Back home and off the laptop…
30th June 2019
UK OIL AND GAS INDUSTRY WARNED TO KNOW COMMODITY CODES OR RISK DAMAGE FROM NO-DEAL BREXIT
Oilfield Technology on 26th June reported that an oil and gas sector logistics expert has warned UK businesses to ensure they know the Commodity Codes for goods they trade with the EU now or risk damaging consequences from a no-deal Brexit. Companies currently did not need to quote commodity codes to HMRC for goods traded with the EU, as the UK was part of its customs union. However, that would change if Britain left the bloc without a withdrawal agreement, which could happen as soon as 31st October.
WHAT THE UK COURT OF APPEAL DECISION ON ARMS EXPORTS TO SAUDI ARABIA MEAN FOR OTHER COUNTRIES
On 24th June, an article on the Just Security website in the US says that the court’s decision could provide guidance for other EU Member States and the US on how they view their own weapons sales to partner nations. It argues that the Court ruled, in essence, that in making decisions on arms sales, the UK government could no longer ignore uncomfortable facts. It points out that Criterion 2(c) of the UK Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria — derived from a 2008 EU Common Position on military exports, which is binding on EU States — requires the government to refuse an export license where there is a “clear risk” that the military materiel to be exported “might be used in the commission of a serious violation of international humanitarian law”.
QUEBEC LOBBYING FIRM MAY HAVE BROKEN SUDAN SANCTIONS WITH DEAL ‘STRIVING’ TO SUPPLY EQUIPMENT FOR MILITARY
The Globe & Mail in Canada on 28th June reported that a Montreal lobbying firm working for a notorious Sudanese military leader to procure equipment for the country’s armed forces could run afoul of Canadian sanctions as well as new arms-brokering controls that come into effect this September, experts say. Dickens & Madson (Canada) Inc is headed by Ari Ben-Menashe, a former Israeli intelligence officer whose firm has previously served as a paid lobbyist for ousted Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe and powerful Libyan militia commander Khalifa Haftar. It says that the firm’s contract with Sudan was signed with General Dagalo, the deputy leader of Sudan’s military council.
OFFICIALS IN FLORIDA SEIZE THOUSANDS OF WEAPONS IN MASSIVE INTERNATIONAL SMUGGLING SCHEME
WLNS.com in Florida reported on 28th June that 2 people have been charged in Florida with orchestrating a massive arms smuggling scheme involving thousands of weapons and parts sent to South America. Authorities seized 5,300 firearms and components, many of them powerful AR-15 rifles and more than 2 dozen people have been arrested in Argentina, Brazil and the US. In addition to the rifles and parts, authorities seized 156 handguns, 30,000 rounds of ammunition, 167 explosives and 15 silencers as well as $100,000 in cash.
AUSTRALIA IS FAILING TO COMBAT DIRTY MONEY ENTERING THE PROPERTY MARKET
On 28 June, Baker McKenzie reported that a professor of law at Latrobe University in Melbourne has told SBS News that Australian real estate was a particularly attractive destination for foreign and local dirty money, and that Australian AML experts have warned the country is lagging behind global standards in the developed world.
HMRC REVENUE JUMPS 14% AFTER OFFSHORE CRACKDOWN
On 28 June, Baker McKenzie reported an FT story that the HMRC offshore, corporate and wealthy unit netted £560 million from investigations into British taxpayers with offshore assets and income, up from £490 million in 2017-18; a 14%. The data also revealed a 72% increase in tax collected since 2016-17 when £325 million was raised.
SUPPLIERS TO THE US BEWARE: INCREASED COMPLIANCE AND ENFORCEMENT OF ANTI-DUMPING AND COUNTERVAILING DUTIES
On 27 June, Baker McKenzie published a Client Alert saying that companies in the Asia-Pacific region should be aware of the scrutiny that covered imports face and, in particular where a related entity in the US acts as the importer, should ensure that they understand the scope of the AD/CVD orders and applicable duty rates. It says that US tariffs on steel, aluminium, solar panels, and numerous anti-dumping and countervailing duty (AD/CVD) orders on finished and raw input products have put exporters in a bind.
RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT TEMPORARILY ALLOWS CERTAIN UKRAINIAN GOODS ON THE SANCTIONS LIST TO BE IMPORTED
On 25 June, Baker McKenzie published an article about the Russian import ban on Ukrainian products, recently amended from 21 June. It says that the import ban does not apply to goods imported to complete customs procedures for processing outside the customs territory and temporary export; and that the import ban is temporarily lifted with respect to the various products (linked to the energy sector) detailed in the article.
