22 June 2019

OFAC Sanctions Members of Nicaraguan President Ortega’s Inner Circle

On 21 June, OFAC announced sanctions against 4 Nicaraguan government officials – Gustavo Eduardo Porras Cortes, Orlando Jose Castillo Castillo, Sonia Castro Gonzalez, and Oscar Salvador Mojica Obregonfour.  The sanctions are said to target Nicaraguan government officials who persecute Nicaraguan citizens exercising their fundamental freedoms, enact repressive laws, silence news media, and deny medical care to the Nicaraguan people.

No-deal Brexit could put UK at greater risk from falsified medicines

On 21 June, the Pharmaceutical Journal carried an article saying that the executive director of the Healthcare Distribution Association has told MPs on the Exiting the European Union Committee that a no-deal Brexit would make medicines in the UK “less safe” – being “unplugged” from the Falsified Medicines Directive (FMD).

Walmart to pay £282 million over foreign corruption allegations

The Wall Street Journal on 21 June reported that a deal requires Walmart to return $144 million in gains to the SEC and pay a $138 million penalty to theDoJ.  The SEC said the company’s actions violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which effectively forbids US-listed companies from paying bribes to win business abroad.

Trivago sued in US over business in Cuba

On 21 June, the EU Sanctions Blog and others reported that Trivago (an online booking platform), a subsidiary of Expedia, had been sued in the US under Title III of the Helms-Burton Act for “unlawful trafficking” of a hotel in Cienfugos, Cuba, which was formerly owned by a Cuban family and expropriated under the Castro regime.

Why it’s time to rethink the looming ban on North Koreans working overseas

An opinion piece on NK News on 21 June puts forward this argument, saying that the measure, scheduled to take effect from December 22nd, will harm regular people and work against US interests.

Court of Appeal – UK should not have granted export licences for the sale or transfer of arms or military equipment to Saudi Arabia that could be used in Yemen

The EU Sanctions Blog reported on 21 June that the Court had said that the Secretary of State’s own arms export policy precludes the grant of arms export licences where there is a “clear risk” that the arms might be used to commit a serious violation of international humanitarian law, but that the Government had not even attempted to analyse whether past violations had taken place or whether Saudi Arabian law prohibited violations and it remitted the case to the Government to reconsider.

Cyber Adversaries Targeting Commercial Vessels, US Coast Guard Warns

On 17 June, Homeland Security Today reported that the USCG had warned the maritime industry in a late May Marine Safety Information Bulletins (MSIB) of recent email phishing and malware intrusion attempts that targeted commercial vessels.  It said that cyber adversaries are attempting to gain sensitive information including the content of an official Notice of Arrival (NOA) using email addresses that pose as an official Port State Control (PSC) authority, and received reports of malicious software designed to disrupt shipboard computer systems.

US Sanctions and the EU Blocking Regulation: Issues of Legal Uncertainty

The London-based  Financial Markets Law Committee has published a report on extension of Regulation (EC) No 2271/96 protecting against the effects of the extra-territorial application of legislation adopted by a Third Country to cover Iran post-JCPOA.  The role of the Committee is to identify issues of legal uncertainty or misunderstanding, present and future, in the framework of the wholesale financial markets which might give rise to material risks and to consider how such issues should be addressed.  This paper examines the issues of legal uncertainty which arise under English law as a result of the amendment to the Blocking Regulation to cover certain re-imposed US sanctions on Iran, and seeks to illustrate particular areas of risk that the Committee has identified as a result of these uncertainties.


On 21 June, FATF issued a news release containing details of the outcome of a week-long Plenary meeting in Orlando, where they celebrated the 30th Anniversary of FATF.  Outcomes included –

  • a public statement and a risk-approach guidance on virtual assets and virtual asset service providers;
  • Launch of a Strategic Review to analyse the progress made on effective implementation of AML/CFT measures, review the FATF/FSRB assessment processes, and identify drivers of positive change;
  • Discussion of the mutual evaluation reports of Greece and Hong Kong, China;
  • Re jurisdictions with strategic AML/CFT deficiencies – Serbia no longer subject to ongoing monitoring, but Panama is, and monitoring of Iran continues; with reviews of Brazil and Iceland progress; and
  • Approval of risk-based guidance for lawyers, accountants and TCSP

Report: FATF Actions to Identify and Disrupt ISIL, Al-Qaeda and Affiliates’ Financing

The 10th update of this mechanism was approved.

