The article says that Isle of Man-based Tarn Crag Limited received £8,350,000 in March 2017, Fore Jersey VI Mezzco Limited received £9,700,000 in March this year. Tarn Crag Limited is a subsidiary of multimillion-pound property investment company Praxis, while Fore Jersey VI Mezzco is controlled by the London and Frankfurt-based Fore Partnership. Praxis were loaned money to renovate Dalmore House in Glasgow’s St Vincent Street, while Fore are building a 94,000sq ft office complex in the centre of the city.
UK GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCES A BAN ON THIRD PARTY SALES OF PUPPIES AND KITTENS
On 23rd December a blog post from DEFRA said that it was to ban third party sales of puppies and kittens, in a measure known as “Lucy’s Law”. It says that the decision was taken following a public consultation, from which there was over 95% support for a ban. It will help bring to an end the terrible welfare conditions found in puppy farms and solve a range of existing animal welfare issues.
ISLE OF MAN BEGINS STRIKE OFF ACTION AGAINST AARON BANKS’ ROCK HOLDINGS
In its Christmas issue (print only), on 22nd December, Private Eye reported that the Companies Registry in the Isle of Man had initiated strike off action against Rock Holdings, following notice from a CSP that, contrary to what a filing on 1st November had stated, the CSP premises were not the registered office of Rock Holdings. If no proper address is provided within 2 months, Rock Holdings would be struck off. It is not clear to what address the notice has now been sent (if the CSP’s address is not the correct one). However, the magazine says that it is odd that the CSP continues to be the address for another banks company, ICS Risk Solutions, which owns the Go Skippy insurance broker – according to a filing also submitted on 1st November. The article also refers to the NCA investigation of Banks’ funding of the Brexit Leave campaign – where £8 million was said to have come from Rock Services, a subsidiary of Rock Holdings. The piece notes that even if Rock Holdings is dissolved, the NCA investigation is likely to continue.
ARRON BANKS IMPLICATED IN ILLEGAL SOUTH AFRICAN DIAMOND OPERATION
On 23rd December, The South African reported that Aaron Banks has come under fire for allegedly attempting to smuggle uncut diamonds out of South Africa. It says that the allegations come just a month after he came clean about an illicit payment to a government minister in Lesotho. He is accused of flouting Kimberley Process regulations that are meant to stop diamond smugglers from using their discoveries to fund illegitimate regimes – and that by not telling authorities about the diamond, he also allegedly dodged a 15% levy on exports.
JERSEY AML/CFT NATIONAL RISK ASSESSMENT FUNDING
On 22nd December, Jersey announced a grant of £180,000 “to support the government’s commitment to assess Jersey’s money laundering and terrorist financing risk”. In response to a FATF requirement, the Jersey Financial Crime Strategy Group had formally announced that it would conduct a national risk assessment of the threats posed to the island by money laundering and terrorist financing.
FROM THE IRA TO THE ISLAMIC STATE: THE EVOLVING TERRORISM THREAT IN EUROPE
An article from the Center for Strategic and International Studies on 19th December is concerned with a new report takes a renewed look at Europe and compiles new data on the threat to Europe. It also examines the counter-terrorism response by European governments, especially the UK and France. Notably, it concludes that, despite the anti-immigration rhetoric espoused by right-wing extremists, Europe has not experienced a major problem with extremism from newly-arrived refugees or asylum seekers; and most significant Islamic extremist terrorist plots and attacks in Europe have been perpetrated by citizens of European countries. It also highlights the far right extremist threat (which, in the US, has been involved in the most number of incidents and deaths in recent decades).
EU: PEOPLE TRAVELLING WITH CASH
With the European election due in may 2019, the EU Parliament Research Service has been publishing a series of papers looking at how the work of the EU affects ordinary people’s day to day lives. It says that if you are travelling to or from the EU by air, road, rail or sea (n.b. this includes moving between the UK, or another Member State, and the Isle of Man and Channel Islands -and will presumably include travel between the EU and UK post-Brexit) with €10 000 or more in cash you must declare it to the customs authorities. This obligation, it says, is not designed to make your life difficult but to prevent money laundering, the financing of terrorism and other financial crimes. If you are travelling in a group, the €10 000 limit applies to each person individually. Cash includes not only banknotes and coins in circulation all over the world (n.b. Isle of Man law also includes counterfeit currency) but also cheques, promissory notes, money orders and traveller’s cheques. The EU law does not include currency out of circulation, antique coins, bullion coins and casino chips (n.b. Manx law includes casino chips and other alternatives for cash). Gold, precious metals and precious stones are not considered cash yet, but they will be soon.
SHADES OF BIG BROTHER?
A man drinks coffee in front of screens broadcasting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annual press conference, at a bar in Moscow on December 20. (AFP/Vasily Maksimov).
UKRAINE’S PRIVATBANK APPEALS IN LONDON COURT CASE AGAINST FORMER OWNERS
The Kyiv Post on 23rd December reported that state-owned PrivatBank has filed an appeal against a High Court decision which had set back its attempts to regain billions of dollars that it claims its former owners – Ihor Kolomoisky and Gennadiy Bogolyubov – removed before the bank was nationalised in December 2016.
GERMANY TO BAR IRAN’S US-SANCTIONED MAHAN AIR AIRLINE
On 22nd December, Customs Today reported that Bild, the German news magazine, says that Germany is to ban flights in and out of the country by Iran’s Mahan Air, which is under US sanctions over allegations it ferries troops and supplies into Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad.
GUERNSEY: COLLAPSED PROVIDENCE SUES AUDITORS FOR £14 MILLION
Guernsey Press on 23rd December reported that PricewaterhouseCoopers is being sued by the collapsed firm Providence Investment Funds PCC through its administration managers. PwC once acted as the investment company’s auditors and Providence is claiming negligence, breach of duty and breach of contract. Guernsey-based Providence Investment Funds PCC Limited collapsed in August 2016, and is now under administration management amid claims of an alleged $150 million “fraud scheme”.
LONDON COURT REFUSES TO EXTRADITE RUSSIAN CITING TORTURE CONCERNS
Rferl on 23rd December reported that the High Court has ruled against extraditing Russian businessman Aleksei Shmatko to Russia, saying that if Shmatko were sent to Penza, he would likely be held in conditions that violated his rights under Article 3 of the ECHR. Shmatko is wanted in Penza on fraud charges in a case he said was opened because he refused to give a senior Federal Security Service (FSB) officer a share of his business. He left Russia in 2011.