THE ARAB “SPACE CLUB”
On 26 June, the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University published an article saying that, in recent years, several Arab countries have sped up research, development, and collaborations in the field of space in order to establish an independent technological-scientific infrastructure. It says that several of the civilian Arab projects in the field of space research could also serve as fertile ground for collaboration with Israel. In the Arab world, but space-related endeavours are seen more than before through the prism of security, which could pose a challenge to Israel over the long term. It mentions efforts of UAE and Saudi Arabia in using their vast economic resources for research, commercial and even military space uses. It looks at UAE, saying that its space push is the broadest and most ambitious in the Arab world, with the intention is to become a hub in this field, and has cooperation agreements in the space field with foreign companies. In 2018, KhalifaSat, the first product of development and production from the UAE, was launched from Japan. The Saudi Space Agency was established in December 2018, is not progressing in the field as rapidly as its neighbour. The article reminds one that ArabSat was established under the Arab League’s auspices as far back as 1976, located in Riyadh it purchases and operates communications satellites, and also serve as a platform for influencing public opinion in the Arab world through Arab-owned satellite channels. The first satellite was launched in 1985, and the most recent one, ArabSat 6A, build by Lockheed-Martin, was launched in April 2019. It says that it seems that every Arab country wants to put its national flag in space – mentioning efforts of Jordan, Qatar, Egypt and Morocco.
CRITICS SLAM BULGARIAN CORRUPTION PROBE
On 25 June, Rferl published an article saying that Bulgaria’s Anti-Corruption Commission says it has found no conflict of interest in a property scandal that led 4 senior government officials to resign after they were found to have bought luxury apartments at discount prices. 4 high-level government officials from Bulgaria’s ruling GERB coalition resigned from office amid a criminal investigation launched after their suspicious real estate deals with the Arteks development firm were uncovered.
REPORT TO US CONGRESS ON TAIWAN POLITICAL AND SECURITY ISSUES
On 27 June, USNI News published a US Congress report that provides a useful reminder to the situation of Taiwan – officially calls itself the Republic of China (ROC), though Beijing does not like that either. Since 1979, US-Taiwan relations have been unofficial, a consequence of the Carter Administration’s decision to establish diplomatic relations with the PRC and break formal diplomatic ties with self-ruled Taiwan, over which the PRC claims sovereignty. It looks at “recent” history, since 1895, when the Qing Dynasty ceded Taiwan (then Formosa) to Japan at the end of the First Sino-Japanese War in 1895. The Kuomintang Party (KMT) of Chiang Kai-shek, assumed control of Taiwan in 1945, after Japan’s defeat in WW2 and in 1949, after losing a civil war to the Communist Party, relocated its base to Taipei. In 1971, however, United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2758 recognised the PRC’s representatives as “the only legitimate representatives of China to the United Nations,” and expelled “the representatives of Chiang Kai-shek”, i.e. Taiwan.
OFFSHORE FREEHOLDERS USE “LEGALISED EXTORTION” AGAINST UK HOMEOWNERS
On 28 June, Global Witness issued an article saying that new analysis reveals that many thousands of leaseholders in the UK are at the mercy of unscrupulous freeholders who hide behind anonymous companies. It concerns problems faced by thousands of leaseholders whose landlords are mysterious offshore companies like Adriatic and Abacus. Global Witness has identified a shadowy group of anonymous companies which share addresses or directors, many of whom appear to be nominees and that the number of homes leased by the Abacus and Adriatic group could exceed 35,000. It says that the complex corporate structures which Abacus and Adriatic operate appear to be designed to make it difficult for leaseholders to buy the freeholds for their homes. It looks at Abacus and Adriatic, tracing to founder and CEO William Astor – the half-brother-in-law of David Cameron, and the son of the fourth Viscount Astor – a Conservative Peer.
IMF MUST SECURE TRANSPARENCY IN REPUBLIC OF CONGO BEFORE PROVIDING IT FUNDING
Global Witness has said that, after over a year of negotiations, the IMF announced on 9 May that it had reached a tentative bailout agreement with Republic of Congo. Upon return from their latest mission, the IMF team applauded Congo’s transparency commitments, yet civil society continue to criticise its opacity. In the context of repeated broken promises, Global Witness says that the IMF Board must not sign an agreement until all transparency actions are secured and sustained. It says that part of the problem is Congo’s habit of borrowing billions from private companies to be repaid in oil, so-called “oil-backed loans” saying that too often they become murky funding lines for corrupt ruling groups, hiking up the country’s debt and sending the economy into chaos. Global Witness says that the existence and terms of all oil-backed loans issued by private companies must be made public. In Congo, this and other key information including its oil production, export and sales statistics and oil-for-infrastructure agreements, must be publicly disclosed before the IMF Board signs any agreement. This time Congo must be compelled to implement real transparency and abide by its commitments to stop striking these opaque and damaging deals.
NEW MARITIME BLOCKCHAIN CONSORTIUM FORMED
On 28 June, Insurance Marine News reported that Maritime Blockchain Labs (MBL), founded by blockchain technology and governance experts BLOC and the Lloyd’s Register Foundation (LRF), has announced the establishment of a consortium to explore the use of blockchain in tackling the risks and challenges associated with the declaration and handling of dangerous goods. It will build and test a prototype to assess the potential for distributed ledger technology (DLT) to address the challenges faced by stakeholders throughout the supply chain.
CHINA ACCOUNTS FOR THE BULK OF US FIREWORKS IMPORTS
Statista has republished an article from July 2018 saying that for people aiming to “buy American” for Independence Day, it might prove difficult to obtain US-manufactured fireworks.