Guidance for a Risk-Based Approach to Virtual Assets and Virtual Asset Service Providers

Statement on Brazil and actions to remedy shortcomings identified in mutual evaluation

HBOS fined £46 million over bank fraud which saw small firms deliberately wrecked and the proceeds spent on prostitutes and holidays

The Daily Mail reported on 21 June that Britain’s biggest ever bank fraud was covered up by bosses at Halifax Bank of Scotland (HBOS).  Senior managers at the lender failed to alert the authorities about their suspicions for 2 years.

INTERPOL and Red Notices- How long does it take for a Red Notice to be processed?

An article from Estlund Law on 21 June says that there is no single answer to the question of how long each part of the process will take.  The duration of all those steps depends in large part on the member states. What is more, Red Notices are rarely publicly published, which makes it more difficult to know the general average duration of the full process.

US securities regulator opens fraud case on UK bitcoin firm

On 21 June, Out-Law published an article saying that the CFTC has filed a civil enforcement case in the New York courts against Control-Finance Ltd and its sole director, Benjamin Reynolds. The company fraudulently solicited customers to purchase and transfer bitcoin to them, claiming that they employed expert virtual currency traders who would earn daily profits on the bitcoin, according to the complaint.  The business also operated a fraudulent ‘affiliate’ scheme, through which they fraudulently promised to pay bonuses in bitcoin to people who referred new customers to the company, according to the complaint.

23 June 2019

Saudi Arabia becomes FATF member

On 23 June, The News International and others reported that Saudi Arabia has become the first Arab country to be granted full membership of FATF following the group’s Plenary in Orlando.

Huawei files lawsuit against the US Department of Commerce

Digit and others on 23 June reported that Chinese telecoms company Huawei is suing the Department over seized telecommunications equipment.  In 2017, Huawei had sent the equipment in question to a lab in California, but officials seized the equipment in Alaska, as it was on the way back to China.  This was said to have been done to verify whether an export licence was needed, but Huawei alleges that at the time, no export licence was required and that Huawei had presented all requested information to the officials.

Malta: MFSA and FIAU issue guidelines to allay banks’ fears over fintech customers and AML/CFT problems

On 23 June, the Times of Malta reported that a 28-page guidance document has been issued jointly by the MFSA and the FIAU in a bid to ease the bottlenecks for fintech companies who find it impossible to open bank accounts – as the government’s dream of Malta becoming the ‘Blockchain Island’ was said to be being held back by operators’ frustration.  It is said that the document is designed to assist institutions to acquire a better risk understanding of any such prospective customers. It is said that the guidelines should be seen as a way to explain the sector-specific risks and to complement banks’ own due diligence procedures. It stresses the importance of the jurisdictions involved, adding that if the jurisdiction was “a high risk or non-reputable one”, the operator might find that risk of their regulatory status might increase through the association.  The document is mainly aimed at blockchain, virtual currencies and artificial intelligence sectors. MFSA also published its ‘Guidance Notes on Cybersecurity’ as a minimum set of best practices and risk management procedures to effectively mitigate cyber risks.

UAE rolls out AML platform developed by UN

On 23 June, The National reported on a new AML software system, making the UAE the first GCC country to use the platform developed by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).  The goAML system, which is used by 50 FIU around the world.

Tunisia to be removed from the FATF blacklist in October

The Middle East Monitor on 22 June reported that Tunisia’s removal from the FATF blacklist also means removal from the EU blacklist, to which it was added in February 2018.

More on PacNet: Man accused in US of flying money-laundered cash into Shannon Airport

The Irish Times on 22 June carried an article saying that a British man, Robert Paul Davis, is accused of flying large sums of cash into Shannon Airport on an aircraft in an alleged scheme to money-launder tens of millions of euro made from mass-mail fraud campaigns.  He, along with 3 other executives of Canadian-Irish payment-processing group PacNet Services has been charged by US prosecutors in Nevada in an alleged fraud. PacNet is alleged to have served as the middleman between banks and fraudulent mailers by collecting payments from the victims, depositing the cash into its bank accounts and then distributing the funds.  It says that the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) in Ireland has been investigating PacNet since 2016. Davis is accused of flying a PacNet aircraft on several occasions to pick up cash for a fraudulent PacNet mass-mail client from a caging service in the Netherlands and flying back to Ireland with the cash.  PacNet stopped processing payments in September 2016 when the US designated it a “significant transnational criminal organisation,” froze some of its assets and filed related criminal and civil charges against other defendants – but that designation was removed in October 2017.

Statutory Instruments relating to Customs, Excise and VAT and the UK’s withdrawal from the EU

On 21 June, HMRC released updated information and links which it describes as necessary to ensure the UK’s Customs, VAT and Excise regimes will function in the event of leaving the EU without a deal.

