On 2nd July, Rferl reported that the US cousin of Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg is suing the U.S. Treasury for seizing his assets worth millions of dollars. Andrew Intrater accused the government of violating his right against unreasonable seizures. Vekselberg and his Renova Group were designated in April 2018, resulting in the immediate seizure of his US property, including any US companies he owned a majority stake in. Intrater and other US citizens who own the firms that oversee those funds are now unable to receive management fees or even make certain critical investment decisions, the lawsuit says, though neither Intrater nor the other US citizens are subject to the sanctions.
On 2nd July, Baker McKenzie reported that Linden Lab, the company behind virtual world and online game Second Life, will from now on ask its users to identify themselves in order to comply with tightened US regulations, set up to combat fraud, laundering and terrorism financing. Second Life has been active since 2003 and still has just under a million users, and its own virtual currency, Linden Dollars that can be credited against US dollar accounts.
Calvin Ayre on 3rd July reported that Chinese nationals control over 90% of businesses in Cambodia’s Sihanoukville region, including over three-quarters of its casino operations. Chinese nationals owned 150 of Sihanoukville’s 156 hotels and guesthouses, along with 41 of its 46 karaoke clubs and massage parlours, and an estimated 95% of the region’s 436 restaurants are managed by Chinese nationals, who also have ownership stakes in 48 of Sihanoukville’s 62 operational casinos.
The Week on 3rd July published an article after both Tory leadership rivals backed the creation of so-called “free ports” on the east coast of the UK. It reports a Guardian story claiming that Teesside, Aberdeen and Peterhead could become economic zones, considered independent for customs purposes, that charge no taxes or tariffs on imports. The article considers the option, but says that, ethical concerns aside, research by the University of Sussex-based UK Trade Policy Observatory into the potential of free ports in post-Brexit Britain found that relief on customs duties and tariff inversion are likely to be limited in the UK and any economic benefits brought to free zones could simply be diverting economic activity from elsewhere; and that policy impact evaluations often suggest that the net benefit of free zones is limited.
Bloomberg on 2nd July reported that Dragoslav Ilic, a Serb with a Panamanian business, is trading Venezuelan oil in the shadows and helping to prop up the embattled Maduro regime. It is claimed that Ilic and his MS Internacional Corporation have made deals worth $130 million with PDVSA, shipping the crude oil mostly to Asia. Such traders avoid sanction in the global financial system by bartering for the oil and reselling to third parties – and MS Internacional exchanges the oil for gasoline and gasoline components. The article says that, in addition to such traders, Russia’s state-controlled oil company Rosneft, Indian refiners and China are also helping PDVSA survive.