8th June 2019
USED AS A NATURAL VIAGRA IN CHINESE MEDICINE, SEAHORSE NUMBERS ARE DECLINING
WTOP in the US on 6th June reported that in Chinese medicine, seahorses are believed to have Viagra-like powers and Hong Kong is the world’s largest trading hub for the dried animal. Hong Kong was responsible for around two-thirds of all seahorse imports from 2004 to 2017 – though popularity as a medicine is also driving sales in China, Taiwan and Indonesia. Research carried out around the world shows that populations of at least 11 species have dropped by between 30% and 50% over the past 15 years, and in 2002 all species were included under CITES. However, CITES measures for seahorses are designed to control import and export, but Hong Kong law does not ban trade within the territory.
VENEZUELA-NICARAGUA-EL SALVADOR MONEY LAUNDERING NETWORK EXPOSED
On 7th June, Today Nicaragua reported that the immense fortune created by the combination of high oil prices and the copious extraction in Venezuela laid the foundation for a “Bolivarian Joint Criminal Enterprise” (BJCE) – said to be not a single entity, but rather a network of allied companies, regional structures, and historically linked individuals operating across the globe, according to a report from Douglas Farah and Caitlyn Yates, the president and investigator for IBI Consultants LLC. It claims that the network used 5 money laundering methods: fictitious oil sales, the systematic purchase of physical assets, illegal mining, phantom infrastructure projects and bank transfers in which “between 10 billion and 28 billion dollars from 2007 and 2018, were transferred by 181 individuals and 176 companies in at least 26 countries”. The investigators refer to phantom infrastructure projects that were used to justify the mobilisation of enormous amounts of money, supposedly to fund public works, although little to no progress was made on these projects. The report links its claims to the Salvadoran Prosecutor’s recent raid and search of 27 companies in the Alba Petróleos network, to investigate the possible crime of money laundering.
A NEW OECD INTERNATIONAL ACADEMY FOR TAX CRIME INVESTIGATION
A news release from the OECD on 8th June reported that OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría and Japan’s Minister of Finance Taro Aso presided over a signing ceremony to establish a new centre of the OECD International Academy for Tax Crime Investigation in Wako, Japan. The OECD Asia-Pacific Academy for Tax and Financial Crime Investigation will be housed at the Wako Campus of the National Tax College, part of the National Tax Agency of Japan. It will draw together experts from the region, and allow them to work together in the fight against financial crime. There are other similar academies in Italy, Kenya and Argentina.
SHANGHAI CUSTOMS SENT BACK OVER 7,000 TONNES OF WASTE IN MAY
Customs Today on 8th June reported that customs in eastern China’s Shanghai ordered the return of 7,056 tonnes of suspected smuggled solid waste to where they originated in May. Most of the waste was undeclared and overdue waste.
IS NEW SHIPPING FINANCE MODEL A GAME-CHANGER OR ONE-OFF?
Hellenic Shipping News on 8th June carried an article saying that ship finance is important because financial arrangements, particularly debt agreements, can hamstring vessel owners, sometimes to the detriment of the shippers of freight. Seaspan Corporation, the largest US-listed lessor of container ships, has produced a new model for ship finance, one that keeps the borrower’s hands untied. The article compares the new model to a traditional one, where a loan is made against a ship or ships, with those collateral vessels each owned by separate companies, the entity controlling the entire fleet is a holding vehicle that owns each of the subsidiary vessel-owning companies. Hence, an owner of a large fleet, through its subsidiaries, could owe debt to dozens of different banks that each count different ships as collateral. The Seaspan model is collateralised by a flexible pool of vessels, not specific ships for the lifetime of the loan.
EU TO NEGOTIATE INTERNATIONAL AGREEMENTS ON E-EVIDENCE
On 7th June, the EU announced that the EU Council had authorised the Commission to –
- negotiate an agreement facilitating access to e-evidence with the US; and
- participate in the negotiations in the Council of Europe on a second additional protocol to the Cybercrime Convention.
Both would aim to facilitate access to e-evidence, such as e-mails or documents located in the Cloud, as part of criminal investigations, and complement planned internal EU arrangements.
G20 AGREES TO PUSH AHEAD WITH DIGITAL TAX
Reuters on 8th June reported that the group of 20 finance ministers have agreed to compile common rules to close loopholes used by global tech giants such as Facebook to reduce their corporate taxes.
TEXAN BUSINESSMAN AND HIS MARYLAND MILLIONAIRE PARTNER PLEAD GUILTY OVERLUCRATIVE PONZI SCHEME
On 7th June, Baker McKenzie reported that Jay Ledford, 55, a Texas businessman has pleaded guilty to fraud conspiracy in Baltimore and admitted to operating a lucrative Ponzi scheme. He also pleaded guilty to charges of identity theft and money laundering and admitted doctoring bank statements to help his partner dupe investors around the world. Last month, Ledford’s business partner and front man for the scam, Kevin Merrill, 53, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and wire fraud, and defrauding investors as far away as Singapore in the 5-year, $394 million scam.