“Inside job” is thieves chief tactic in cargo theft, says insurance study

On 21 June, BIFA reported that criminals are recruiting employees of targeted companies to gain data, cargo information, delivery routes and destinations and access to IT as security measures become more sophisticated, according to a cargo theft reports produced by marine insurer TT Club and the British Standards Institution (BSI) – saying that due diligence in recruiting and managing staff is paramount.  Theft from trucks once more accounts for the highest proportion at 84%. “Slash and grab” is the largest type of cargo theft at 26% globally, but with significant regional variations. Theft from trucks median value of the losses ranged from $19,000 in Asia, to $60,000 in Europe and North America to a high of $77,000 in South America.

The free report is available at –

Ocean freight facing major ‘disruption’ this year

On 21 June, reporting a speech given at Multimodal 2019 in Birmingham, BIFA said that shipping lines face multiple changes and headwinds, while shippers will have to pay the ‘significant’ extra cost of new low-sulphur fuels.  The industry leader mentioned the escalating US-China trade war, global economic growth forecasts downgraded, and the challenge of introducing – and paying for – new low-sulphur fuels to meet the requirements of IMO 2020 regulations.  He also said that operations were being disrupted on the landside at ports around the world as ocean terminal utilisation levels had surged over the last decade – including higher peaks in demand and significant periods of under-utilisation   Global warming was a growing threat to global container operations due to the significant increase in the severity of weather, particularly in the rising number of hurricanes and typhoons which closed ports and halted supply chains.

EU prepares ‘targeted’ sanctions on Turkey over gas drilling near Cyprus

The EU Observer on 21 June reported that the EU is preparing to punish Turkey for gas drilling off Cyprus as Turkey sent a second ship into a disputed zone.   EU leaders had earlier agreed a joint statement “strongly condemning Turkey’s continued illegal actions”. Sanctions options are said to include visa bans and asset freezes on Turkish individuals and companies doing the drilling, and/or freezing talks on an upgraded customs union or formally freezing talks on Turkey’s EU accession, which were suspended in practice in 2016 due to an authoritarian crackdown.

Updated EU list of non-cooperative jurisdictions for tax purposes

On 21 June, the EU Official Journal contained an update on the list.  It contains 11 states – American Samoa, Belize, Fiji, Guam, Marshall Islands, Oman, Samoa, Trinidad & Tobago, UAE, US Virgin Islands and Vanuatu.  An annex contains details of the state of play of the co-operation with the EU with respect to commitments taken to implement tax good governance principles of other jurisdictions.


On 21 June, the IMF published a report which provides a summary of the AML/CFT measures in place in the People’s Republic of China as at the date of the onsite visit in July 2018.  It analyses the level of compliance with the FATF 40 Recommendations and the level of effectiveness of China’s AML/CFT system and provides recommendations on how the system could be strengthened.  It says that China has undertaken a number of initiatives since 2002 that have contributed positively to its understanding of risks, although some important gaps remain; and that its framework for domestic AML/CFT co-operation and coordination is well established.

Belgian Prince Henri de Croÿ and a “tax avoidance network”

The Brussel Times on 22 June carried a report saying that wealthy Belgians have managed to hide money from tax authorities and justice for years with the help of Prince Henri de Croÿ’s Belgian network, according to a survey published in Belgium.  40 individuals are said to have been identified by the journalists. These persons are said to have entrusted sums of up to €13 million to Henri de Croÿ, who enabled them to hide their money by way of secret accounts in the UAE, the Bahamas or Puerto Rico under the name of shell companies or by way of an international network of straw men.


On 24 June, Sandler Travis Rosenberg reported that the Bureau of Industry & security had added 5 entities under the destination of China to the Entity List, which lists entities restricted from receiving US exports of goods controlled under the Export Administration Regulations. It also modified the listing for one entity under the destination of China.


The Journal of Export Control has reported that SECO, the Swiss government agency that is responsible for export control and sanctions implementation, published a statement recommending that a proposed ban on the financing of war materiel producers, should be rejected.  It says that were such a ban implemented, it would be ‘ineffective’ and ‘harmful’, particularly to Switzerland’s mechanical, electrical and metal industry. It had been proposed that the Swiss National Bank, charitable foundations, and state and occupational pension funds, should be prohibited from financing companies that generate more than 5% of their annual turnover from the production of war materiel.


On 21 June, Jurist reported that North Carolina cannot tax a trust based only on a trust beneficiary’s residence in the state, in a case about whether a trust beneficiary resident in the state of North Carolina established sufficient connections with the state to make the out-of-state trust’s income taxable.

