10th February 2019
CHINA RUNS INTO BELT AND ROAD BARRIERS IN SOUTH ASIA
On 5th February, Nikkei Asian Review carried an article saying that some countries were trying to slow Beijing’s advance without provoking hostility. Concerns chiefly centre about the huge bill that they face, or may face, for their involvement, and the potential or actual corruption it might engender. In the Maldives, for example, it says that projects under review include a landmark bridge, the expansion of an international hospital, and roads – all part of a Chinese-funded infrastructure boom in the archipelago known for bright blue waters and luxury resorts. This as the former President is under investigation. In Sri Lanka, a government elected based partly on hostility to 2 major Chinese-backed projects is now actively courting support from Japan and India. It points out that the World Bank has blacklisted 2 big contractors over dodgy business practices.
RUSSIAN CAMOUFLAGE DEVELOPMENT INSPIRED BY NATURE
i-HLS on 9th February carried an article about clothes made of electrically-controllable material that can change its colour that was initially developed for military camouflage coating. It says that the technology was developed at the Tekhnomash Central Technological Research Institute, part of Roselectronics, which belongs to the Russian state corporation Rostec, with a prototype shown in 2018. The product can change its colour depending on the surface that needs to be camouflaged and, on the environment, and the coating can reflect colour changes and imitate complex graphical depictions, up to the leaves wavering in the wind.
WHAT SANCTIONS? KIM JONG UN GETS NEW MERCEDES
The Drive on 9th February reported that, despite UN sanctions, the leader is now using an armoured Mercedes-Maybach S600. This was recently seen for the first time on state TV. The Kim family has a reputation for importing fancy cars.
ORGAN TRAFFICKING IN EGYPT
On 9th February, the Guardian carried a disturbing article saying that, desperate to reach Europe, migrants from Africa are travelling to Egypt and selling body parts to pay for their passage. A 2018 report from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime collected data on 700 incidents of organ trafficking, primarily from north Africa and the Middle East, and the trade appears to be flourishing in Egypt.
IRAQI ISIS-DONOR SMUGGLED FOREIGN CURRENCY FROM MOROCCO
Morocco World News on 9th February reported that an Iraqi man arrested in Morocco for financing terrorist cells in Syria and Iraq was also involved in smuggling large amounts of foreign currency outside Morocco. It is said he had multiple bank accounts and created fake companies and exchange offices in Morocco to swindle investors before converting their money to other currencies and sending it to ISIS – using a “complex financial network” operating in several countries in Asia and the Middle East that specialised in smuggling foreign currency.
KEY MONEY LAUNDERING ARRESTED AT ISLAMABAD AIRPORT
Geo TV in Pakistan on 9th February reported that a Aslam Masood had been detained after arriving from Saudi Arabia, where he had been arrested in October on an Interpol warrant. He is described as the “mastermind of the mega money laundering and fake accounts case”. He was the CFO of the Omni Group and has been detained in connection with allegedly running a suspicious business with dozens of business groups.
SYRIAN KURDS ALLIED TO US REPORTEDLY SELL OIL TO SYRIAN GOVERNMENT
VOA on 10th February reported that the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has been selling oil from fields that it controls in the east of Syria, despite US economic sanctions – as the Syrian government and the Kurds have been discussing possible autonomy conditions with Damascus in light of the expected US withdrawal. One expert is quoted as saying that the oil sales are mostly “black market” deals and the Islamic State group had also sold oil from the same fields to the Syrian government when they controlled them.
NGO SUBMITS FORMAL COMPLAINT TO EUROPEAN COMMISSION OVER MALTESE MONEY LAUNDERING
On 10th February, Malta Today reported that the NGO Repubblika has submitted a formal complaint to the Commission arguing that the Malta is failing to enforce AML laws in cases involving “persons of power” – contrary to the 4th AML Directive, the EU Treaty and the Charter of Fundamental Rights.
KENYAN TYCOON HUMPHREY KARIUKI WANTED OVER TAX EVASION AND SELLING SUB-STANDARD ALCOHOL
Forbes on 10th February reported that Kenyan authorities have launched a manhunt for multi-millionaire businessman Humphrey Kariuki on allegations of evading taxes of more than $30 million and smuggling substandard ethanol products into the country.
VENEZUELAN OIL JOINT VENTURES SWITCH TO RUSSIAN BANK
Euronews on 10th February reported that joint-venture operations involving Venezuela’s state run oil company PDVSA have been switched to Russian bank Gazprombank. Norway’s Equinor and France’s Total are among the companies who run joint ventures with PDVSA.
CORRUPTION ‘KEY THREAT’ TO MIDDLE EAST ECONOMIES, IMF CHIEF WARNS
Eurasia Review on 10th February reported that corruption, poor governance and a lack of transparency are the key challenges facing Middle East economies, IMF chief Christine Lagarde has warned in a hard-hitting analysis of the region’s economic prospects of the World Government Summit in Dubai.
PREVENTING A DIRTY BOMB: RADIOLOGICAL SECURITY FOR HOSPITALS AND RESEARCH LABS
The Nuclear Threat Initiative website carries a feature saying that Cesium-137 irradiators were/are widely used for irradiating blood and in research irradiation, and source-based blood and research irradiators can be found in many hospitals, blood banks and research centres across the US. Such sources are also highly radioactive and highly dispersible, many are poorly secured and are vulnerable to theft. As well providing some background on the risks, the feature also suggests better, safer alternatives.
US TREASURY LISTS COUNTRIES REQUIRING CO-OPERATION WITH AN INTERNATIONAL BOYCOTT
On 8th February, Baker McKenzie published an article saying that the US authorities had issued an updated list of foreign countries which require or may require participation in, or cooperation with, an international boycott: Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, UAE and Yemen.
TRADING WITH IRAN VIA THE SPECIAL PURPOSE VEHICLE (SPV): HOW IT CAN WORK
An article on the website of the European Council on Foreign Relations lays out INSTEX’s likely structure. An important element of the mechanism is its sovereign backing from the E3 (France, Germany and UK). It says that INSTEX is best understood as an international trade intermediary that provides services to ease trade between Europe and Iran – not a bank. It will have a role in co-ordinating payments relating to trade with Iran, as Iranian importers have struggled to purchase and receive euros from the Central Bank of Iran on time to make payments to European suppliers; and Iranian importers struggle to make payments to suppliers, due to European banks not wanting to accept funds originating in Iran – for humanitarian trade that is formally exempt from sanctions. The article sets out how it sees the SPV will work in practice.
EXPLOITING EAST MEDITERRANEAN GAS: NEW MILESTONES, NEW OBSTACLES
The Washington Institute on 8th February published an article saying that, even as exploration companies make crucial advances on specific projects, broader development of the area’s resources will require the players to overcome political tensions and market hurdles. Apart from the military, terrorism and practical and technological problems – Lebanon does not recognise Israel’s claimed EEZ; Turkey does not acknowledge that Cyprus has an EEZ beyond its 12-mile territorial limit and has harassed exploration vessels beyond that distance; Turkey claims an EEZ that reaches as far south as a line with Egypt; but Egypt has agreed on an EEZ with Cyprus that includes much of this area; Turkey allows the otherwise unrecognised Northern Cyprus to claim a large EEZ south of the island, overlapping the EEZ claimed by the Cypriot government.