BANGLADESH: NEW IP RULES BAN EXPORT AND IMPORT OF COUNTERFEIT GOODS
On 20 June, HKTDC reported that Bangladeshi customs authorities will prevent the import or export of goods suspected of Intellectual Property (IP) rights infringement once a new regulation comes into force. The regulation, currently awaiting formal endorsement by the customs department, is expected to be adopted in July 2019. Owing to its status as a Least Developed Country (LDC), Bangladesh is at present not obliged to enforce internationally recognised IP protection rules. However, the government expects the incoming rules to bring the country’s IP rights regime in line with international best practices, and in turn boost the confidence of foreign investors.
ROMANIAN COURT ACQUITS ISRAELI TYCOON CHARGED WITH LAND FRAUD
Israel Hayom in its 30th June edition reported that Beny Steinmetz was accused of using a Romanian company to offer bribes to secure land rights. Steinmetz also acquitted of charges of money laundering and conspiracy, but still faces other investigations in Israel. A court in Brasov has acquitted Beny Steinmetz, communications consultant Yuval Zilberstein, and 2 other Israelis on charges of land fraud. Steinmetz is said to have made his fortune in diamond mining, engineering and real estate. The case followed a move by the Romanian government to allow private landowners whose land was nationalised by the Communist regime in the 1940s, to demand their rights to such lands be restored. He was a partner in and a consultant for a group that held shares in a company that bought land rights from a prince in the Romanian royal family.
WEBSITE CLAIMS UK COMPANIES WITH UZBEK LINKS MAY HAVE USED TECHNIQUES TO AVOID BENEFICIAL OWNERSHIP DECLARATIONS
On 29th June, a post on Naked Capitalism claims that an investigation about businesses primarily operating under the Artel and Akfa brands – Uzbekistan’s equivalent of Samsung and Unilever respectively – both of which were founded by Jahongir Artykhodjaev, the Mayor of Tashkent, and his business partners. The investigation looks closely at how businesses operating within the Artel-Akfa group use the UK’s corporate transparency regime, and Limited Partnerships to hide ownership.
UK GOVERNMENT WANTS TO HEAR VIEWS ON HOW IT CAN APPROACH THE CHALLENGES OF USING DATA AND ANALYTICS TO COUNTER FRAUD IN THE PUBLIC SECTOR
On 27 June, the Cabinet Office published a news release saying that it wants to hear the views of citizens, academia, and industry on how it can approach the challenges of using data and analytics to counter fraud in the public sector. Over the last few years the Cabinet Office has been exploring how data can improve counter fraud in government, working in collaboration with the private sector and academia. A paper summarises the key challenges government faces when employing data analysis and data sharing to counter fraud, and asks you to share your own thoughts and the insights of your experience as Government explores how to address them. It says that the Cabinet Office’s Counter Fraud Centre of Expertise has spent the last 4 years working closely with departments across government and across the UK to identify where and how they can share their data to identify and prevent fraud.
4 DUTCH ARRESTED FOR LARGE-SCALE ‘DESIGNER DRUG’ TRAFFICKING TO GERMANY
On 17th June, Customs Today reported that 4 Dutch persons were arrested in the Netherlands and Croatia as part of a major international investigation into large-scale drug trafficking, led by the German police. The Dutch are suspected of delivering psychoactive substances to thousands of German buyers, and this involved at least 15 thousand shipments, according to the police. At the same time, some 125 Dutch police officers searched 12 locations in the Netherlands. Among other things, they found and seized kilograms of pills and powders from a warehouse in Almere, and 40 thousand euros in cash elsewhere.
FEDEX SUES US COMMERCE DEPARTMENT: “WE’RE A TRANSPORTATION COMPANY, NOT A LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY”
World ECR reported that Fedex had announced that it has filed a suit against the US Department of Commerce ‘seeking to enjoin the Department from enforcing prohibitions contained in the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) against FedEx’. Fedex says that it believes that the EAR violate common carriers’ rights to due process under the Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution as they unreasonably hold common carriers strictly liable for shipments that may violate the EAR without requiring evidence that the carriers had knowledge of any violations. Media reports have linked the suit with delivery problems encountered involving Huawei goods. The suit, however, does not make explicit mention of the Chinese telecoms company (recently added to the EAR Entity List).
HUGE CAPTAGON SMUGGLING PLOT AMONG MORE THAN 400 DRUG TRAFFICKING ATTEMPTS THWARTED BY DUBAI CUSTOMS IN Q1 OF 2019
On 28th June, Illicit Trade reported that Customs authorities in Dubai disrupted a plot to smuggle nearly 6 million Captagon pills last month. More than 5.7 million Captagon tablets were discovered in a shipping container carrying food products at Jebel Ali and Tecom Customs Centre. Dubai Customs said the seizure increased the number of Captagon pills discovered by its officers over the previous 4 months to 10.7 million. The smuggling attempt was one of 421 drug trafficking plots thwarted by the agency across land, air and sea entry points over the first quarter of the year. It explains that Captagon, which is a brand name for the synthetic stimulant fenethylline, was first produced in the 1960s as a treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, fatigue and narcolepsy, but was later outlawed in the 1980s once its highly addictive nature had become known.