Interpol: Expired and unsanitary foods taken out of circulation during Operation Opson VIII

A news release from Interpol on 21 June advised that more than $117 million worth of potentially dangerous fake food and drink was seized in the latest Operation Opson, which also saw 672 individuals arrested worldwide.  Tampered expiry dates on cheese and chicken, controlled medicines added to drink products and meat stored in unsanitary conditions were some of the offences discovered during the operation.  For example, in Zimbabwe nearly 14,000 litres of soft drinks was seized which contained high levels of the active ingredient in erectile dysfunction medication. In addition to the fake food and drink, other illicit products recovered included cosmetics, medicines and medical devices, footwear, clothing, handbags, wristwatches, sunglasses, soap and toothpaste worth and estimated $6.1 million.

15 arrested in France and Belgium for cigarette smuggling

On 21 June, a news release from Europol advised that members of a Russian-speaking organised crime group behind an illegal cigarette smuggling business had been arrested, with 15 individuals, including the ringleaders, arrested and 2 million cigarettes seized.  This follows a complex investigation looking into the activities of this criminal network, composed mainly of Armenian and Ukrainian nationals, which smuggled cigarettes and other prohibited goods from Belgian to the Paris region and Western France.

Bulgarian customs to auction illegal refrigerant

The Cooling Post website on 21 June reported that over 10 tonnes of seized refrigerant, imported outside of the EU quota system in illegal disposable cylinders, is to be auctioned to the general public by Bulgarian customs authorities.  It says that the news will shock the market at a time when the legitimate European air conditioning and refrigeration industry is struggling to stem the tide of illegal black market HFC refrigerants. The majority of this illegal trade uses disposable (non-refillable) cylinders, which have been banned in Europe since 2007.

Former Interpol President Meng Hongwei Admits Taking $2 Million In Bribes

Baker McKenzie on 21 June reported that the Chinese former Interpol president has appeared in court in northern China, pleading guilty to taking over $2 million in bribes.  The court adjourned and said Meng would be sentenced at a later date.

Former CEO Of Alaska-Based Fibre Optic Cable Company Sentenced To 5 Years In Prison for fraud

Baker McKenzie on 21 June reported that the woman involved and who once headed a firm working on a project to link several north-west Alaska communities has entered a guilty plea, after federal prosecutors said she forged potential clients’ signatures on contracts as part of a $250 million scheme.

Mexico crime groups are targeting Australia, where high methamphetamine prices are attracting traffickers

On 21 June, Insight Crime reported that Mexican crime groups are targeting Australia, where high methamphetamine prices are attracting traffickers willing to negotiate the long and difficult journey with other syndicates.  This follows the largest drug seizure in Australia’s history, with an estimated worth of $1.29 billion. Australia is home to a large and highly profitable drug market, particularly of synthetic drugs.


One of a series of new factsheets published by the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard Kennedy School.  It starts by saying that the Internet of Things (IoT) generally refers to a network of smart devices that can continuously sense or interact with their environment. These devices are able to communicate and respond to information that they gather, enabling the system to facilitate activities, streamline processes, and inform decision-making.  It examines the key features and applications and market developments. It also considers security and privacy concerns, governance and regulation, guidance and policy questions.

The Impact of the Qatar Crisis – and the Saudi, Bahrain, UAE embargo

On 30 May, Chatham House published a briefing saying that since 2017 Qatar has been subject to a boycott by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt (the Arab Quartet), creating a deep rift in a region already beset by civil wars and insurgencies.  This paper examines the causes and dynamics of this dispute in detail and identifies elements required to reach a solution.


The Forum on the Arms Trade has provided links to analysis from various organisations of the recent decision of the Court.

Strengthening Competitiveness of the Internal Market by Developing the EU Customs Union and its Governance

On 15 May, the EU published a report which  summarises the discussion that took place at the workshop of the same name.

Trade wars in the global value chain era

On 20 June, VOX, the CEPR Policy Portal, published an article saying that the nature of global commerce has changed dramatically over the past 40 years, with the meteoric rise of global value chain trade.  It builds on insights from recent research to identify 3 critical dimensions of global value chain trade that promise to make today’s trade wars more economically costly and more politically complex than previous trade wars.

Author: raytodd2017

Chartered Legal Executive and former senior manager with Isle of Man Customs and Excise, where I was (amongst other things) Sanctions Officer (for UN/EU sanctions), Export Licensing Officer and Manager of the Legal-Library & Collectorate Support Section

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